7 Benefits of Meditation
There are a number of benefits of meditation, many of which most people simply aren’t aware of. However, by spending some time every day in meditation, you’ll be surprised at how much good it will do your mind and your body.
Here are just 7 benefits of meditation.
- Stress Reduction
One of the biggest and most obvious benefits of meditation is a reduction in stress. As you meditate, you actually begin to gain control over your emotions which can reduce feelings of anxiety. Since there are a huge number of people that are currently using anti-anxiety medications and the number keeps going up, it’s clear that anxiety is something that needs to be addressed.
- Make Better Choices
One thing that many people have found once they start meditating is that it encourages them to live a healthier life. Some people are able to quit smoking just by meditating, and others simply begin to crave more natural foods. Imagine how much healthier you could be if taking some time to meditate was all that it took to give you a desire to eat healthy.
- Improved Concentration
This is something that has been studied in depth by some researchers, and it has been discovered that people who meditate are not only able to concentrate better, but they’re also able to multitask much more easily, which means getting a lot more done in a shorter amount of time. As meditating allows you to center yourself, you can better focus on everything you need to do.
For many people, it can be hard to accept themselves, whether it’s accepting who they are as a person or physical problems. But either way, meditation can help you accept yourself as you are. This can then make you a better person and allow you to more confidently share yourself with others, leading to deepening of relationships.
- Be Happier
One study that looked closely at brain activity during meditation found that meditation decreased activity in the right side of the brain where negative emotions are formed while increasing activity in the left side where positive emotions are produced. So in addition to greater self-acceptance, bringing more happiness, your actual brain chemistry changes to make you happier.
- Be Healthier
Another physical change that happens in your body as you meditate is that blood pressure is lowered as nitric oxide is released, which increases blood circulation. In one study, 2/3 of participants were able to lower their blood pressure through meditation enough that they were able to stop taking blood pressure medicine. Other studies show that the immune system is also boosted by meditation.
- Reduce Aging
Although there’s no evidence that meditation can lengthen your life, it does keep your brain from aging. In fact, a study done at Harvard University showed that those who meditate have larger quantities of brain cells and their brains actually physically stopped aging. It’s uncertain exactly what causes this, but it’s clear that meditation has a profoundly positive impact on the brain.
Meditation Pitfalls to Avoid
If you want to gain all the benefits that come with regularly meditating, you have to do it correctly. Unfortunately, there are many mistakes that beginners make that keep them from being able to reap the benefits from meditating.
Here are some of the meditation pitfalls you need to avoid.
- Not Figuring Out What Works for You
There is no one method that works for everybody, so it’s important that you take the time to figure out which method will work best for you. If you pick one method and it’s not working for you but you keep trying it, you’re not going to be able to enjoy it and you may end up giving up.
To avoid this pitfall, make sure you try different methods until you find one that works for you.
- Using Meditation in Stressful Situations
Although meditation will certainly help you through a stressful situation, it’s not something most beginners are able to do well, which can make it ineffective and lead to thinking that meditation in general is the problem.
Instead, only meditate when you’re relatively calm until you’ve mastered meditation.
- Meditating for Long Periods of Time
The quality of your meditation time is much more important than the quantity of it, so make sure you’re not forcing yourself to spend hours in meditation when you’re still learning. Meditation is something that takes time to learn and requires practice, so you’re not going to be able to do it for hours just yet.
Make sure you’re taking lots of breaks while meditating and don’t push yourself to meditate for too long.
- Following Guided Meditations Too Much
Although it’s a good way to get started with meditation, sticking with guided meditations for too long can hold you back. This is because meditation is a deeply personal experience, so allowing yourself to rely completely on guided meditations won’t help you reach the next level of meditation.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of meditation, start using only self-guided meditation.
- Allowing for Too Many Distractions
Too much of a good thing is a bad thing, especially when it comes to meditation. Although you may benefit from some soft music playing in the background to help you focus and drown out background noises, too many distractions are going to keep you from being able to meditate well.
Find a quiet place to mediate and shut off the music if even that becomes too much for you.
- Getting Frustrated
The point of meditation is to relax your mind and body, but many beginners fall into this pitfall of getting frustrated when they can’t get it right at first. If you get frustrated or angry with yourself while meditating, it’s only going to make it even harder to meditate.
Remember that meditation takes time and practice to master, so give yourself a lot of room to make mistakes at the beginning.
Whatever you do, don’t give up, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from a meditation expert who might be able to tell you what you’re doing wrong or give you ideas to get you back on track. Like anything, some people are naturally going to get it faster than others.
Accessories to Help with Meditation
Although you technically don’t need anything more than your own mind to meditate, there are a number of things that can help you meditate more easily, which is especially helpful when you are first starting to learn. Here are a few accessories to help with meditation.
It’s important to be as comfortable as possible while meditating because you don’t want to be distracted by physical discomfort as this makes it a lot harder to achieve a meditative state. That’s why you want to wear clothes that are as comfortable as possible while meditating. This could mean yoga pants and a tank-top, or it could mean sweatpants and a sweatshirt.
Sometimes, picking the right piece of furniture makes the biggest difference in how well you’re able to meditate. You’ll want it to be comfortable, of course, and located in an area that’s away from distractions. What you sit or lay on to meditate is completely up to you. It could be anything from a yoga mat to a hammock.
Having music playing in the background can often help you meditate, especially if you’re using music especially designed for meditation and if you use the same music every time which will help remind your body what you’re doing and instantly put you in a better state of mind to start meditating. Because phones and computers can be used for so many other things, we recommend sticking with an actual CD player devoted to meditation purposes so you don’t risk getting distracted.
If you just have to keep your phone close you can take advantage of a meditation app. There are a number of apps, like Sleep Easily Meditation or Simply Being Guided Meditation that will help provide you with guided meditations that you can use as you’re first learning so you can get the hang of meditation. Just be sure to not get distracted by any of your other apps!
Whether you use a diffuser or simply put a few drops of essential oils on your palms and neck, this is a great way to help your body relax and your mind to focus so that you can meditate. Lavender, clary sage, and Roman chamomile are all-natural sedatives that will help you relax. Sandalwood, vetiver, atlas cedarwood, patchouli, and Palo Santo are examples of essential oils that will help ground you.
When using essential oils for anything, be sure to use caution as some people may be allergic to some types of essential oils. You’ll also want to carefully follow the directions for using the different types of oils as you’ll need different amounts for different purposes. Using oil in a diffuser, for example, requires 5 – 6 drops, which is more than you should be putting directly on your skin.
Find What Works for You
At the end of the day, whether it’s music, clothing, furniture, or essential oils, you need to be looking for what works best for you. This will take some time, but once you find the right combination, you’ll find that your meditation time is significantly better for it, allowing you to get more out of it.
Tips on Choosing Which Type of Meditation to Practice
There are several types of meditation, and you’ll need to choose one that will work best for you. First, we’re going to go over 4 questions that you need to ask yourself to help determine what type of meditation will suit you best, and then we’ll take a quick look at the 3 types of meditation that you can choose from.
- What type of meditation does my lifestyle need?
If you live a “fast and furious” life where you always seem to be on the go and dealing with a lot of stress, then you’ll need a meditation type that will help you relax and stay centered and stress-free. However, if your life is more laid back, then you’ll want a type of meditation that focuses on keeping you focused and your mind sharp.
- How much time can I devote to meditation?
If you want to get the most out of a meditation technique, you need to be able to devote a certain amount of time to it. Any less time, and you won’t be getting all the benefits, which is why it’s important to consider time-frames before getting started. While some types of meditation require two 1-hour sessions every day, others only require 15 to 20 minutes a day to work.
- What do I want to get out of meditation?
Because each type of meditation works differently with your mind and body, you have to also consider what you want to get out of it. While one type of meditation will help you become more compassionate and creative, the other two types can boost your psychological and physical health. Some meditation techniques are targeted at relieving addiction, anxiety, insomnia, and many other conditions.
- Do you agree with the beliefs and philosophies of the meditation type? Some meditation types are much more spiritually-rooted than others, so you need to make sure you’re 100% comfortable with the spiritual side of meditation before you begin. Fortunately, there are some types of meditation that don’t have a strong spiritual base, so anyone can enjoy these without feeling a conflict of beliefs come up.
Now, here are the three main types of meditation that you can choose from:
- Open Monitoring
Often shortened to OM, open monitoring finds its origins in Buddhism. The focus is on being aware of your breathing, feelings, and thoughts, and the goal is to detach yourself from your mind. Once you become successful at detaching yourself from your mind, then it will give you the ability to identify with your emotions rather than being controlled by them.
- Focused Attention
Also known as FA, this style of meditation involves focusing your attention onto one thing. This is usually something specific like an image that you visualize, or it could be something more general like a sound or an emotion. The goal of focused attention is to keep your mind focused on only one thing so that you can relax and allow everything else to fade away into the background.
- Automatic Self-Transcending
AST meditation techniques involve selecting a mantra (or having one selected for you by a mentor), and repeating it gently over and over again. It’s the mantra itself as it’s repeated that helps you reach a meditative state and calms the nervous system. It works similarly to FA meditation as you focus on just one mantra, but the two are actually very different.
When is the Best Time of Day to Meditate?
The short version is that the best time is different for every person and depends on what they’re trying to get out of meditation. We’re going to go through the different reasons that you might want to meditate which will help you determine which is the best time of day to meditate for you.
For Increased Focus and Concentration
If you’re using meditation as a way to boost your focus and concentration for the day ahead, the best time to do that is first thing in the morning. If you can meditate even before breakfast, then that’s even better. How you start the day sets the tone of the day, so beginning with meditation is a great way to be more mindful, focused, and relaxed throughout the day.
For Work-Related Stress Relief
Once you’ve mastered meditation without distractions or high levels of stress, you can begin to use your mediation techniques even in the middle of your busy office to take just a few minutes to re-center yourself and be able to relieve the stress that’s already building up from the morning. Whether you find a quiet place to meditate during part of your lunch break or simply close your eyes and breathe at your desk for a few minutes, meditating throughout the day can help you avoid getting overwhelmed.
You may also choose to meditate at the end of the workday to relieve stress that came throughout the day. This can be a good way to transition from work to home so that you’re not bringing all the stress of the office into your home. Ideally, you’ll want to meditate as soon as you get home from work and release all your negative thoughts so you can then enjoy your evening.
For Falling Asleep
Because most meditation techniques are designed to help you become more aware and therefore more awake, you have to be careful to not use the same technique you’re using to stay focused at work to help you fall asleep. However, if this is your goal with meditation is to help you fall asleep quickly, then you’ll want to do this either right before bed, or while in bed.
If you’re not using a sleep-inducing meditation technique, then you need to avoid meditating within an hour of going to bed, since you don’t want your body to associate normal meditation with falling asleep. By choosing the right technique for the right time of the day, however, you can enjoy the benefits of meditation that will help you wake up in the morning, and those that will help you fall asleep.
When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or needing to make a difficult decision, these are times when you should take a few extra minutes to meditate. Although it’s easy to say that you don’t have time to meditate when you’re stressed by how much you need to get done, you’d be surprised at how much time you’ll end up saving by centering yourself for 5 minutes rather than worrying about the problem for 20 minutes.