Mediation has been shown to have many wonderful benefits in helping improve our lives, making us less stressed, and more resilient to adversity. Despite what sounds like an easy process on paper, mediation can actually be much harder than we anticipate. Most people find their first session is quite surprising, as they realise how busy and out of control their minds truly are. So why do people persist and swear by it? Well see al the benefits below and decide for yourself.
Meditation can reduce general stress and anxiety
We’ve all heard this before, but how exactly does it work?
Meditators have been found to be more able to attend to ‘moment-to-moment’ to stimuli than their non-meditator counterparts and are therefore less likely to get stuck on any one particular stimulus. The corresponding finding in the brains of meditators shows a reduced amount of grey-matter density in brain areas related to anxiety and stress. Meditation brings awareness to when we are ruminating on stressful things in the past or potentially in the future, and gives us better control over redirecting our brain away from negative things, on to either positive things or even the present moment.
Meditation greatly improves focus and concentration
Meditators have been shown to have superior skills in maintaining focus on tasks (even boring ones!) in comparison to non-meditators.
Don’t have much time to practice? No worries! In a study, it was further demonstrated that with only 20 minutes of practice per day, students were able to perform better on cognitive tasks. In some cases, they could perform up to 10 times better than their fellow students who did not partake in meditation. In our busy lives we can get so overwhelmed, and we are constantly hearing about the dangers of multi-tasking. Through meditation we can keep a calmer and more focused mind, which can help us achieve greater results in the things we aim for.
Meditation can increase your pain tolerance
In a recent study, meditators and non-meditator’s brain activity was measured while receiving identical degrees of painful heat. The expert meditators reported less pain than their opponents, even though the absolute amount of pain they were experiencing was equal.
And wait, there’s more! While morphine can be seen to reduce pain by people suffering from the later stages of cancer by 25%, those practicing meditation saw pain decreases of up to 40% and even more importantly, decreased the perception of pain by up to 57%!
Sooner or later we are all going to get sick or injured, so this wonderful benefit can only be a plus as we age and things start drooping and stop working.
Meditation is the key to immortality
OK, that probably got your attention. Well, not quite… BUT recent studies have shown a link between meditation and a longer life span.
Some forms of meditation have shown to reduce our amount of cognitive stress and stress arousal, as well as promoting positive mind states.
These attributes are said to have an effect on telomere length – an essential part of human cells that affect how our cells age. An increase in telomere length comes with a slowing of cell aging, so who knows what’s possible for the future!
Meditation can improve empathy and positive relationships
Loving-kindness meditation (traditionally known as metta) can improve your ability to empathize with others by developing a sense of care and benevolence toward all living beings. What also contributes to this is the promotion of positive emotions and mind states through compassion.
Empathy underlies the nature of positive relationships and these relationships underlie our own life value and self-worth. Therefore while practicing these elements, we also increase our own self-acceptance.
Meditation can help you get rid of unwanted thoughts
Have you ever noticed that when you try not to think about something, it becomes all you can think about? Stress and anxiety may build up around a particular thought that you can’t quite seem to knock out of your head.
Meditation techniques can help you to be able to observe your thoughts without judgement. Eventually, you realise that thoughts are just that, your thoughts, and the only power that you have over them is the power that you give them. We don’t have to believe everything we think- there are many opinions ion this world and we can’t all possibly be right. If we had to objectively judge the accuracy and evidence for many of our thoughts, many would come up lacking. Understanding that thoughts are just thoughts and not necessarily the truth, can be a huge weight off our shoulders. When you find yourself thinking something negative that you know isn’t really true, thank your brain for the thought, and acknowledge that was it is was. We don’t need to act on it, just mindfully acknowledge it, and don’t ruminate on it. Over time with mindfulness and some mediation practice, the thoughts will just stop bugging us if we don’t buy into them.