When you hear the word “meditation,” what do you think of?
Until recently, lots of people believed meditation was an archaic form of therapy, or a spiritual practice that was practiced only by followers of eastern religions.
But meditation has proven to be a valuable tool that can improve many aspects of life.
So why meditate? We’ll tell you.
Check out these benefits, and consider adding it to your daily routine!
Why You Should Meditate
There are loads of emotional, mental, and physical benefits associated with meditation.
Many people practice meditation and its various forms (like yoga) to calm stress, anxiety, and other symptoms associated with modern-day life, but physical benefits exist as well.
The entire body benefits from these stress-relieving and body-calming exercises, with research suggesting that it can reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease, depression, anxiety disorders, and hypertension, among others.
Here are a few benefits that meditation offers.
Benefits of Meditation
1. You’ll sleep better
Meditation can help you get a better night’s sleep. This goes hand-in-hand with the decrease in stress that meditation provides; too much stress can disrupt sleep cycles and ultimately lead to a poor night’s sleep.
Try meditating before bed if you’re looking to get more snooze-time.
Related: How To Sleep Better In 4 Steps
2. You’ll have a decreased risk in heart disease
Meditation can help your heart in more ways than one.
A recent clinical trial showed that meditation can reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death in patients with existing heart disease by nearly 50%.
For five years, doctors studied the effects of transcendental meditation (one of the most common forms of meditation) on 200 at-risk individuals and found that those who had practiced meditation for 15-20 minutes a day had lowered their risk of heart attack, stroke, and death by 47%.
Related: 11 Ways To Keep Your Heart Healthy
3. You’ll have a better sex life
Why meditate? Well, here’s a pretty great reason…ooh la la!
Sex and meditation are pretty similar; so similar, in fact, that a recent study showed meditation has the same effect on the brain as an orgasm! In both circumstances, there is a temporary cessation of the endless mind chatter that follows us throughout the day. So, if you’re feeling lonely, try some deep breathing exercises – it may leave you feeling quite satisfied.
4. It’s a good treatment for depression
In some cases, meditation may be more productive and beneficial for treating depression than prescription drugs.
Related: 6 Ways To Become Happy
Scientists from the University of Exeter published a study showing that mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) was more impactful than pills or counseling for treating depression; four months after beginning MBCT, 75% of patients in the study felt well enough to discontinue antidepressant usage.
5. You’ll feel more confident
Meditation can help people tackle the issues that bother them most, and low self-esteem is something that plagues many. Meditation can reduce the anxieties and stresses associated with nerve-racking situations, thus boosting self-assurance.
Particularly, affirmation meditation, which involves the repetition of self-assuring statements during meditation, is a way to tackle self-esteem issues.
Related: 5 Reasons To Boost Self Confidence
6. It can treat addiction
A doctor at the University of Wisconsin conducted a 16-week trial involving 19 patients from substance abuse recovery centers. Nearly half of the recovering addicts reported complete abstinence during the period, a sign that meditation may help addicts avoid relapse.
7. It’ll improve your career
Committed meditation can even lead to professional success. Executives at some of the biggest companies in the world, like Google, General Mills, and Target, practice meditation regularly and have even established measures for employees to participate.
The increased self-assurance and focus gained from meditation allows individuals to make decisions and provide input that can ultimately pay off, which could lead to pay raises and promotions.
8. It can treat asthma
It makes sense: most forms of meditation place emphasis on listening to and controlling your breathing. If someone with asthma commits to practicing these breathing exercises, then the benefits may become apparent.
9. You’ll be happier
A team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital studied the brain scans of 16 people while they engaged in an eight-week mindfulness meditation course.
The results? Neuro-scans revealed that parts of the brain associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, while the area related to stress shrank dramatically.
Steps To Good Meditation (And Relaxation!)
Meditation has many forms, each varying slightly in technique, but there are three basics of meditation that all varieties have in common.
1. Find your spot.
First, meditation is about finding a tranquil place within your mind and body, so it’s best to start by meditating in a secluded, dimly-lit space; this means no television, cellphones, or other distractions.
Related: How To Sleep Better In 4 Steps
Once you’ve found your spot, find a flat surface, like the floor, and sit with your spine straightened, shoulders back, palms up, and eyes closed.
2. Just breathe.
The next step is to focus on your breathing; if you’re having trouble keeping your thoughts subdued, remember to focus on breathing from your diaphragm and detaching yourself from stress and worry. This step takes patience and commitment.
3. Have patience.
Lastly, don’t give up! Your body and mind may react to this calmness by creating distractions (like itchiness, an urge to swallow, or other annoying disturbances), but it’s best to ignore these distractions.
At first, it can be difficult to stay focused, but with a bit of practice you’ll begin to experience the benefits of meditation.
Why meditate? There are a ton of reasons! Meditation can help you sleep better, improve your confidence and career, and prevent or improve all sorts of health conditions. It can be done nearly anywhere and any time, so there’s no excuse to brush off meditating because of time or space limitations.
If you’re looking to reduce stress, have more confidence so you can attract a new partner, or just be healthier overall, try some meditation. You might be surprised by the results.
This article was reviewed and approved by Christy Lee-Engel, ND, LAc.
Featured photo by RelaxingMusic
Originally published in December 2012 and updated in July 2014.