Benefits of Meditation
Meditation reduces stress
Feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders? Meditation is incredibly effective at reducing stress and anxiety. One study found that mindfulness and zen type meditations significantly reduce stress when practiced over a period of three months. Another study revealed that meditation literally reduces the density of brain tissue associated with anxiety and worrying. If you want your stress levels to plummet, meditation may be the answer.
Meditation increases your sense of well-being
Want to fill your life with happiness and energy? Mindfulness meditation increases your psychological functioning and in the process improves your sense of well-being. Yoga and tai chi have been found to do this also – according to studies, they have significant therapeutic effects and increase quality of life when practiced regularly.
Meditation increases your sense of connectedness and empathy
Feeling a little disconnected from those around you? Try compassion meditation. Loving kindness meditation is a compassion-based meditation that enhances brain areas associated with mental processing and empathy. It also increases your sense of social connectedness. Not a hugging person? You just might become one after trying it!
Meditation improves focus
Would you love to add razor-edge focus to your life? Research shows that meditation improves cognition and increases your ability to perform tasks requiring focus. One study tested a variety of different meditation types, including Transcendental Meditation, Vipassana, Tibetan Buddhist Meditation, Sufi Meditation and Hindu Meditation, and found that they all improve focus by varying degrees.
Meditation improves relationships
Want to strengthen your relationships? Meditation has been shown to better your ability to relate to others. How? It improves your ability to empathize, and it hones your ability to pick up on cues indicating how others are feeling. Meditation also increases your emotional stability, making you less likely to be influenced by any negative people in your life.
Meditation makes you more creative
Ever feel like you could use some more inspiration? Meditation increases your creativity, according to various studies. It’s no wonder that famous creatives like Yoko Ono, David Lynch and Marina Abramović make meditation a major part of their life.
Meditation improves memory
Whether you want to become a memory champion or you simply want to remember the name of that guy who works down the hall, meditation can help. Research has shown that it improves your ability to memorize things and to store and consolidate new information.
Meditation improve your ability to make decisions
There’s a reason high powered executives turn to meditation to help them do their jobs better. Studies have found that both mindfulness meditation and Transcendental Meditation help you make better decisions by improving the functioning of your brain’s decision-making centers. If you want to start cultivating your inner executive, give meditation a try.
Meditation helps people overcome addictions
Do you know someone who has struggled with addiction? One of the most beautiful effects of meditation is that it can help people overcome powerful addictions. One fascinating study found that Vipassana meditation can be incredibly effective at helping people overcoming alcohol and drug related addictions, and similar effects have been found for various types of meditation.
Meditation helps you find “flow”
Have you ever felt totally, utterly absorbed in the moment? Maybe you were playing a sport or painting a picture, and the world around you just seemed to vanish. This is called “flow,” and is a rare state where the human mind is operating in complete harmony with itself, when you reach a challenge perfectly suited to your abilities. Meditation can help you reach this amazing state of mind, according to some fascinating research.
I can’t shut my mind off.
You don’t have to! There are many meditation techniques that involve following random thoughts as fast as they appear. An active mind can be a great point of focus, as long as the focus is done as an observer of the thoughts with no intervention or manipulation.
Meditation is a spiritual/religious practice
Meditation is a very old practice, and it was indeed created/discovered within religious contexts, with the purpose of achieving spiritual goals. However, for most techniques – especially as practiced in the West – there is nothing essentially religious about them.
In other words: you can practice meditation without needing to believe in anything. A Christian or Muslim can practice it, without any conflict with their own faith. The same goes for atheists and agnostics. Practicing meditation will not make you religious, just as doing stretches will not make you a Yogi. Many people practice meditation exclusively for health and well-being benefits.
I need to follow certain rituals, wear certain clothes, burn incense, etc.
No, no, no. As explained above, meditation is not necessarily a religious practice. Those that practice it within a religious context may add these extra elements to it – and they may even find them helpful – but they are not essential to meditation, and can be distractions.
I have practiced meditation with these elements (incense, clothes, some ritual). At that time I found that they helped to create a different atmosphere for the mind, and improve focus. Yet, on the past years I have no special element around the practice – I just sit on a cushion, in the corner of my room, usually in pajamas. And my meditation is even deeper than before. So, these things are not needed. Use these elements if you like, and if you find them helpful.
I need to be in a temple, or a special place
To do seated meditation, all you need is a place where you will not be interrupted. Of course, a clean and quiet room is better, but not a requirement.
When I meditate a bit late in the mornings, especially on the weekends, there is usually noise from neighbors. Sometimes there is even loud music, or heated up discussions. I then accept my environment, without resistance or annoyance, and find that the noise does not bother my practice at all. Sometimes it even helps me be more present, and enjoy more the inner silence (because it gets contrasted to the outside noise).
Besides, with time you will get the ability to meditate anywhere – on the bus, at your workplace, in a pub, wherever you are.
Meditation is selfish
Meditation is no more selfish than eating, sleeping, or taking shower. It is an essential daily activity that human beings need to be able to live fully and function effectively. Yes, it is done alone, and yes, it does not “produce” anything tangible. Yet what you get through the practice will positively affect those that interact with you and the output of your efforts, in your personal and work life.
I have to sit cross-legged or in that painful lotus position
As long as you are keeping your spine straight, you can sit any way you like. You can even sit in a chair if it is difficult for you to get down on the floor. There is no reason to be uncomfortable while meditating. I have even known people who practice meditation while lying down, but I don’t suggest that for beginners because it’s too easy to get sleepy!
I have to be still to meditate
There are many meditations that require movement, such as walking, eating, and drawing meditations. Some people are really attracted to these movement oriented meditations, while others prefer quieter, more introspective meditations. I encourage you to experiment with different types of meditation so that you can find one that works best for YOU.
Meditation takes too much time
A successful meditation can be as short as one conscious breath. Most people will increase the amount of time they practice over time, but even if you only have one spare minute you can have a successful meditation!
I need everything to be quiet in order to meditate.
I put off meditation for years because I could never find a way to turn off all the noise around me. Cars would drive by, the refrigerator would hum, the clock would tick, the neighbor’s dog would start barking, it went on and on. Those are EXCUSES. One of my best meditation sessions happened at a busy bus stop. And you will find out that focusing on sound is one of the easiest ways to “sneak” meditation into your life.
Meditation is boring.
Meditation awakens the natural curiosity we lose as we grow into adulthood and amass real-world problems. When we are curious about something there is little room for boredom because our minds are occupied.