The word ‘meditation’ might conjure up an image of a cross-legged monk chanting, ‘Om’, but judging by the threefold spike in practitioners (from 4.1% in 2012 to 14.2% in 2017), meditation seems to have escaped the monastery!
As researchers continue to look at how meditation affects the human body, they’ve discovered benefits that go far beyond spiritual enlightenment. The truth is, practicing daily meditation unlocks powerful holistic health benefits, from increased focus and productivity to boosted immunities and greater mental endurance.
First, let’s do a quick rundown on meditation, then take a look at the scientifically-proven health benefits you can reap from this powerful practice.
How do you meditate?
Meditation is a mind/body practice that’s long been practiced to enhance overall well-being, including calming the mind, promoting relaxation, improving emotional and psychological balance and even coping with illness.
While there are many forms of meditation, most styles have four key traits in common:
- A quiet location (with as few distractions as possible)
- A comfortable posture (sitting, lying down, walking, or yoga positions)
- A focus of attention (on your breath, on a word, phrase, or intention, or on an object)
- An open attitude (allowing distractions and thoughts to come and go naturally and without judging them)
Choose your form of meditation
The first step to taking advantage of the benefits of meditation is to choose the form you’re most comfortable with, be it a guided practice like yoga, or an at-home meditation session with aromatherapy or other objects to help you relax.
Here are some different forms of meditation you can try:
- Mindfulness/Focussed – Sit in a quiet space, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. As you feel your mind begin to wander, gently pull those thoughts back to the present, and focus on your breath or your senses.
- Spiritual – Sit in silence and pray/reflect on what you believe of the universe and allow your mind to wander. This is a great style for those seeking spiritual growth.
- Movement – Engage in a gentle form of movement such as gardening, walking, yoga, etc, and alternate between allowing your mind to wander and gently bringing your focus back to the moment at hand.
- Mantra/Transcendental – Remember that monk above? This is his territory. Focus on a word, phrase or intention and repeat it aloud. When you feel your mind begin to wander, gently bring your thoughts back to the present by repeating your mantra.
How long should I meditate?
While it’s great to aim for 20 to 30 minutes (or even more) per day, our packed schedules might not allow for such a time commitment.
Start with three minutes per day, then work up to five, then ten, and then keep going!
As meditation becomes a habit, it will feel more and more natural to dedicate time to it – especially as you begin to feel the powerful results of your efforts!
To get started, try a helpful meditation app like Headspace. They have a great beginner meditation course in their free trial!
The scientifically-proven health benefits of daily meditation
Body meditation benefits
- Relieves stress/anxiety: Meditation relaxes all the muscles in your body, helping to lower stress symptoms and ease mood disturbances, even in those with serious health conditions like cancer.
- Activates the brain + boosts the immune system: Mindfulness meditation, even in short amounts, can activate the brain and boost immune system functioning, helping you to be more productive and protect your body from illnesses.
- Encourages faster sleep: Meditation helps clear the mind and calm the body, which can be extremely helpful for those who struggle with sleep issues as serious as insomnia.
Mind meditation benefits
- Controls pain: Meditating can help reduce pain-perception in the brain and so is often recommended for those suffering from chronic pain.
- Slows (age-related) memory loss: Because meditation improves focus, it helps create mental clarity which can offset age-related cognitive decline.
- Lengthens attention span: The more you practice meditation, the stronger your focus grows. Even brief mental training for as little as four days has shown to help increase attention span.
- Enhances self-awareness: Meditation helps to open the mind, allowing for a greater and deeper understanding to develop, including helping people discover who they are and who they want to become.
Spiritual meditation benefits
- Develops a healthy emotional state: Meditation is shown to help people have a more positive, balanced outlook on life, which in turn improves their overall emotional health.
- Strengthens self-control: Mental discipline is grown from daily meditation, which helps people gain the willpower to make healthier life choices in everything from diet and exercise to inhibiting unhealthy addictions like overeating.
- Promotes kindness: Kindness based meditation helps create a healthy inner calmness, which has lateral effects like increased compassion and empathy.
Try meditation for a better quality of life
Now it’s time to go for it! Experiment with the different styles mentioned above, and when you find a style that’s right for you, try to make meditation a daily habit to reap all the powerful effects it has to offer.--> For more tips on how to improve your happiness, read The 5 -Step Happiness Challenge!