Meditation is a great mindfulness practice that has many benefits and can be life-changing. Mindfulness allows us to be in the present moment. Although it can be tempting to give in to frustration when starting a meditation practice, it’s important to know that practice is the key to learning how to be successful. Also, it’s important to have realistic expectations.
It’s normal to have your “monkey mind” distract you. You just need to work on bringing your mind back to focus on your breath and rely on a good breathing technique such as the 4, 7, 8 method. Practicing a breathing method outside of your meditation practice can help your body transition into a more restful state, activating your vagus nerve and parasympathetic (rest and digest) system.
Meditation is a simple tool that can enhance your life in many ways. If you’ve considered meditation but are procrastinating or you’ve tried it and been frustrated, be patient with yourself and keep trying. Taking the time out of your day to meditate often outweighs any concern about “wasting time” because it may support your cognitive processes, free will, or make you even more productive and a better decision-maker.[i],[ii]
Meditation can benefit your life in ways that can be life-changing:
- Meditation can increase self-confidence. Meditation can help to remove self-doubt and self-criticism.[iii] You will become more accepting of your shortcomings. When you can accept yourself, you believe that others will accept you, too.
- Meditation reduces stress and anxiety. Meditation is effective for anxiety and depression along with yoga and exercise.[iv] During meditation, you intend to focus on something to the exclusion of all other thoughts. This can help you develop the ability to regulate and moderate your emotions through meditation.
- Meditation provides a method for learning and accepting yourself. Most of us possess a certain amount of blindness when it comes to our thoughts, behaviors, and tendencies. Meditation encourages self-examination, detachment, and self-compassion.[v],[vi]
- Meditation can help you to see the truth. Meditation seeks to remove all of your preconceived ideas and put your emotions on the back burner. Without the influence of your beliefs and emotions, it’s much easier to catch a glimpse of reality. Your ability to make effective and intelligent decisions will grow.
- Meditation gives your brain a rest. Your brain is constantly working. There’s not one moment of the day your brain isn’t running at full speed. Even while you’re dreaming, your brain is busy creating your dreams. When you become an effective meditator, your brain finally gets a chance to rest. You’ll be surprised how good just five minutes of meditation can feel.
- Meditation can improve mindfulness. Most forms of meditation require focusing on a thought or object, commonly your breath. All of this mindfulness practice will help you “be in the moment” in other parts of your life. A small study demonstrated that short-term meditation can foster mindfulness and emotional regulation. [vii]
- Meditation can make you more accepting of others. When you’re more able to see your shortcomings compassionately, you’ll extend that same compassion to others. What would happen if everyone took the time to meditate? Specific forms of meditation have been studied for their effects on brain function such as loving-kindness meditation or compassion medication with the suggested clinical applications to help people positively with emotional processing and interpersonal relationships.[viii],[ix]
- Meditation can prolong your life. Meditation has been associated with slowing the aging process and improving physical and mental function. It could increase longevity, although the exact genetic or epigenetic mechanisms remain unclear.[x] ,[xi],[xii], [xiii] At least, you’ll likely feel, look, and think better!
- Meditation can boost your level of creativity. A review of research suggests that mindfulness practices can enhance creativity and learning. [xiv] By eliminating your negative thoughts and beliefs, you’ll have greater access to your creative abilities. Lower levels of stress also increase the opportunity to put your mind to good use. You might be a lot more creative than you’ve given yourself credit for in the past!
- Meditation can enhance your health. Meditation has also been shown to have positive effects on immune system, result in positive brain changes, as well as decrease stress.[xv] ,[xvi] Meditation can decrease markers of inflammation and decrease stress hormone response. [xvii] While mindfulness meditation improves pain, depression symptoms, and quality of life, further study is needed to see how effective it is for chronic pain.[xviii]
Meditation is one of the most powerful self-development and stress-management tools available. Try using an app as they have been shown to reduce stress and improve well-being.[xix] Many helpful ones can help guide you through meditation practice so you don’t have to go it alone. There are even group meditations online. A short meditation session each day can provide profound results for both your body and mind. Consider adding meditation to your daily routine for 30 days and see the results for yourself.
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[ii] Sun S, Yao Z, Wei J, Yu R. Calm and smart? A selective review of meditation effects on decision making. Front Psychol. 2015;6:1059. Published 2015 Jul 24. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01059
[iii] Shahar B, Szsepsenwol O, Zilcha-Mano S, et al. A wait-list randomized controlled trial of loving-kindness meditation programme for self-criticism. Clin Psychol Psychother. 2015;22(4):346-356. doi:10.1002/cpp.1893
[iv] Saeed SA, Cunningham K, Bloch RM. Depression and Anxiety Disorders: Benefits of Exercise, Yoga, and Meditation. Am Fam Physician. 2019;99(10):620-627.
[v] Sorensen S, Steindl SR, Dingle GA, Garcia A. Comparing the Effects of Loving-Kindness Meditation (LKM), Music and LKM Plus Music on Psychological Well-Being. J Psychol. 2019;153(3):267-287. doi:10.1080/00223980.2018.1516610
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[vii] Fazia T, Bubbico F, Iliakis I, et al. Short-Term Meditation Training Fosters Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation: A Pilot Study. Front Psychol. 2020;11:558803. Published 2020 Oct 26. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.558803
[viii] Hofmann SG, Grossman P, Hinton DE. Loving-kindness and compassion meditation: potential for psychological interventions. Clin Psychol Rev. 2011;31(7):1126-1132. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2011.07.003
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[x] Jacobs TL, Epel ES, Lin J, et al. Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2011;36(5):664-681. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2010.09.010
[xi] Epel E, Daubenmier J, Moskowitz JT, Folkman S, Blackburn E. Can meditation slow rate of cellular aging? Cognitive stress, mindfulness, and telomeres. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009;1172:34-53. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04414.x
[xii] Attilio Cavezzi*, Lorenzo Ambrosini, Roberto Colucci, Giuseppe D. Ionna and Simone Urg Urso, “Aging in the Perspective of Integrative Medicine, Psychoneuroendocrineimmunology and Hormesis”, Current Aging Science 2020; 13(2) . https://doi.org/10.2174/1874609812666191129095417
[xiii] Mendioroz M, Puebla-Guedea M, Montero-Marín J, et al. Telomere length correlates with subtelomeric DNA methylation in long-term mindfulness practitioners. Sci Rep. 2020;10(1):4564. Published 2020 Mar 12. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-61241-6
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[xv] Chaix R, Fagny M, Cosin-Tomás M, Alvarez-López M, Lemee L, et al.. Differential DNA
methylation in experienced meditators after an intensive day of mindfulness-based practice: implications for immune-related pathways. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Elsevier, 2019, pp.30879-7.
[xvi] Davidson RJ, Kabat-Zinn J, Schumacher J, et al. Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosom Med. 2003;65(4):564-570. doi:10.1097/01.psy.0000077505.67574.e3
[xvii] Moraes LJ, Miranda MB, Loures LF, Mainieri AG, Mármora CHC. A systematic review of psychoneuroimmunology-based interventions. Psychol Health Med. 2018;23(6):635-652. doi:10.1080/13548506.2017.1417607
[xviii] Hilton L, Hempel S, Ewing BA, et al. Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Ann Behav Med. 2017;51(2):199-213. doi:10.1007/s12160-016-9844-2
[xix] Bostock S, Crosswell AD, Prather AA, Steptoe A. Mindfulness on-the-go: Effects of a mindfulness meditation app on work stress and well-being. J Occup Health Psychol. 2019;24(1):127-138. doi:10.1037/ocp0000118