The mind is full of positive powers, but at the same time, it could be our biggest enemy. How? By propagating lots of unwanted distractions and toxic thoughts in our heads. And one of the best ways to manage these thoughts and distractions is meditation.
That’s right! Nowadays, meditation is considered one of the most powerful tools we can use against negativity within us. We can not only manage toxic thoughts but, with the help of meditation, we can get some other benefits as well. In this article, I’m going to share those benefits with you. Following are they:
Stress Management — Reduces Stress
Many doctors and psychologists often suggest meditation when you are striving to overcome stress. Even myself, being a psychologist, sometimes recommends my clients to try meditation when it comes to stress relief. Many people think that it’s a great option to avoid doing the things that stress you out but, stress can come from just about anywhere. How can someone get rid of his job, finance management, friends, and family? Because they all can be a reason for stress too, and one can not simply ignore them. Therefore, learning how to meditate can significantly reduce stress without making any of these adjustments to your lifestyle. The real question is how sitting quietly for 15–20 minutes can be so impactful when you’re stressed?
Well, our bodies produce cortisol — the primary stress hormone responsible for increasing sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose, and increasing the availability of substances that repair tissues. It also restricts functions that would be nonessential or harmful in a fight-or-flight situation. A study in 2013 found that meditation, specifically mindfulness meditation, effectively deals with stress by decreasing the side effects of cortisol production. Another study that examined over 1,200 participants found that regular meditation can lower stress levels. The results were consistent for everyone. It means that it does not matter who you are or how much older you are. Meditation can be an incredibly effective way to reduce your stress levels.
Meditation is considered a form of therapy for individuals fighting against depression (my another article on usage of emotions “Excessive use of Emotions” is also one of the biggest reasons of getting depressed, read it). It does not control only the production of neurons associated with depression but also helps nurture a stable emotional mindset by decreasing the presence of negative emotions in us like sadness, anger, and self-criticism to stick around for way too long.
The research took place at the University of Exeter. The goal was to study the behavior of two different groups of people healing from depression. The first group used only medication for depression but, the other one practiced mindfulness meditation at least once every day. In the end, the researchers found that about half of the medicating group ended up relapsing because of unhealthy behaviors like brooding that prevented the medicines from doing their job. On the contrary, those who practiced meditation were significantly less likely to relapse because they were less likely to engage in certain depressive behaviors. So, if you’re hoping to improve your emotional health, mindfulness meditation can be a safe and excellent idea to cut depression off.
Improves sleeping pattern
Generally, it takes between 10–25 minutes for a body to shut down and go to bed but, if it takes you an hour or more to fall asleep, it could mean two things. First, you’re just going to bed too early, and second, it could be a sign of insomnia. Believe it or not, over half the population has dealt with insomnia which can last anywhere from a few days to a few years. Most people choose to resolve this problem with sleeping pills but, these can have several nasty side effects. It could become an addiction or cause fatigue and drowsiness. So psychologists have begun recommending meditation as a healthy and safe alternative.
According to research in 2015, meditating before going to bed reduces both mental and physical stress. And this short period of relaxation can significantly improve the quality of your sleep, even for chronic insomniacs. Meditation helps you fall asleep earlier, stay asleep longer, and stop you from randomly waking up in the middle of the night. That is what quality sleep means! And you’ll also notice, after rising in the morning, there would be improvements in memory concentration and problem-solving that require your brain to be sharp and well-rested. Let’s talk about memory now.
You might have noticed that the people who meditate regularly often have a very sharp memory. Did you wonder why? Here’s the thing — regular meditation leaves a tremendous effect on our brain; especially, on the parts responsible for storing and recovering memories. Its best example can be a study carried out in 2013 in which a group of researchers examined the brains of two groups of people. The first group of people had those who never meditated, and in the other group, people were meditating every day.
The researchers found that the brains of frequent meditators were developed better in several different areas than the non-meditators. The regions of their brains associated with memory were most prominent, thicker, intricate, and active than their counterparts. That means they not only have an easier time recalling events from their long-term memory but can also store information much more efficiently. It’s never too late. If you have a memory issue, you should give it a try. Meditation can be helpful for you.
Increases focus in you
Most of us have a common problem — lack of focus. You’ll agree with me that we often make silly mistakes in our regular work. It mostly happens when we have so many tasks to complete, but our single mistake ruins our schedule completely, right? If you were finding an answer for a “why” then, here it is. Your brain is not focusing precisely, and there are two causes for that: First — You have overloaded your brain. Second — You become hasty. If you are overburdened, you have to learn some management skills, and if you are impatient, you should become patient, right? What if I tell you that meditation can teach you these two skills for free?
We know that management skills and patience require a complete focus, and meditating regularly, is a counteractant that can improve your focus. How? By our nature, it is hard for us is to sit silently while keeping our minds empty. But, it becomes more difficult for us to sit quiet, emptying the mind and sensing everything around us. While meditating, a person achieves the same mental trance. Initially, it is impossible to do so but, practice makes a man perfect! Now, what exactly happens is that whatsoever we practice for a long time, our body gets addicted to it (Just the way a smoker gets addicted).
Then, we all know what happens. We automatically start doing it, no? The idea is to focus. We are guiding our brains to focus effectively. So, whenever we do something, automatically, all our senses respond, and their point of focus becomes one. Increasing focus means lesser chances of loss. This way, your schedule would also not get disordered. In 2007, a study answered this question by testing the concentrated skills of people before and after an eight-week course on mindfulness meditation. The researchers observed that before meditation, their speed and performance were poor. But, just after the eight weeks of regular meditation, participants got more efficient.
Do you know that if we can learn to control our minds, we can often lessen the amount of pain we feel? That’s right! Practicing mindfulness meditation can help us hone a controlled mentality that can allow us to cope with pain and lessen its amount. It almost sounds impossible, yeah? A study in 2011 found that individuals who meditate every day seem to experience lesser pain than those who don’t meditate daily. The researchers discovered this by looking at the activity of their brains when they were in pain. The meditators responded a little to pain in comparison to people who had never meditated before.
Another study tested pain tolerance, and over 3,000 participants who were struggling with chronic pain found that those who practiced daily meditation were far better at coping with their pain. It means that daily meditation can potentially decrease your perception of pain. Oh! Talking about pain and forgetting self-confidence… Let me tell you another benefit of doing meditation regularly.
Self-confidence is something that almost every one of us struggles with daily in a world full of critics and bullies. Sometimes, it can be hard to develop and maintain a lasting positive self-image but, without it, you may struggle every day to avoid another cycle of depression. The question is how meditation can help us improve self-confidence. Well, let me answer it. Mindfulness meditation can help you build a kind of self-esteem that won’t fall apart easily.
The idea is quite simple. All you have to do is bring your full attention to the present moment by focusing exclusively on where you are and who you are. It will allow you to stay calm, relaxed, and focused. Furthermore, it will also reduce your anxiety while allowing you to think clearly and intelligently. The ultimate goal of mindfulness meditation is to get you in touch with your senses and emotions, giving you a deeper understanding of yourself.
A study in 2005 showed that this deeper understanding often results in the development of self-esteem. In short, we lose self-confidence and self-esteem when we don’t know who we are and what exactly we can do. It’s like, when you know yourself, you feel proud of yourself. And when people are proud of themselves, they stay focused, positive, and confident. So, if you are a non-meditator, you should think about starting it today. And you’ll find tremendous results in a week or so.
A little change in your daily-routine can be beneficial along with meditation. You can read “Healthy Habits” for personal well-being.
Think and Reflect!