Reducing stress and becoming more relaxed are often the main reasons why people start meditation. But there are many more reasons why it is good for your mind AND body to meditate. Whatever form or type you choose and what suits you best.
Meditation has been practiced for centuries and has roots in various spiritual traditions. Scientific research has been conducted into the effect of meditation for years. Some forms are more researched than others.
If you already meditate (sometimes), you have probably already noticed what meditation does for you in the short and long term, but it is nice that it is also scientifically proven.
If you already meditate (sometimes), you have probably already noticed what meditation does for you in the short term and possibly also in the longer term, but it is nice that it is also scientifically proven.
Scientific research into meditation
More research has been done, especially in the last 25 years, partly because there is better equipment to measure the brain. For example, it has been shown that during meditation a different wave pattern can be seen in the brain than by someone who is normally relaxed and also it is not the same as by someone who is in an average active state. It is interpreted that this measurement during meditation is a combination of being relaxed and alert at the same time. That state is also what you practice in a focused and conscious manner in the Savasanna yoga posture and in Vipassana meditation.
There is of course a difference in effects between someone who lives in a monastery and meditates for a few hours every day and does not live in a Western society and someone who meditates every now and then, but studies show that if you meditate for just a few minutes, you will immediately see changes in the brain.
Meditating for 5 minutes a day already has an effect
It has also been researched that if you meditate for 5 minutes every day for 8 weeks, this shows significant changes in the brain. Meditating for 5 minutes a day is very easy to implement, just like brushing your teeth actually. And a good number of minutes to start with if you are new to meditation, long enough to have an effect, short enough if you are a beginner and, for example, you are easily distracted, your mind goes in all directions or when you quickly feel restless.
And 5 minutes a day probably has a greater positive effect on you than going on an (expensive) retreat once a year.
11 Benefits and Reasons to Meditate
The list of benefits of meditation is very long. But here’s a quick overview of some common reasons to start meditating or to practice it more often than you maybe do now:
1. Reducing stress
Reducing stress is often a reason for people to start meditating. There are of course many forms of stress and many different causes. But with meditation you don’t have to go into the cause of stress, or look for answers to the Why and How. That insight often comes from the practice itself or diminishes because, for example, through practice you learn to deal better with intense emotions and can better control your reaction to situations and emotions.
During and immediately after meditation, your blood pressure and heart rate decrease. This makes you feel the stress decrease. A short meditation can also literally stop you, take a moment to regulate your breathing and not keep running.
Meditation can help with periods of acute and temporarily intense stress and can also have a preventive effect against, for example, burnout.
One effect that has been studied is that if you meditate regularly, a few times a week over a longer period of time, that’s some years, the amount of cortisol (‘stress hormone’) in your body decreases. This would prove that meditation allows you to deal with stress better.
2. Improvement of your sleep
If your blood pressure and heart rate decrease during and after meditation, and your body relaxes more and your mind becomes calmer, this can help you fall asleep better and faster and improve your overall sleep.
3. Improvement of your breathing
If you suffer from tension, this often also has an effect on your breathing. People who are stressed often breathe shallowly and high. You can often hear it in the voice, which becomes higher pitched. The full lung capacity is not used during short shallow breathing and that can have various effects on your body and mind. There is not enough oxygen in your body, you may feel dizzy, have difficulty relaxing and with chronic incorrect breathing you may even experience panic attacks.
4. Suffer less from pain
With Vipassana and mindfulness meditation, for example, you practice being more of an ‘observer’ of what is happening in the present moment. This could be hearing or smelling something, thoughts you have, and physical sensations, such as a tickle, tingling or pain. You continuously observe without going along with it and you keep naming what is happening. You remain a kind of outsider looking at yourself. This teaches you, among other things, that you are not your emotions, but you have a certain emotion. You are not the pain, you are in pain. This allows you to distance yourself more emotionally. Brain scans have also shown that perception of pain is different in people who meditate. This makes them experience the pain less intensely.
5. Improvement of your mood and emotional well-being
Meditation can help regulate your emotions and increase your sense of equanimity. If you have less stress, this often has an effect on how you feel. And if you let yourself be guided less by emotions, this will of course also have an effect on your mood. Meditation can also reduce or eliminate feelings of loneliness and reduce anxiety and depression.
Research is sometimes difficult to conduct when it comes to someone’s mood and sense of well-being, such as in people with depression. Because it is difficult to conduct a double-blind study, such as with a pill; one with the drug and the other a placebo.
Yet many studies have been done in which they followed groups, where one group had meditation and mindfulness as part of the therapy and another group did not. In these first groups, the complaints decreased much more.
The same has been studied with meditation as part of aftercare. Figures indicate that the chance of falling into depression again is halved if you meditate and practice mindfulness regularly! And also that meditation works just as well as medication in an aftercare program.
You would think that this would be widely offered, but unfortunately it is often not part of our health system (yet)
6. Improvement of your memory and concentration
Through meditation you can keep your brain functions in shape. Studies show that there is a positive effect on the ability to concentrate, the ability to absorb knowledge and the speed of processing information. In addition, meditation can improve your concentration and attention span, for example by focusing your attention on just one thing, such as an object or your breathing. This practice can help you increase your focus and attention in other aspects of your life.
7. Increasing your self-awareness and personal development
Meditation helps you become more aware of your own thoughts, feelings, reactions and behavior. And also to reflect on what you have experienced or done, ideally without judging yourself or others. Self-reflection can lead to greater understanding and insight into both yourself and others. Through insight and acceptance, you can let go of things and make changes. This all adds up to personal spiritual growth.
8. Increasing your sense of connection, empathy and compassion
Through meditation you can further develop a sense of connection with yourself, others and the world around you. And your empathy and compassion towards others will increase. These two words may be used sometimes as synonyms but there are several distinctions between the two Simply put, empathy is your ability to empathize with the other person, which allows you to understand the other person better and is the ability to sense other people’s emotions. Compassion is characterized by the desire to take action to help the other person and can also be seen as your ability to be present in a kind way and open to someone’s pain and suffering and ask yourself what you can do to support the other person. It is empathizing from the other person’s point of view and without your ego, so your attention is completely with the other person, without judgment or your opinion.
9. Increasing your creativity
Relaxation and tranquillity and the reduction of internal or external noise create space in your head, allowing new ideas to arise. Creativity is not just about making things, but also about solving problems in a different way or seeing something from a different perspective. You probably know moments when you are almost falling asleep or just waking up, when you get new insights or ideas. Meditation can bring this same kind of state of being
10. Improvement of your physical health
If meditation reduces blood pressure and heart rate, improves your breathing and reduces tension in your muscles, this can have an effect on many aspects of your body and therefore your overall physical health. If you have less stress in your body and thus also less the stress hormone cortisol, this would also reduce inflammation in your body.
11. Increasing the happiness hormone dopamine
There are different ways to increase your dopamine level, such as laughing, being grateful, having good sex, exercising, certain foods, and possibly also certain music and a cold shower, but also through meditation. (link Science Direct)
Good against aging!?!
It is also said that meditation is good against aging. There was a study that showed this, but in people who did a retreat for 3 months. Biological age was measured via telomeres. These are kind of protective caps at the end of your chromosomes and they protect your DNA against damage during the cell division process. As you get older, these wear out. A healthy lifestyle with sufficient exercise, sleep and a healthy diet could slow down this process of shortening those telomeres. It is still up for debate within science whether telomeres can be lengthened again. It has been shown that negative lifestyle factors (stress, smoking, poor diet, etc.) are associated with greater telomere loss.
Since 3 months of meditation is not for many and I have not been able to find anywhere that regular short(er) meditation also has an effect on combating telomere shortening, I have not included this possible benefit in this list.
It has been shown that meditation has a positive effect on physical and mental health, so perhaps you could conclude that it has an anti-aging effect.
If you happen to have read a study about this, please let me know.
Which meditation form or type suits me and which are there?
I have written a separate blog about what different meditation forms and types there are, in which I provide an overview of perhaps the most well-known and briefly indicate what they entail, and what the similarities and differences are.
Hi, my name is Jolinda, and I work as a holistic health practitioner. I provide yoga and meditation classes and massage and Reiki treatments, mindfulness training and happiness coaching,.
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