Meditation is one of the great Eastern practices that has begun to take hold in Western culture. In fact, people all over the world benefit from it for both mind and body. So why doesn’t everyone meditate? Perhaps not everyone is aware of all the amazing benefits, such as improved relaxation and reduced levels of anxiety and depression. This article provides a summary of just a few of the many benefits of meditation, as well as a set of instructions for starting your own meditation practice.
This article is divided into two main sections. First, we will discuss the benefits of meditation. After that, we’ll talk about how you can start your own meditation practice. If you are not aware of the many benefits of meditation, we encourage you to read the next section. This will help motivate you to continue your practice. If you already know about the benefits of meditation, feel free to skip it.
BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
There has been a lot of research into meditation over the last decade trying to understand its effects and how it manages to help us both mind and body so much.
Meditation research has shown that meditation increases alpha waves for a short time, which makes us feel more relaxed while reducing our feelings of anxiety and depression. Alpha waves pass through the cells of the cerebral cortex, where we process sensory information. These waves help suppress unnecessary or distracting sensory information, allowing us to focus. The more alpha waves we have, the better we focus.
In his book What is Meditation? Rob Nairn calls meditation the state of “pure attention.” He explains, “It’s a very alert and skillful state of mind because it requires the person to remain psychologically present and ‘with’ everything that’s going on in and around you, without adding or subtracting anything.”
Meditation has many health benefits. Interestingly, the increased ability to concentrate allows those suffering from chronic pain to relieve their pain by choosing not to focus on it. It can also help with a variety of other health issues, including anxiety, depression, stress, insomnia, HIV/AIDS, and cancer. It can also boost the body’s immune system, making it less likely to get sick.
Research has also shown that meditation can help fight heart disease. In Stroke magazine, 60 African Americans suffering from hardening of the arteries were asked to meditate for 6-9 months. Those who meditated showed a marked reduction in arterial wall thickness. Those who did not meditate showed an increase in thickness. The results were very dramatic. Meditation offers a potential 11% reduction in heart attack risk and an 8-15% reduction in stroke risk.
Meditation also benefits our mind. It teaches us to better control our thoughts. This gives us the opportunity to calm those annoying negative thoughts that we may have from time to time.
A 2019 study titled “Mental Training Affects Allocation of Limited Brain Resources” in PLOS Biology suggests that frequent meditation results in increased attention span.
A 2018 study titled Regulating Emotion Circuits with Compassion Meditation: The Effects of Meditative Experiences in PLOS One found that those who meditated had higher levels in brain regions associated with empathy.