By now, the world has warmed to the idea of meditation. People no longer roll their eyes and mutter under their breath when they hear that so-and-so has started up guided meditation. The facts leave no doubt: meditation really works.
And in today’s world of fast-paced corporate life, social jet-setting and tech gadget infatuations, we can no longer deny that meditation has a certain charm. Our lives are becoming increasingly stressful, to the point where our adrenals are exhausted. Our bodies are beset with anxiety and fatigue. Meditation provides calm in the eye of the storm, and everyone can benefit from a little of that every now and then.
Meditation’s most obvious benefit is stress relief. Guided meditation forces the mind to release its hold on nagging everyday worries and focus on a single point. That point allows the mind to finally relax. It releases all that tension and constant planning to focus on the now.
Meditation’s effect on the body is almost instantaneous. With the brain no longer sending fight or flight signals to your adrenal glands, they discontinue producing adrenaline and cortisol. Finally, after constant hours slaving away over a hot stove, producing the hormones they think the body needs to stay alive, they can take a much-needed nap.
As the adrenaline gradually exits from your veins, you find yourself almost miraculously free of stress, feeling calmer, more relaxed and more focused. Your body is no longer in stress-response mode. You finally feel like yourself again.
The scientific community agrees. A study from Texas Tech University quantitatively demonstrated that mindfulness meditation significantly lowered anxiety in test subjects. Another meta-analysis examined a range of different mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) techniques and found much the same thing. The study concluded that “these results suggest that MBSR may help a broad range of individuals to cope with their clinical and nonclinical problems.”
Sounds pretty good, right? Happily, it doesn’t stop there. Meditation can provide an impressive array of benefits, both to your mind and your body. Many of these benefits may even come as a surprise, or at least have you muttering “huh!” and raising your eyebrows. Here are 11 such benefits, and what they mean for your health and wellness.
Meditation helps you lose weight
Let’s kick things off with a bit of a strange one. It turns out that sitting around breathing deeply and looking inward may not just be a workout for the mind. When we’re stressed, our adrenals produce an excess of cortisol. Chronically high cortisol levels contribute to accumulation of fat around the stomach and other areas over time. Meditation helps to lower cortisol levels, thereby decreasing your risk of putting on hormone-related belly fat.
Not only that, studies show that mindfulness meditation can reduce your risk of binge eating. People who are stressed often have a strong tendency to overeat or turn to “emotional eating” as a way of cheering themselves up. If you’re in the process of dieting and trying to address this issue, meditation may be the answer.
It helps you sleep better
Daily meditation can help you sleep better. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback examined the effects of Kriya yoga (a form of meditative exercise) on people suffering from chronic insomnia. The study found that total sleep time, sleep efficiency, sleep quality and depression all improved in patients who used meditation. And with better sleep, comes better health, faster weight loss and improved brain function.
It helps you build better relationships
The human mind has a tendency to dwell on past events or frantically plan for the future. With your mind always elsewhere, you may find yourself growing further and further away from those you love. It can be frustrating and difficult trying to part with your ever-present regrets and worries for just a moment so that you can pay attention to your family and friends.
Daily guided meditation can help you to live in the present moment. It can als help you focus more on the people and places around you. You’ll find a greater connection with those you love. You’ll also develop more wholesome relationships with the people in your life.
It increases productivity
Meditation can help you work better and get more productivity out of your day. A study which examined the relationship between “Transcendental Meditation®” and productivity at work found that meditation made a huge difference. Study participants who used meditation reported increased job satisfaction, better performance and better relationships with supervisors and co-workers.
So next time you’ve got a tight deadline and are struggling to find the motivation, consider popping down to the park for 10 minutes for some guided meditation!
It rebuilds you brain
If you’re naturally skeptical about the quantitative benefits of meditation on the mind and body, this one’s for you. Researchers at Harvard Medical School examined the impact of meditation on the brain. They used MRI scans over the course of eight weeks. The results showed that while the control group experienced no changes in brain activity, the group subjected to regular meditation had a dramatic increase in their brain’s gray matter.
Gray matter is a major component of the central nervous system. It is found in areas of the brain which control muscle function, sight, hearing, memory, emotion and speech. So yeah, it’s kind of a big deal! Not only that, the study found that “brain analyses identified increases in the posterior cingulate cortex, the temporoparietal junction, and the cerebellum in the MBSR group compared with the controls.” In plain English, meditation literally makes your brain bigger.
It can make you a morning person
If you’re like me and positively loathe getting up early in the morning, it may be a good idea to take up meditation. Meditating for just a few minutes when you first wake up can help clear your mind and get you energized for the day ahead. It can help you to focus your mind on the tasks ahead, relax any anxieties you might have about the day, and shake off that sleepiness which never seems to go away.
It relieves anxiety and depression
Researchers have documented the positive effects of meditation on depression and anxiety many times. Experts think that this positive effect on mood comes from meditation’s ability of help people think of more creative solutions to problems, rather than feeling stuck or helpless. For example, a 2012 study demonstrated that those who practice Buddhist meditation have far greater mental flexibility than those who don’t. This enables them to maintain a more positive outlook on life and more effective at solving problems.
It can improve your sex life
Perhaps the most surprising benefit of all is that meditation can dramatically improve your sex life! Firstly, meditation alleviates stress, which as we know lowers cortisol. Because elevated cortisol is associated with lowered libido and propensity for orgasm, the more you meditate, the more you’ll enjoy sex!
Next, meditation gives you more energy. And that energy doesn’t just have to be used up going for a run or working more productively; it can also be applied between the sheets! Finally, it improves your focus and ability to live in the present moment. This is absolutely essential for relating to your partner and really getting into your next bout of intercourse.
What kind of meditation do you practice? We’d love to know what kind of wonders it has brought into your life!
— Liivi Hess