Meditation is fast becoming one of the most studied concepts regarding mental health and for good reason too!
Thousands of Studies have found that there are various benefits that come from consistent meditation. For example meditation has been shown to positively influence:
- Stress Levels
- Focus Levels
- Mood Consistency
- Self Compassion
- Relationship Quality
- Weight Loss
In short, consistent meditation is one of the best things you could possibly do for your overall wellbeing.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a wellness practice which involves training your mind to focus, eliminate distractions and redirect thoughts.
There are different ways to meditate. Some of the most popular methods include:
Inspired by the teachings of the Buddha, this type of meditation revolves around being aware and present in the moment. In mindful meditation, you are simply sitting silently with a straight back and observing your thoughts but being careful to not engage with them; instead you bring back your attention whenever your mind starts to wander.
Popularised by religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, spiritual Meditation involves seeking a connection with God or one's faith. Similar to prayer, spiritual meditation may involve spoken word, chants or plain silence. Usually one tries to reflect on their experiences and forge a connection with their deity.
Movement Meditation is fairly self explanatory, it involves doing some sort of physical activity whilst seeking mindfulness. This practice works for those who have trouble trying to sit still or feel most at peace when they're surrounded by nature.
How to Meditate
As the majority of research covers mindful meditation and it's benefits, we suggest trying out mindful meditation to gain as many benefits as possible!
Step One: Create Time
The last thing you want to be doing is trying to meditate when you're in a rush. If you have things to do or somewhere to be, it's going to be incredibly hard to try and be present in the moment. Instead you want to set out an appropriate amount of time where you have nothing to do and won't encounter any distractions.
Step Two: Get Comfortable
Next, you want to make sure you're as comfortable as possible. You should be in a position which won't cause you discomfort after a couple minutes. Ideally, you should be able to stay comfortable in that position for at least an hour. It can be incredibly frustrating to keep getting distracted by being uncomfortable as it can take a while to get back in the zone and present in the moment; therefore, it is of upmost importance that you ensure you're as comfortable as can be before starting.
Step Three: Feel your Breath
To begin the actual process of mindful meditation, you can begin by focusing solely on your breathing rate. Ensure that the only thing your mind is concentrating on is your breathing. If you're struggling to solely concentrate on your breathing, you can make a mental recording of your breathing practices; for example, you might think to yourself "in and out and in and out" whilst you're breathing in and out.
Step Four: Observe
After a certain period of time, you're attention will flow from your breathing rate to other thoughts. At this point, you want to observe all the thoughts that cross your mind whilst being careful not to engage with them. If you do start to engage with them or find your mind wandering, try to return your attention back to breathing and start the whole process again.
Remember, the process may seem incredibly simple but it's also incredibly hard to master. The longer you can observe your thoughts without your mind wandering, the better and the more benefits you'll gain!
The 9 Benefits of Mindful Meditation
Benefit #1: Minimises Stress
Mindful Meditation has consistently been found to reduce the levels of cortisol (a stress hormone in the body). Lower levels of cortisol have been shown to increase relaxation, reduce stress and boosts energy.
Furthermore, the National Institute of Health found that 8 weeks of consistently practicing mindful meditation led to reduced anxiety and better overall self esteem.
Similarly, a clinical psychology review analysed over 200 studies regarding mindful meditation and found that meditation was one of the most effective ways to reduce stress, alongside exercise, a well balanced diet and good sleep quality.
Benefit #2: Improves your Focus
Because mindful meditation involves eliminating your distractions and keeping your mind disciplined, by consistently practicing it over time you start to improve your ability to focus and concentrate.
Harvard Medical School conducted a study where they found that consistent meditation leads to improvements in learning, memory and emotional health. Likewise, researchers at Columbia University Medical Centre found that consistent meditation can change the structure of the brain, including improving ability to focus and concentrate.
Benefit #3: Sleep Quality
In recent years, research regarding meditation and insomnia has been increasing at an incredible rate. It's for good reason too, research suggests that meditation can be one of the best ways to improve your sleep quality.
Various studies have shown that those who consistently practice meditation display better quality REM sleep and tend to not be awakened by distractions when asleep.
The reason for it's effects on sleep quality is down to the similarity between your meditating state and you're sleeping state. When you're meditating, you're relaxing your mind in a manner which is generally very similar to when you start to fall asleep. Therefore, by consistently meditating you're practicing relaxing your brain; then when you do go to sleep, you'll find it easier to relax your brain and fall asleep.
Benefit #4: Improves your Memory
Especially in older practisers, consistent meditation has been found to reduce age-related memory loss.
A study conducted by the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease involved recording the effects of meditation on elder people who had memory loss issues. They found that 12 minutes of meditation a day was enough to reduce the effects of their memory loss and slow down the progression of their memory loss.
Benefit #5: Improves your Emotional Health
Consistent meditation has been found to positively improve emotional health; studies conducted by The Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine found that consistent meditation minimises the likelihood of developing depression and mood-related disorders,
Furthermore, other studies have found that regular meditation can help improve the symptoms of depression and that it can help lead to improved self image whilst helping to generate a positive outlook on life.
The reason why meditation can be so effective for improving your emotional health is all down to the process of observing our thoughts and gaining insight into what is dictating our emotions and actions. By gaining awareness of these thoughts, you can then help address these thoughts and thus improve your emotional health.
Benefit #6: Boost Self Esteem
Similar to how meditation can improve your emotional health through improving symptoms of depression and mood-related disorders, regular meditation has been shown to improve your self esteem in the long term.
Various studies have found that regular meditation is positively correlated with positive self esteem whilst also helping to improve the meditator's ability to cope with stress and negative thoughts.
Brian Wind (the chief clinical officer at Journey Pure), states that the reason why meditation can boost self esteem is down to the process of examining our own thoughts and emotions without judgement. Because we are not using judgement, we can then become comfortable with our thoughts and emotions and thus become more comfortable with ourselves as a whole.
Benefit #7: Can Help Fight Addiction
Another benefit of regular meditation is it can be incredibly effective as treatment for fighting addictions such as drug use, gambling or social media addiction.
A study conducted by the journal of substance abuse explored the effects of meditation when dealing with alcohol use disorder; the study found that regular meditation can help to manage impulses, redirect their attention and control cravings. This makes it an incredibly effective treatment for those who are fighting any addictions.
The reason why consistent meditation is so effective when dealing with addictions is down to the discipline you are constantly building whilst managing distractions and not engaging with your thoughts whilst meditation. This discipline can carry on over to other aspects of your life and help to improve your self control and ability to manage impulses; thus helping you to fight your addictions.
Benefit #8: Improves Pain Threshold
A rather unexpected benefit of consistent meditation is it helps to improve your ability to deal with physical pain.
A study conducted by the University of Montreal explored the ability of those who regularly meditate to deal with pain compared to those who do not engage in regular meditation.
The findings of the study were astounding; they found that those who meditate regularly were in less pain and could had better endurance when in physical pain than those who did not participate in regular meditation.
Studies such as the one described above show that meditation can be an incredibly effective type of treatment for those who are dealing with painful conditions such as migraines, chronic pains and arthritis.
Benefit #9: Physical Health Benefits
Various studies have explored the effects of regular meditation on physical well being. Some of the effects that have been identified include:
- Boosting Immune Functions
- Minimising Cellular Inflammation
- Women who engaged in regular meditation were found to be more fertile
- Regulates the Sympathetic and Autonomic Nervous systems; this allows us to better cope with stressful situations
- Stabilises blood circulation
- Regulates blood pressure
If you're looking to improve your physical wellbeing, meditation could be one of the most effective things you could do alongside exercising, eating well and getting enough sleep.
I hope that this guide on meditation will inspire you to start practicing meditation on a regular basis; not just to boost your productivity levels, but to improve your overall health and mood. Remember, as with any habit, it may be difficult at first but it will certainly become easier over time as you learn to discipline your mind. Good Luck!