Thinking about incorporating meditation into your daily routine? Check out the 7 proven benefits of meditation that can help your mind expand and body heal but firstly, what is mediation?
Mediation is the perpetual practice of retraining your mind to become consciously aware of its surroundings.
The exercise involves taking a moment - regularly - to pause, observe and be completely aware of as many senses as possible, such as sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.
People who make meditation part of their daily routine, encounter a variety of benefits - in this article, we explain 7 proven benefits of meditation.
Alleviates depression and anxiety
As meditation promotes the mind to focus entirely on the present moment, less thought is given to the past or future tense.
Those dealing with depression often focus on past experiences and how they make them feel, and those managing anxiety can be fearful for the future.
"Meditation trains the brain to achieve sustained focus, and to return to that focus when negative thinking, emotions, and physical sensations intrude — which happens a lot when you feel stressed and anxious." Dr. John W. Denninger, director of research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine.
With meditation, the practice encourages the person to surrender to the present moment, paying no attention to thoughts on the past or future. Because of this, meditation helps to clear the mind from thoughts that can further induce depression and anxiety.
Awareness is the core of meditation, as it’s the act of paying attention to the present moment.
Self-awareness is important as it allows us to experience our uniqueness, as separate individuals. The greater our self-awareness, the more we understand how we relate with others and it can help give clarity and determine areas of our lives we want to focus on.
Meditation can increase self-awareness as consistent practice allows us to feel more in-tune with our bodies.
Through meditation, we can start to physically feel how external factors affect us both positively and negatively. Outside influences can cause more harm to our physical and mental well-being than we realise when our minds are unconscious, therefore meditation is a useful practice to bring our minds back to full consciousness.
Often the main reason people begin meditation is to manage the stress they are feeling and there is proof that it works.
Stress can cause havoc in the mind and body in various ways, from memory loss to inactive immune systems. When we're frequently stressed, our body creates the stress hormone, cortisol, which can have a very negative impact on our overall health long-term.
There are some studies to support meditation improving anxiety-related disorders such as social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders and phobias.
Meditation can also help work-related stress as it allows the person to pause all immediate thought in regards to their work demands, and focus completely on the present moment. This is particularly useful for those working in high-pressure environments.
Improves attention span
Another benefit for those working in high-pressure environments or who are easily distracted, meditation is thought to lengthen attention span and improve brain focus.
This is due to the mind being more aware and conscious of various surroundings when meditating consistently.
One study suggests that even as little as 4 days of meditation can improve attention span, as well as another study that leads the belief meditation and mindfulness can also help to reverse daydreaming and wandering minds.
Suffering from insomnia? There are various studies to help support the benefit of meditation and sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation ''The practice likely improves insomnia-symptoms by reducing measures of arousal in the brain.''
Research from Massachusetts General Hospital shows meditation strengthens the most important sleep brain region, called ‘Pons’, which determines how deep and restful our sleep is.
If a lack of sleep is getting you down, try a short guided meditation for sleep exercise from Headspace whilst using drops of slumber which are specifically formulated to calm a busy mind for a restful sleep.
Decreases blood pressure
Blood pressure affects almost 1 in 4 adults in England alone, which means there are a lot of people who rely on blood pressure medication to continue living a good quality of life.
Luckily, a recent study from two researchers in Kent State University has shown that mindfulness and meditation can reduce blood pressure.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) – which included meditation as well as gentle yoga and body awareness exercises – was shown to have decreased blood pressure in all 56 participants over an 8-week period.
Although there still isn’t enough evidence to support using meditation only to treat blood pressure, studies have shown meditation and mindfulness both increase activity in the parasympathetic nervous system (which helps broadening blood vessels) and decreases activity in the sympathetic nervous system (which contracts blood vessels in reaction to stress).
Helps create a positive attitude
Meditation has been proven to help boost the body’s natural formation of serotonin, endorphins, dopamine and melatonin which are crucial to create and maintain a healthy, positive attitude long-term.
Many people decide to start their mornings with meditation, as it creates a positive and compassionate setting for the rest of their day. Plus, as consistent meditation helps to reduce anxious thoughts and increases self-confidence, it allows those to be more open-minded to what each day has to offer, without judgement.
The bottom line
Meditation helps to reduce both depression and anxiety by creating a mental environment where you can be fully present in the moment, without thought or emotion.
Our self-awareness is heightened through regular meditation, which helps us to take positive actions to further benefit our wakened life.
Meditation decreases the body’s creation of cortisol (a stress hormone), which in turn benefits our mental and physical health.
Attention spans can be increased through consistent meditation, as it allows the mind to be clearer without thoughts and feelings causing disrupt. Areas of the brain that determine our sleep quality can be strengthened through meditation and mindfulness.
Go on give it a go