Meditation is a word that can be intimidating to some people. But never fear! Meditation has been used in ancient practices across the globe for centuries to boost mental and physical energy, relieve stress and even change your brain. It may sound hard to believe but even the simplest of meditations have been shown in clinical trials to deliver some very powerful (and very real) health benefits. Here are just 5 reasons to add a daily meditation to your health regimen.
1. Mood Booster
You may not realize how much tension, stress, and anxiety you are holding inside your body until you release it. Right now – no matter where you are, take a long deep inhale through both nostrils while counting to 1-2-3-4-5 silently in your mind. Then release the breath out of your mouth for 1-2-3-4-5. This is the same simple type of mindfulness meditation technique known as a breathing exercise shown in clinical trials to boost your mood and reduce pain along with feelings of anxiety.
In the study performed at John Hopkins University, lead author Madhav Goyal stated that “A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing,” says Goyal. “But that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.” Meditation isn’t a cure-all for depression so if you feel symptoms like a chronic low mood, check with your doctor.
2. Cognitive Function
While problems with brain function are common with age, they can happen at any time. And as early as 30 years old you may notice the beginning signs of cognitive decline. This can include brain fog, memory loss or concentration loss and even poor mood. However, the good news is that it doesn’t take long for the brain-boosting benefits of mediation to take effect. In fact, one recent study revealed that in just a few weeks, meditation training was able to improve the mental abilities of subjects. People’s memory, focus, and attention scores all showed improvements leaving researchers to confirm that mediation may also help to improve workplace performance.
3. Social Stress Relief
For many people, social stress is enough to trigger stress and anxiety. If you suffer from what feels like social anxiety or a stressful feeling in public it may be a general anxiety disorder. And you’re not alone! It’s estimated that about 40 million Americans also suffer from some type of this mental illness but the most common is GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) affecting the lives of an estimated 6.8 million adults.
What does the research say? Scientists can confirm that mindfulness meditation practices are able to reduce anxiety and deliver lasting changes in specific brain regions associated with self-centered thinking.
4. Addiction Relief
Bad habits like mindless eating, drinking alcohol, smoking and other behaviors can quickly become addictive. However, by using meditation you may be able to reduce the temptation of cravings and boost your ability for self-control as you break bad habits with the help of meditation.
Smokers may find relief from powerful tobacco cravings with mindfulness meditation training. In one study, cigarette smoking was shown to be more effective than conventional smoking cessation therapies.
5. Great For Kids.
Meditation is not just for adults. In fact, children are an ideal age group to practice breathing techniques and other meditative exercises. Parents can perform simple yoga stretches with their child at home to encourage meditation as a type of play. Try poses like downward, cat crawl or snake pose!
For children; meditation and yoga were shown to offer stress-reducing benefits inside a school and also outside when coping with trauma. For this reason, today some schools offer meditation during their daily schedules and they have received a good response.
How-To Practice Meditation in 5 Simple Steps!
You can practice meditation any place you like. Just follow these simple steps!
- Sit in a comfortable, relaxed position. Place your hands open, with both palms facing upward on your lap. And then, place your gaze directly forward. When you feel relaxed, close your eyes.
- Notice all of the sensations inside your body and in your environment. Then you can tune into your breath and focus your mental attention on breathing, inward and outward without controlling it. Just notice your breath and allow it to happen.
- Practice gentleness with yourself as your mind wanders from thought to thought, noises break your focus or you become restless. If you are distracted simply return your attention to your breath and let it pass.
- Stay in this meditation for as long as you like. If you only have time for 3-5 deep breaths – that’s ok! You can repeat this meditation for up to 15 minutes or add it to a yoga practice to further deepen the meditation.
- Check your body before you go back into any activity after a meditation. Gently allow yourself to open your eyes and regain your full awareness.
Talking to Your Doctor About Mediation
Performing simple meditations during the day is scientifically proven in numerous clinical trials to not only help boost your mood and reduce your stress levels but also change your brain – for the better! There are so many health benefits of reducing your stress levels and improving your meditation with different forms of mindfulness, breathing techniques and exercises. So, talk to your doctor about these 5 mediation benefits and how you can include them in your everyday health regimen.
- Madhav Goyal, MD, MPH, Sonal Singh, MD, MPH. Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being. A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(3):357-368.
- Michael D. Mrazek, Michael S. Franklin. Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering. Psychological Science. 2013.
- Fadel Zeidan Katherine T. Martucci Robert A. Neural correlates of mindfulness meditation-related anxiety relief. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Volume 9, Issue 6, 1 June 2014, Pages 751–759.
- Brewer JA, Mallik S. Mindfulness training for smoking cessation: results from a randomized controlled trial. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2011 Dec 1;119(1-2):72-80.