For thousands of years, people have practiced meditation for spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being. But from an everyday perspective, how exactly does meditation affect your body? It all starts in the brain. During meditation, brain scans see increased activity in regions directly correlated with decreased anxiety and depression along with increased pain tolerance while also increased levels of memory, self-awareness, and productivity.
Meditation, first and foremost, is a skill of discipline. In order to work meditation into your daily routine, you have to set aside at least 5 minutes of your day and truly give it your all to benefit from the very real effects of mindfulness meditation. These are all non-demanding small jobs you can do from home.
In essence, mindfulness meditation is a mental training exercise that teaches you to slow down your racing thoughts, let go of negativity, and calm both your mind and body. It is very simple, this form of meditation involves deep breathing and awareness of body and mind and you don’t need props or preparation such as candles, essential oils, or mantras (unless you enjoy them).
It is also incredibly non-demanding, all you need is a comfortable place to sit, five minutes of free time, and a judgment-free mindset.
But, if you have time, meditating in a quiet place like a meditation retreat has a benefit. The peacefulness will help you concentrate on your breathing exercises. Also, going on meditation retreats will feel like you are going on a vacation. You can relax and enjoy nature.
Better Focus and Concentration
Mindfulness meditation helps you focus on the here and now which can improve your concentration in your day-to-day life and tasks. The Harvard Medical School conducted a study on the effects of mindfulness meditation on the brain. They found a link between mindfulness and processing information by placing participants on an eight-week mediation program.
The researchers looked at the brain of these participants both before and after the eight weeks and found through brain scans that there was more gray matter present in the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, and emotional regulation. To further highlight the merits of meditation, a research study at Carnegie Mellon showed how mindfulness meditation improved concentration and the ability to make decisions.
When you meditate, you don’t concentrate on or worry about everything that goes on in your day-to-day life. In those moments of meditation, you focus on your breathing and your stillness. It isn’t easy to create a habit of daily meditation and it comes with a great deal of motivation, self-control, resilience, and focus. By incorporating meditation into your daily routine you are automatically improving your personal discipline, focus, and concentration as well as benefiting your general well-being.
Improved Self-Esteem and Awareness
The great thing about mindfulness meditation is that it encourages you to slow down, allows for deeper self-reflection, and helps you discover positive traits about yourself. Mindfulness helps elevate self-awareness by increasing the ability to examine one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment which ultimately ends up improving self-esteem. Mindfulness meditation can especially help those who suffer from social anxiety.
Most forms of meditation teach you to recognize thoughts that may be harmful or self-defeating. The idea is that as you gain more awareness of your thought habits you can steer them towards more constructive patterns. Moreover, experience in meditation may cultivate more creative problem-solving skills.
As the goal of meditation is to reach a state of peace and stillness, it is a great way to connect with your body in a healthy and soothing way. By being able to focus and control your breathing, clearing your mind of overwhelming or unnecessary thoughts, and focusing on just being, do you go through an introspective journey and get to know a lot about yourself.
Depending on what your work style is, people can get incredibly stressed fro their jobs or their environment in general. Mindfulness meditation can also lower the levels of cortisol, which is the stress hormone that helps you feel more relaxed. Repeating a mantra, or a word or phrase during meditation can also have a calming effect. By concentrating on your mantra you are able to shift your focus away from distracting thoughts.
During times of meditation, you are in a state of relaxation and are one with your body and mind. A short 15 to 20 minute moment in your day where you focus on breathing and relaxing has proven to be very beneficial for stress and anxiety levels. This is no surprise, as it might be the only time in your day where you are able to have some peace and quiet. These moments are very important for mental health and meditation really helps people calm down, relax, and find a moment of peace through all the chaos of life.
Manage Anxiety and Depression
Mindfulness meditation helps train your mind to concentrate on the present, making the likelihood of ruminating on anxious thoughts that can fuel depression lessen. Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can help anxiety and depression and can be part of a thorough mental health treatment plan.
Studies also support the benefits of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) which is a therapy program that incorporates mindfulness meditation. It has been found that MBSR techniques can help with anxiety, calm the mind of the patients, and lessen the symptoms of depression including sleep troubles, feeling low, and a loss of appetite.
When you meditate, you are essentially refocusing your mind and re-centering yourself, you focus on your breathing and being present with yourself without having any overwhelming thoughts or sensations. It’s going to be an extremely relaxing and necessary moment for people who suffer from things such as anxiety where you are easily overwhelmed by your surroundings.
Close to 50% of the population will have struggled with insomnia at least one point in their life. Studies have compared mindfulness-based meditation programs and discovered that people who meditated remained asleep for longer periods of time and had improved insomnia severity compared to those who had an unmediated control condition.
Developing skills in meditation may help you control or channel the overwhelming number of thoughts in your brain that often lead to insomnia. In addition, it can help calm your body, releasing tension and placing you in a peaceful state in which you’re more likely to fall asleep.
There are truly a lot of other benefits to mindfulness meditation, as well as unique benefits of different styles of meditation across the board. These are the ones that are believed to be the most beneficial or life-changing side effects of meditation, but it truly is a great practice that can seriously benefit your life and it takes very little effort apart from the discipline to keep it up daily.