A lot has been written about the immediate effects of meditation, comparing before meditation and after meditation. But it is all written from a theoretical point of view. Sure we know that meditation helps with everything from weight loss to quitting drinking but why?
In this guide I will lead you through a guided meditation in which you will experience all the effects of meditation immediately. And I’ll explain why those effects happen.
Meditation Before And After (Do This Exercise & See The Results)
Okay, so I’m about to lead you through a meditation. And I want you to observe what happens before and after.
1: Observe how you are feeling right now
So currently we are not meditating. Just take a moment and see how you feel right now.
Before your session, you might notice that your mind is full of noise. If you haven’t given yourself a break from work and from generally being busy, your mind will be busy. You will be thinking all sorts of things in one frenzied blur.
Before I meditate, I often find it difficult to think straight because there are just so many thoughts running through my mind. My mind jumps from one thing to another, and I have absolutely no mind-body connection.
If I’ve had a rough day, I will also be feeling stressed and anxious, which will manifest in various physical symptoms, like a raised heartbeat and twitchiness (I get twitchy eyes when I feel anxious).
Before meditation, I feel like time is going by far too quickly, and that I have a pile of things to do that I will never get around to finishing.
Before I meditate, I have zero appreciation for the present moment. My level of mindfulness is low. I could pass by the most beautiful garden and hardly even notice it because my mind is elsewhere.
That’s what it’s like before meditation. After meditation, things look a lot better.
Now let’s get into the practise.
2: Sit comfortably with good posture and close your eyes.
Focus your mind on your breath moving through your body. Take ten mindful breaths.
Now, the first thing you will notice is an increase in awareness. And indeed this is the most immediate effect of meditation. It makes us more aware.
Continue mindful breathing for a few minutes and you will start to feel more relaxed in body and mind. This is because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, reduces cortisol, and reduces amygdala activity. All of that helps with relaxation. Plus it helps with stress and anxiety.
Because it reduces stress, meditation also helps with the many stress related illnesses. And by reducing cortisol it helps boost skin and hair health too.
Naturally, focusing the mind also increases focus and concentration.
3: Label your thoughts to reduce reactivity. This is huge for anxiety and depression.
So now you are deep breathing and observing your breath. And you’re feeling more relaxed. You will probably notice that you are more aware of your thoughts.
When we meditate we remind ourselves that thoughts are just thoughts and nothing more. This helps reduce reactivity to thoughts. In turn, this helps with everything from happiness to anger.
So another immediate effect of meditation is less reactivity to thiughts and feelings.
Because you are now more aware of your thoughts, you are also gaining insight into your mind. You can see what is going on in your mind, the types of thoughts you are experiencing. And this can help you to change those thoughts, which is important for mental health.
4: Observe your mind to gain insight, then improve your mental state
Spend a few moments mindful breathing while also being aware of your thoughts.
You might notice that you experience some types of thoughts over and over. Perhaps you are self critical or judgmental. Perhaps you notice that you are angry about something someone did.
Because you are now aware of those thoughts, you can change them and you can take any negativity and let go.
And here we come to one of the biggest effects of meditation: Changing your thoughts and feelings. And this can range from increasing happiness to boosting confidence.
5: Changing thoughts and feelings
For mental health we need to be able to correct negative thoughts. And mindfulness helps us to do this.
There are many mindfulness techniques for creating positive thoughts and letting go of intrusive thoughts.
For instance, Loving Kindness. Bring one person to your mind right now. See them smiling. Now imagine sending love to them. And imagine them sending love back to you.
Notice how you suddenly feel a bit happier and a bit more compassionate. This is another effect of meditation. It increases compassion and interconnectedness. And it promotes pro social behaviour. This is also why meditation is good for couples.
There are many similar effects of meditation. For instance, we can use it for forgiveness, gratitude, and other positive emotion, even to attract love. And so we have many emotional effects of meditation.
Let’s experience the effects of meditation on forgiveness.
Continue to breathe mindfully. Now bring to mind one person who has angered or irritated you recently. Remember what they did that bothered you. Now consciously consider the struggles this person faces, their challenges, and the fact that they are human and imperfect, just like the rest of us. Can you feel how this simple exercise affected your thoughts? You’re now feeling less angry at them, and more understanding, right?
So, up to now we have seen how it relaxes the body and helps the body heal. And we have seen the emotional effects of meditation.
6: Start reciting the mantra OM and you’ll notice your body relaxing even more
Let’s look at the immediate effects of meditation on your muscles and organs.
Start to recite a simple mantra like “Om”. Chant this mantra out loud. Meditate on the sound.
Now, can you feel the reverberations around your mouth, nose and throat? Those reverberations help to clear your sinuses and relax respiratory organs. And this is excellent for respiration.
If you have been following along with this article you might have noticed other effects of mindfulness. For instance, your heart rate has probably normalized, right? And you are probably breathing more deeply. And your blood pressure has probably dropped. Yup. Even more immediate effects of meditation.
7: After Meditation
Afterwards, everything starts to feel so much better. One of the immediate effects of meditation that I personally notice is my quiet mind. All those thoughts that were running through my mind only moments earlier have suddenly subsided and there is quiet and inner-peace.
I find that meditation also has the effect of organizing my mind. If I’ve got a lot to do and I’ve been running around frantically trying to get it done, meditation will slow my mind down so that I can do things logically, one at a time.
My breathing is also better after meditation. My breath slows to about half the speed it had previously been at, which is simply because I’m deep breathing.
I’m pretty sure all my family, friends and colleagues can notice after I mediate, too. I’m a lot more thoughtful, compassionate and patient. I’m pretty sure that if you speak to me before and after meditation, you’ll say that I’m a lot more pleasant to be around afterwards, partly because I’m more relaxed but also because I’m focusing better so I become a better listener.
Of course there are immediate physical effects of meditation too. I feel less tension in my body, I stand taller after meditating, and my walk even changes (I have a much more confident gait after I’ve meditated).
I even seem to become more creative after I meditate. Certain meditations have the effect of stimulating divergent thinking (the ability to formulate new ideas based on disparate information). That’s one reason I always meditate before I start blogging or writing one of my books.
More than anything though, the biggest difference I notice before and after meditation is that it creates a sense of space. Before meditation I feel tight and confined, like I have no freedom. After meditation, I feel much more relaxed and flexible in my body, and much freer in my life in general.
Those are the immediate effects that I personally notice from meditating. How about you? What do you notice most before and after meditation?
Note that there are also risks of meditation.
Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison