We live in a chaotic world. We all struggle daily with the demands of work, home, family, financial pressures, and even just the traffic to get from one place to another. And we also struggle with finding the balance between all of these and trying to carve out a little time for ourselves to regroup, de-stress, and not become completely overwhelmed by it all. With that constant struggle, more and more people are turning to the ancient art of meditation as a way to quiet the mind and center themselves to be able to better deal with all of life’s pressures. There are so many studies available that show the mental, physical, and emotional benefits of meditation that it is not hard to see why so many people are participating in this growing trend. Here we’re going to outline three of the main areas of life that can experience tremendous benefit from a regular meditation practice:
- Emotional Well-Being: Studies in Belgium and at the University of California prove that meditation can decrease depression. They show that it decreases repetitive, ruminative, and dysfunctional thoughts that increase not only depression but anxiety and panic. By relieving stress and tension, meditation teaches people to regulate breathing, and relaxes muscles. It has been shown to be almost as effective in treating depression and panic and anxiety disorders as typical prescription anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications without the potential for dependency or harmful side effects. MRI’s of the brains of long-time meditators have shown increased development in the hippocampus and frontal lobes. This is believed to have the effect of increasing concentration and focus. Being able to better focus on our tasks can also lead to an overall reduction in stress levels.
- Mental Fortitude: Along with relieving stress, meditation can also improve mental resilience and the way we approach challenging situations in life. An increased ability to focus more effectively means that things that may have previously caused us stress will no longer. With this increased focus comes increased cognitive function and the potential to keep memory and other cognitive functions sharper later in life. A recent UCLA study also shows that meditators have more folds in the cortex of the brain. It is these folds allow us to better process information, form and retain memories, and improve our attention span. Controlling the mind in the manner which meditation requires also increases our overall mental strength and resilience. A study by Wake Forrest Baptist Medical Center also shows that meditation not only reduces the amount of pain a body senses, but also reduces the amount of brain response there is to that pain.
- Physical Well-Being: With the number of hospitalizations and even deaths each year due stress related illnesses such as heart disease, there is no doubt the effects of meditation on the body can be irreplaceable. In 2012, 200 patients who were considered high risk for a health crisis were asked to either diet and exercise or begin meditating on a regular basis. The patients who opted for meditation showed a 48% decrease in their overall risk for heart disease, stroke, and/or death. Much of this decrease can be attributed to meditation reducing stress and blood pressure in these patients. Clearly, the physical benefits of meditation are significant.
These are some of the major benefits of meditation. In just a few minutes a day, anyone can improve their overall health and well-being by taking up a regular meditation practice.