You’ve heard the news by now. Meditation is good for you. Very good. There are well over 100 health benefits of meditation. And I’ve personally been hard at work researching and studying all the benefits of meditation to bring you this massive guide.
Creating this list of benefits of meditation
- To give the full picture I have researched both the benefits of meditation and the health risks too.
As a meditation teacher I am always reading about meditation. For this article alone I have read hundreds of scientific studies and analysed the data of over 100 institutes and organisations to bring you the ultimate guide to the health benefits of meditation.
I have also converted this article into a PDF for you. I thought you might like it if you were able to print out this guide to the benefits of meditation, so I’ve put a PDF version at the bottom.
I’ve included infographics and visual elements to help you along the way.
Many people helped me in creating this guide. Not least, you guys, my Zen-sational readers. I truly appreciate all your support, as always.
Another note, I have made this guide for everyone. A lot of different writers and bloggers have attempted to create a similar guide, and I truly appreciate the hard work that the community does in order to spread the word on meditation. That is why I have made this guide for everyone.
Please feel free to share any part of this guide. All I ask in return is a backlink pointing to this article. Of course you can share this on social media freely. I truly appreciate all your support in helping to spread the good word on meditation.
I also do love to hear back from you guys. I update this page often and I would love to hear any ideas, comments, or other points that you might like to make. So please do leave a comment at the bottom and I will be sure to respond.
As you know, it is my passion in life to bring meditation to millions of people. And I thank everyone who helps me along the way.
Of course I could not do this alone. There have been more than 3000 scientific studies into the benefits of meditation. I did not quite have time to finish reading all of them. But I read the most important ones.
Most of the scientific research on meditation looks at specific types of meditation. There are more than 700 types of meditation. Each of the scientific studies tends to look at one or two techniques. For that reason I’ve included notes, where necessary, to point out which health benefit applies to which different meditation technique. That said, all meditation techniques that I have personally tried (which is over 200 types of meditation) do offer health benefits. Some of them have not been studied in full yet (such as Merkaba Meditation). But from personal experience I can say that they are beneficial. Hopefully science will soon study those other meditation techniques too.
Because I did not want this guide to become too overbearing I have also broken it down into sub-articles. For instance, if you are interested in knowing why meditation helps with depression, I have written a separate guide to that specific question. You’ll see the links in the article below.
So let’s get started. I’m really excited to share this massive guide with you. Here goes.
Benefits of meditation infographic
To start with, I’ve created this infographic that shows you the overall ways in which meditation helps.
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Now let’s take an in-depth look at meditation.
Take a look at my complete guide to every meditation technique. I cover all the techniques in this guide and more.
What meditation is
Meditation means different things to different people. And in creating this guide it was necessary to define what meditation is and is not.
So, for the purpose of this guide, meditation is the act of focusing the mind on one or more things. And generally speaking, “meditations” are the traditional meditation techniques referred to in Buddhism / Hinduism / modern mindfulness.
So when we discuss the “benefits of meditation” we are discussing the scientifically proven ways in which traditional meditation techniques help us.
This guide includes:
- Transcendental Meditation
- Breathing techniques (e.g. mindfulness of breath)
- Loving Kindness
- Guided Meditation
- Vipassana / Anapanasati / Samatha and other Buddhist meditations
- Chakra meditation
- Sound meditations
The guide does not include some yoga practices like Pranayama / Pratyahara because these are not traditionally regarded as meditations.
Psychological Benefits of Meditation
For evidence and peer papers please read my article on how meditation makes us more intelligent
“Open” meditation techniques improve electrical activity in the brain
A study by the Norwegian Institute of Science And Technology showed that meditation improves electrical activity in the brain.
Most of us have experienced those times when we simply zone-out, when we are restful and are not focusing on anything in particular. Those times offer your brain relaxation. But science has shown that when you actively practice an “open” meditation technique (when you are being mindful of your environment without focusing on any one specific thing) you actually change electrical brainwaves that are associated with wakeful, relaxed attention.
Loving Kindness Meditation improves self confidence
Many of us in the West have experienced moments of low self confidence. But in Tibet, low self confidence is rare. So rare, in fact, that when the Dalai Lama heard that low self confidence was a problem here he did not believe it. He then set out to cure the problem. He believed that if people in the West started practicing loving kindness meditation their low self esteem would be cured. And he was right.
When you meditate you become aware of the inter connectivity between all people, and you gain a powerful realisation that you are not alone. This inter-connection helps you to feel more a part of the world, and significantly improves self confidence. This is a big benefit of meditation, given how important self confidence is to our wellbeing.
Meditation increases our levels of serotonin
Low serotonin levels are one of the main causes of depression. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps your brain pass information from one region to another. Almost all your 40 million braincells are influenced by serotonin. So it is easy to see why a lack of serotonin could seriously harm you, psychologically.
Happy people have high levels of serotonin. And thankfully, for those people with low serotonin levels, meditation can help.
Meditation inhibits activity in the stress-production regions of the brain and increases activity in the regions that promote happiness. This raises serotonin development, which leads to a wide variety of psychological health benefits.
Mindflness improves willpower
No one’s perfect. And a lot of imperfections come down to a momentary lack of willpower. Whether you’re struggling to quit smoking or can’t quite find the energy to hit the gym, meditation can help.
Practicing mindfulness meditation for just a few minutes each day will increase your willpower by building grey matter in regions of the brain that govern decision making. I’ve written a complete guide to mindfulness meditation to help you get started (find it using the link above). And within a few minutes of practicing, you will increase grey matter in parts of the brain that govern self control. This will boost your willpower and make it easier for you to stop bad habits and start good ones.
Meditation and binaural beats improve communication between the hemispheres of the brain
Your brain is divided into two halves, the right and the left. Between those two halves is the “corpus callosum”. The corpus callosum is a band of nerve fibers that allow the left and ride sides of your brain to communicate with one another. This is important because both sides of your brain play different roles. The right side is for creativity. The left side is for rational think and logic. It’s only by communicating with one another that those two sides form one powerful unit.
Meditation and binaural beat, have been shown to allow the left and right sides of your brain to communicate more effectively. This in turn leads to more mental balance and better overall cognitive function.
Mind-body training increased white matter
One of the fascinating facts about meditation is that it actually increased white matter in your brain.
Yi-Yuan Tang, PhD, and a group of researchers at the University of Texas studied the affect of meditation on mind-body connection. They assigned college graduates either integrative mind-body training or a relaxation session. They took brain scans before and after 11 hours of these activities. The scans showed more white matter in the neurons around the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain responsible for self-regulation, in the people who practiced mind-body training. They also observed heightened love, compassion, happiness and relaxation.
I created this little infographic to show you the benefits of meditation on the brain. Isn’t it amazing how meditation changes the brain?
Meditation improves reactions
Meditation improves performance on tests and reaction times. Scientists at the Department of Biology at the University of Kentucky tested whether meditation could help people to complete a psychomotor vigilance task. A group of people who were new to meditation spent 40 minutes meditating. They were then tested on the vigilance task. And all test subjects scored significantly higher after meditating. The researchers said that this showed a significant improvement in their reaction times.
Meditation reduces the symptoms of anxiety
Dr. Elizabeth Hoge at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital tells us that meditation is one of the best ways of reducing the symptoms of anxiety. “People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power,” she explains. “They can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.” Meditation, she says, helps people to distinguish types of thoughts in the mind so people with anxiety can control their “nagging thoughts” and reduce their anxiety.
Read our complete guide to using meditation for anxiety.
Meditation helps to both prevent depression and to treat depression
Meditation is one of the best ways of both preventing depression and treating depression. There have been very many studies into the effects of meditation on depression. One study suggested that if you meditate while doing vigorous exercise it will be one of the best possible treatments for depression. A study by the University of Exeter looked into mindfulness and stated that mindfulness is more effective than drugs at treating depression.
Read our complete guide to using meditation for depression.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction helps with postpartum depression
According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 11% and 20% of women suffer postpartum depression after having a child.
in 2015, Dr Dona Dimidjian [professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado] published an article in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in which she states that mindfulness can significantly reduce the risk of postpartum depression.
Mindfulness is a great form of self help for addiction
There are lots of different meditation techniques that can be helpful for treating addictions. But research suggests that mindfulness might be the best.
Researchers at the University of Washington studied 286 people who has successfully completed a drug rehabilitation program. They assigned them either a course of mindfulness meditation, a conventional relapse prevention program, or a 12 step program. Their results showed the when mindfulness was used in rehab the chances of success were significantly increased. Only 9% of the people who had used mindfulness relapsed, which is 5% less than the other two groups.
Meditation slows the aging process of the mind
Could meditation even help slow the aging process? Research suggest yes. And it is actually quite easy to see how meditation helps with aging when you understand the process of aging.
Stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, these all increase the aging rate. And as we’ve already seen, meditation helps with all these things. So by creating balance and health, meditation helps to slow the aging rate.
One study, published in 2013, found that as little as 15 minutes meditation immediately increased activity of the gene that creates telomerase, which is an indicator of longevity.
Source: The Guardian
Physical Health Benefits of Meditation
For evidence / research please read: Self Healing By Meditating
Meditation lowers the rate at which we consume oxygen.
Meditation lowers the rate at which we consume oxygen, and this in turn offers a great many health benefits. Researchers state that while you are meditating your oxygen consumption drops to 20%, which is a 10% reduction. This helps you to relax and is also very helpful for getting to sleep.
While you are meditating you relax, your heart rate lowers, and you breathe slower. Because of this, your body needs less oxygen. In fact, while you are meditating your body’s oxygen consumption is at the same level it is when you are six hours into your sleep. Even better, during this time, your body is given the opportunity to heal itself, as we’ll see in a moment.
I wanted to help everyone who is struggling to get those Zzzzzs. So I wrote a guide to using meditation to help insomniacs sleep.
Meditation helps you to heal
Above, I mentioned that when you meditate you lower your heart rate, breathe slower, and lower your oxygen consumption rate. This essentially means that your body is having to do less work. And because your body is having to do less work, it is given an opportunity to heal itself. That down time, when your body is not working so hard to provide enough oxygen to keep your heart rate up, is basically the equivalent of a break. It’s a time when your body can slow down, relax, and heal itself.
Meditation raises blood flow to the heart
As you know, when you meditate you enter a very relaxed state. Your minds slow down. Stress leaves you. Your breathing slows down so you need less oxygen. And because of all this, your heart slows down. Your entire system is then relaxed, which helps the inner organs to function properly. This in turn allows blood to flow through your body unimpeded.
Research conductd by the Division of Cardiology at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center shows that meditation regulates heart rate and improves blood flow. Another study by the National Institute of Health in 2009 shows that meditation improved blood pressure. And a Harvard study by Dr. Herbert Benson proved that meditation dilates the arteries, which enables blood to flow more freely.
Transcendental Meditation helps with high blood pressure
Robert Schneider, MD, recommends using meditation instead of medication for blood pressure problems. The dean of the College of Maharishi Vedic Medicine at the Maharishi University of Management, Schneider has extensively researched the effects of meditation on blood pressure, specifically focusing on Transcendental Meditation.
Schneider says that 50 million people in the U.S. suffer from high blood pressure, which can lead to stroke, heart attack and heart failure. Schneider tells us that in the past 30 years there have been 600 studies on the affects of transcendental meditation for blood pressure, and that Transcendental Meditation (TM) has been consistently proven to improve blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Meditation reduces free radicals
Free radicals are agents that attack your cells from the inside-out. Your cells consist of atoms with a nucleus at the center. The nucleus is surrounded by a cloud of electrons, which are negatively charged particles. However, at times atoms lose their electrons. This causes the atom to become a free radical, which can attack your cells. This process of cells aging, becoming free radicals, and then those free radicals attacking other cells, is one of the main reasons for aging. The solution? Antioxidant. Antioxidants are nutrition in your body. Antioxidants give their electrons to free radicals, which stops the problem.
Our bodies natural produce antioxidants, but stress, toxins, and other factors can make us damage more cells than we produce. And some of the worst causes of this are depression, anxiety, and stress.
Because meditation helps you to relax, and prevents and treats problems like stress and depression, it helps to slow the rate at which your cells are damaged. This decreases free-radicals and slows aging.
Meditation improves skin quality
What can meditation do for your skin? A lot.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body and a very important one. It protects you from disease. It protects your organs from temperatures that might damage them. It prevents unhealthy chemicals and substances from getting into your inner body. It is one of the most important ways in which your body protects itself.
Scientific research has proven that meditation improves your skin’s resistance and also increases the rate at which you produce new cells.
When your skin cells age they are gradually pushed out and replaced by newer skin cells beneath. But it takes time for the body to remove dead skin cells and to build new ones. The more stress, anxiety, and depression you suffer the harder it is for your body to create these new skin cells. When you meditate you give your body a break. You essentially allow your body to relax and focus on what it needs to do, part of which is building new skin.
Breathing meditations lower the risk of cardiovascular disease
Heart.org tells us that “taking a few minutes to relax each day could lower risk of cardiovascular disease”. They recommend using 20-30 minutes of breathing meditation or other meditations where you focus on an object or sound.
When you feel stressed your body releases adrenaline that makes your breathing speed up and increases blood pressure and heart rate. Over a long period of time this stress response has a significant effect on your body. That’s why reducing stress is so important for your health.
Dr. Stein recommends that you find a type of meditation that works for you. He also suggests finding a group class. Two types of meditation that Dr. Stein personally vouches for are Transcendental Meditation and Mindfulness.
Meditation improves air flow to the lungs for better breathing
What can meditation do for your lungs? A lot.
Your lungs are one of the most important parts of your body and definitely the most important organ for respiration. But many people do not breathe correctly.
The best form of breathing is called “diaphragmatic breathing”. This is a technique in which you pull air deep down into your diaphragm. You will know if you are breathing diaphragmatically because your rib cage will rise and fall.
Oftentimes we do not breathe very well.
When you are stressed, for instance, one of the first things to be affected is your breathing. Have you ever noticed that you breathe shallowly when stressed? This is not ideal. It makes it harder for air to enter your lungs. And the best way to correct this problem is by relaxing. Of course, there are lots of different ways in which you can relax, but meditation is one of the best.
When you meditate you relax, and when you relax your improve your breathing, helping air to enter your lungs.
Meditation slows the aging process
One of the most amazing benefits of meditation is that it slows the aging process. We’ve already started to look at this. So, let’s recap.
The aging process is largely caused by the breaking down of cells in your body. Your skin cells, for instance, grow old and get replaced by new ones, but it is difficult for your body to produce cells fast enough. This gradually makes your skin weaker, making you age.
When you meditate you give your body a break so that it can focus on working on those core operations (like cell production).
We’ve also seen how meditation increases the length of telomeres in your body. Telomeres are indictors of longevity. If you want to know how long you will live, take a look at your telomeres under a very powerful microscope. The longer they are the longer you will probably live. Good news is that meditation actually increases the length of telomeres.
We all know that stress is one of the worst things for aging. The more stressed you are the faster you will age. And the reason for that is because stress makes it harder for your body to function. And we have looked at how meditation produces relaxation and stops stress.
Put all this together and you’ll understand why meditation is such a powerful way of slowing the aging process.
Meditation treats asthma
Asthma occurs when a trigger (for instance, dust) makes your bronchi (airways) narrow and your lungs become inflamed. Mucus then develops that makes it even harder to breathe.
Several scientific studies have proven that meditation helps to prevent and to treat asthma. In 2000, the Natural Therapies Unity of the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney Australia studied the affect of meditation on asthma. 47 asthma patients were studied. Half the group meditated while the rest practiced general relaxation techniques. The group that meditated observed a significant reduction in the symptoms of asthma compared to the other group.
Meditation improves the endocrine system
The “endocrine system” refers to the glands that regulate tissue function, sexual function, sleep, mood, and metabolism, and that produce hormones. Those hormones then instruct other cells about how to function, and they also instruct your glands about when to produce saliva and sweat.
Your endocrine system is given orders from your brain, which tells you when to blink, breathe, and other vital functions. But when you are stressed your endocrine system is made to release hormones, which can lead to unnecessary and unhelpful bodily functions, like sweating when you don’t need to just because you are under pressure.
Research via MRI scans shows that people who meditate have more activity in the parts of the brain that regulate the endocrine system. This leads to improved mood, slower aging rate, and better immune system functioning. Meditation also reduces the rate at which your endocrine system deteriorates as you age, which is yet another way in which meditation slows the aging process.
Mindfulness improves your immune system
Your immune system is one of the most important things for your overall health and well-being. It provides an essential role in helping you avoid illness. And it is directly related to both body and mind.
In the 80s scientists discovered that the immune system is intelligent. It understands the chemical messages being sent around your body. Your mood, thoughts, sensations, and beliefs all affect your immune system. And when you meditate, you influence those messages.
Meditation creates a positive environment in which your immune system can thrive. And this is so beneficial that it can even help people with HIV.
UCLA researchers showed that people with HIV who practiced mindfulness meditation slow down reduction of D-4 cell count. These are cells that your immune system uses to reduce illness. At the same time, when you meditate you boost the production of antibodies.
Researchers studied a group of biotech workers who meditated for 8 weeks. The results showed that after meditation the workers had substantially increased levels of antibodies.
As though this weren’t enough, meditation also improves functioning of brain areas related to the immune seystem, namely: the prefrontal cortex, the right anterior insula, and the right hippocampus.
This research proves that meditation has a significant effect on your immune system
Loving Kindness And Mindfulness Improve Hygiene
Personal hygiene and mental hygiene are very important for our health. Good personal hygiene helps to prevent the transference of impurities to the body. And good mental hygiene helps to keep our mind’s strong.
Scientific research shows that bad hygiene is caused by a few key conditions. Most notably, depression, lack of self love, and anxiety can cause both bad physical hygiene and bad mental hygiene. And a lack of mindfulness can lead to bad personal hygiene because when we are mindless we are more likely to perform tasks that spread contagions (like putting a finger in the mouth).
Meditation can help. Research suggests that mindfulness and Loving Kindness Meditation are the most effective techniques for hygiene.
You can read more about this In our guide to Improving Your Hygiene.
Meditation helps with allergies
This is directly related to the above.
The more stress you have in the life the harder it is for your immune system to deal with allergies.
Both stress and anxiety make your allergy symptoms last longer and also makes them stronger. Conversely, the more relaxed you are the shorter and weaker your allergy symptoms will be. This is because when you’re stressed your immune system is rendered less effective. But there are steps you can take to counter this. When you relax you make it easier for your immune system to operate. For this reason, meditation does help your allergies. However, whether meditation is more effective than other relaxation treatments remains to be seen.
Meditation helps with arthritis
Drexel University is a research center that is highly regarded for its studies on arthritis. In 2010 Dr. Rosenzweig studied the affect of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on arthritis and other chronic pain conditions such as back pain.
The researchers studied more than 1000 people with arthritis and similar conditions, and they observed a significantly improve quality of life for people suffering from these conditions. Pain symptoms were also substantially decreased.
Dr. Rosenweig associates the pain reduction with improved mood. Naturally, people suffering from chronic arthritis and other conditions can have very low moods and may even suffer depression as a direct result of their condition. This negative mental state can increase pain symptoms and also make it harder for the body to heal. Meditation improves mood and helps the body to relax, which helps to treat arthritis psychosomatically.
One thing that is important to note is that the affects of meditation were different for different people. Some of the patients had significant improvements, some less so. However, Dr. Rosenweig tells us that Mindfuness Based Stress Reduction does offer an effective treatment for arthritis, mostly because of reduced pain.
Meditation Helps With Weight Loss
This is a huge subject. So I wrote a big separate guide to losing weight with meditation.
Mindfulness helps lower the symptoms of pre-menstraul syndrome
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a variety of mental and physical symptoms that exhibit during menstruation. These symptoms may include depression, anxiety, bloating, insomnia, mood swings, and headache.
For many years, doctors have treated PMS with mood medications. But there is a healthier way to improve your mood, and that is meditation.
Recent research into the affect of meditation on PMS shows that meditation helps women to overcome the emotional symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and that this in turn helps with the physical symptoms. Meditation can be used to produce relaxation and to heighten feelings of love and happiness. These emotions help your muscles to relax, which in turn can help to reduce the symptoms of PMS.
Source: National Library of Medicine
Meditation decreases muscle tension
Muscle tension is one of the most common health problems in the world. When your muscles are tense they remain contracted for a period of time. This is often caused by stress. Just think about the last time you were very stressed and you might remember being hunched over, having stomach cramp, and feeling tight.
Whether it’s stress from family problems, work, or anything else, your physical tension can lead to health problems and can damage your nervous system. Muscle tension can even cause reduced blood flow, preventing your muscles from getting the oxygen they need. This can lead to short or long term damage to your muscles.
Meditation boosts relaxation and helps blood to flow around your body, which in turn helps your muscles to get the oxygen they nee. The result is healthy muscles that are not prone to tension.
Mindfulness can even help with HIV
This is one of the most staggering facts about meditation. It can help even help with HIV.
Your immune system uses “brain cells” that are called CD4T cells. These cells instruct the immune system of how to act when the body is under attack. HIV attacks these cells, which prevents the immune system from functioning properly, which leads to the symptoms of HIV. This can then lead to AIDS, the devastating condition that 40 million people currently suffer from.
Stress accelerates and worsens the decline of CD4 T cells. But researchers at UCLA tell us that mindfulness meditation stops the decline of CD4 T cells. This slows HIV.
Transcendental Meditation helps with post-op healing
One of the main reasons why recovery from surgery is so painful is because of the anticipation of pain. When we go in for a surgery we are usually highly stressed and we imagine that the operation will leave us with a lot of pain.
Just as a placebo can treat someone by making them believe they are being healed, anticipation of pain can cause pain just because a person thinks they will be in pain.
All of this stress causes a horrible affect on the immune system and on your body.
Naturally your body does need to recover after an operation. To recover, your body needs to be relaxed. Stress interferes with your body’s ability to heal itself. So when you are stressed you actually stop your body from healing.
Meditation helps with post op healing in many ways, most of which are psychosomatic. Meditation regulates your mood and reduces stress, which boosts your immune system and helps your body to heal.
Dr. Herbert Benson of the Mind Body Institute has studied the affect of meditation on post-op healing. He observed that meditation heightens activity in the brain’s parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for “rest and digest” functions. Meditation also stops the “fight or flight” response by decreasing activity in the sympathetic nervous system. This increases blood flow to the injured areas of the body, speeding healing, and promotes relaxation, which is restorative.
Meditation reduces viral activity, including cold and flu
Have you been suffering from cold or flu? No sweat. Meditation can help.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison wanted to test whether meditation or exercise was better at preventing cold and flu. They took two groups of people, gave one group mindfulness training and the other group moderate exercise, and observed that people in both groups were less susceptible to cold and flu.
Another test showed that people who meditate have 76% less sick days from September to May than people who do not meditate. People who meditate also get rid of cold and flu quicker, at an average of five days compared to eight.
Source: Scientific American
Meditation improves the flow of energy
Meditation has been shown to improve energy for five reasons.
- It stops stress from sapping at your energy
- It boosts endorphins
- Improves quality of sleep
- Boosts growth hormone and DHEA (see below)
- Improves brain functioning
Because this is a broad subject, I’ve written a complete guide to using meditation for energy. Take a look.
Meditation increases our levels of Dehydroepiandrosterone
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), is an endogenous steroid hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands (gonads) and the brain, where it functions as a metabolic intermediate in the biosynthesis of androgen and estrogen sex steroids.
DHEA helps your body fight viral, bacterial and parasitic infections. It helps the thymus gland. Helps prevents inflammation. And helps prevent depression and stress.
The good news is that meditation helps boost your DHEA level, so you get all the benefits listed above. When you enter a deep meditative state you naturally raise your DHEA levels and this helps with healing, calming, hormone regulation, and stress.
Dr. Robert Keitch Wallace studied the levels of DHEA in meditators and non-meditators back in 1982, and found that meditators were biologically 12 years younger than non-meditators largely because of increased DHEA levels. You might like to know that according to some studies, the best form of meditation for DHEA is Transcendental Meditation.
Meditation helps control chronic diseases
One of the absolute most important health benefits of meditation is that it helps with chronic diseases.
Stress is the biggest cause of illness and death. When you are under stress your body responds with a fight or flight response. This response affects your entire system in seconds. Blood flow increases, and heart rate and breathing rate escalate. Your entire body is revved up ready for the fight or flight. When this happens daily you significantly increase your chances of illness. What illnesses are you more likely of contracting? Stroke, heart disease, digestion problems, diabetes, and more. And all because of frequent stress.
When you meditate you reduce stress and reduce the very many health problems that stress causes. Just twenty minutes of meditation will reduce your stress for days. So if you meditate for twenty minutes a couple of times a week you will substantially reduce the symptoms and compound health problems of stress.
Meditation helps with infertility
5% of couples experience primary infertility, which is the inability to have any children, or secondary infertility, which is the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term.
Research shows that most cases of infertility are due to physiological or psychosomatic factors, which are usually identified in the woman. What really upset me is that 15% of people who experience this say it is the most upsetting things to happen to them in their lives. So clearly this is something we need to work to change. And thankfully meditation can help.
Stress is one of the leading causes of infertility. And stress can prevent people from getting pregnant after they have been treated for a physical cause of infertility. At both these times, meditation can be used to produce relaxation, which has been shown to increase the chances of getting pregnant.
Meditation reduces sweating
One interesting fact about meditation is that it makes you sweat less.
This is probably not the first health benefits of meditation to come to mind. People tend to think that meditation helps with stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems, as well as relaxation and focus. Comparatively less people realise that meditation actually makes you sweat less. But it’s a fact.
How can meditation make you sweat less?
Well, it all goes back to points that we’ve discussed so far. Meditation reduces breathing rate, heart rate and blood pressure. This helps your body to cool down. Meditating actually helps to control your body temperature and also prevents tension in your muscle. So it stops the causes of sweating.
Meditation prevents and cures headaches and migraines
A study published in the journal Headache stated that when you meditate you help prevent and relieve the symptoms of migraines.
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center took 19 people with migraines and asked them to practice either standard medical care or eight weeks of MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction). This MBSR therapy incorporated 30 minutes meditation sessions and yoga lessons. The group that practiced MBSR experienced on average 1.4 less migraines a month and had less severe headaches. Importantly, the length of headaches was significantly reduced, with headaches lasting on average 3 hours less in the MBSR group than in the group that had received standard medical training.
The study author said that by practicing mindfulness the people “were able to have a sense of personal control over their migraines”.
Do you suffer from headaches? I wanted to help the millions of people who suffer from frequent headaches. So I wrote a guide to meditating for headache and migraine relief.
Meditation offers pain relief
This is very similar to the point above but worth covering separately because, of course, there are many causes of pain.
However, because so many people suffer from pain in general forms, I wanted to write a complete guide to help those people out.
Mindfulness and Transcendental Meditation reduce our dependency for medical care
A study in Quebec, Canada, showed that practicing mindfulness and meditation leads to reduced cost of physician services because meditators do not need to visit doctors and physicians so frequently.
The study was specifically looking at medical costs, but nevertheless It think this says a lot about how and why we visit the doctor and why meditation helps.
In another study 677 patients practiced Transcendental Meditation. Researchers looked at the costs that those people had spent on medical care before and after practicing TM. The research showed that people spend 57% less annually on medical care after practicing Transcendental Meditation.
Meditation reduces our need for pharmaceuticals
There are very many reasons why people go on medication. And not all medication is truly necessary. You may have read the recent news reports about how doctors have been prescribing painkillers and anti-depressants often unnecessarily. But this begs the question: what makes people go on medication?
Often medication is prescribed as a placebo. And at other times people visit the doctor because of stress-related symptoms. At both these times people are given medication for what is essentially psychosomatic problems. And as we have seen above, many of these psychosomatic symptoms can be relieved or cured with meditation. So meditation gives people a viable alternative to medication in many situations.
Performance benefits of meditation
Meditation makes you need less sleep
Have you ever asked yourself how much more you would be able to get done if only you didn’t need so much sleep? Anecdotal evidence shows that people who have been meditating for a long time may in fact need less sleep than everyone else. This is backed up by Buddhist texts that say that for experienced meditators just four hours sleep is the equivalent of eight hours to everyone else. That four hour number might not be entirely accurate, however. According to one scientific study, meditators do indeed need less sleep but only by half an hour.
So, why would meditators need less sleep?
Meditation produces a mental state called “restful alertness” that is similar to the state we are in when we are asleep. So if you practice meditation your mind is at a state that is closer to sleep. Plus, “restful alertness” already fills in lots of the functions of sleep. When you’re in that “restful alertness” state your body is already restoring itself and resting, so to an extent you have already begun to perform the functions you perform when you’re asleep.
Meditation makes it easier to get to sleep
As well as making you less requiring of sleep, meditation also makes it easier to get to sleep in the first place. This is a direct continuation of the previous point. When you meditate you train your brain to enter the sate of “restful alertness”, which is close to sleep. So when you hit the sack you are already closer to sleeping than most people, and it is therefore easier to drift off.
I’ve written a complete guide to using meditation for sleep to get you started off on those Zzzzs.
Meditation improves vitality
Another good thing about meditation is that it improves vitality.
Vitality can be thought of as the trait of being energised and living in the moment with zest. It is a positive psychological trait that makes you get up and go and helps you to make the most of your day. This is directly related to what Eastern philosophies would call prana.
Prana flows through your body, keeping your organs energised and your brain alive. Prana also helps you to live in the moment. But many things can interfere with the flow of prana. For instance, anxiety and depression can significantly block prana flow. This leads you to being closed off from the world and can reduce your energy levels.
By meditating, you clear your mind. This in turn helps prana to flow, which produces a positive energy that in turn creates vitality.
Meditation makes you better at sports
Huffington Post published an article that explains ten reasons why meditation makes you better at sports and athletics.
We’ve already covered many reasons why meditation helps with sports and athletics. For instance, meditation increases your reaction times, so you can hit that tennis ball faster or tell where the baseball is going to go. It also gives you an energy boost. Add to that the fact that meditation prevents muscle tension, increases confidence, makes you better at communicating, and helps you focus, and it is easy to see how meditation makes you better at sports.
Deep meditations improve mind-body connection
One of the best things about meditation is that it heightens your mind-body connection.
At the deeper stages of meditation your mind is very relaxed. This state of relaxation lets your mind open up so that it is more sensitive to feelings in and around the body. Your thoughts silence and you become much more aware of your physical body. You tune in to parts of your body you may never have noticed, like the rhythm of your breathing. This puts your mind in tune with your body so there is more unity and cohesion in your being. This produces one of the deepest and most restorative states you can find.
Meditation helps with decision making
One of the benefits of meditation that is very well known in the East but still quite unknown in the West is that meditation helps you to make better decisions.
Virginia Tech Crilion Research Center studied the affect of meditation on decision making. They found that meditators actuallyu se different parts of their brains in decision making compared to non-meditators.
The study took 66 people and asked 26 of them to meditate while the other were the control group. They played an “ultimatum game” in which one person is given $20 and asked to share it with someone. The receiver may then accept of refuse the money. If the offer is accepted the participants get a sum of the money but if it is rejected they both get nothing. Essentially, this is a psychological game designed to test your decision making. So what did the results show?
The researchers recorded the activity in each person’s brain when they made these decision. And the results showed that non-meditators mostly use their anterior insula, which is the part of the brain used in emotional disgust. The meditators did not use this part of the brain at all, and this tells us a lot about how meditators make decisions. The researchers say that meditators make decisions more rationally and less based on emotion than non-meditators.
Mindfulness Meditation makes us act with more control and in a more constructive manner
One of the best things about meditation is that it increases self control.
When you allow your emotions to get out of control they can affect the way you think and can lead you to make bad decisions and to act in harmful ways. Research has shown that when you meditate you gain control over your emotions and can learn to act rationally despite those emotions.
The journal Current Directions in Psychological Science published an article by researcher Rimma Teper at the University of Toronto which proved that when you practice mindfulness you become more aware and more accepting of your emotions, and that this in turn helps you to act with more self control.
Makes us more balanced individuals
There is so much information constantly entering our brains that it can be difficult to remain emotionally balanced and to keep a healthy perspective on life. Meditation can help to balance the brain.
When you meditate you create inner calm and peace. This allows you to see through many of the phenomena of the mind (such as thoughts and visualisation). Meditation essentially clears those mental toxins from the mind so you are able to see straight and think rationally. This balances your emotions so you are able to see things in better perspective.
I’ve written a guide to using meditation for emotional balance. Take a look.
Meditation makes you more emotionally mature
“Emotional maturity” is a highly subjective thing, because what, precisely, is emotional maturity? Generally speaking, however, we can consider emotional maturity to mean you have control of your emotions, you are not reactive, you don’t blame others for your problems, you are self reliable, and that you are a polite and reasonable member of society.
So how does meditation help with all that. Essentially, it comes down to mindfulness. When you meditate you gain understanding of your emotions and this helps you to master them.
Edward Morler, Ph.D of Moreler International tells us that a big part of emotional maturity is being in the now and letting go of the past. Meditation helps with this. When you meditate you become aware of your thoughts and feelings and you see them for what they are: unreal. This helps you to focus on the present moment and to make rational decisions not influenced by emotion.
Meditation improves motor performance
An interesting fact about meditation is that it improves motor performance and thereby helps you with lots of tasks, including sports.
Andy Rimol is a Princeton student and was captain of the basketball team. He wanted to test his theory that meditation made him better at basketball because it improved motor function. He believed that meditation would have long-term and immediate affects on perceptual motor performance. He chose some of his teammates and taught half of them Transcendental Meditation. He then asked them to play that would test their skills.
The results were clear. Meditators performed better at perceptual motor tasks (these are movement related skills). The meditators had far superior coordination. The test showed that meditation helps your motor skills both immediately and in the long term.
Meditation makes you more intelligent
An interesting fact about meditation is that it actually makes you more intelligent.
How does meditation make you more intelligent? Six ways:
—Balances your left and right brain
—Makes your brain bigger
—Improves intuition and insight
—Improves Emotional Intelligence (EQ).
Mindfulness heightens job satisfaction
Another interesting fact about meditation is that it increases job satisfaction.
Dr Ute Hulsheger and a team of researchers from the Netherlands studied the affect of mindfulness meditation on job satisfaction. As we have seen, mindfulness is very beneficial for controlling your emotions, and that’s true at the office too.
The report , which was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, asked 219 workers at service jobs, like retail and nursing, to write a diary twice a day for five days. They also rated their job satisfaction. According to their own reports, the people who practiced mindfulness had higher job satisfaction and lower levels of emotional exhaustion.
Source: National Institute of Medicine
Meditation helps us to stop thinking too much
It is a well known fact of meditation that it helps you to stop thinking too much. And most of us can appreciate how important that is.
Countless studies have shown that meditation helps you to stop thinking. However, I feel that this doesn’t really need scientific proof. We meditators know full well how meditation stops your thoughts. I’ve written a complete guide to help you to stop thinking too much.
Meditation improves focus and concentration
This is probably the most commonly known fact about meditation: It helps you focus.
Because this is such a sought-after thing, I’ve created a complete guide to using meditation to improve your focus and concentration.
This is also one of the main benefits of mindfulness for kids–it teaches them to be more focused, which helps with school and exams.
“Open” meditation techniques make you more creative
Scientific research shows that certain meditation techniques will boost your creative thinking immediately, even if you have never meditated before.
Cognitive psychologists Lorena Colato and Dominique Lippelt at Leiden University conducted research and discovered that a brief meditation session can have a deep and lasting affect on your creative brain. However, this is only true for certain meditation techniques. After practicing “open” meditation techniques (meditations in which you are receptive to your entire environment and to thoughts and sensations), your creative brain is significantly improved.
If you need to boost your creative brain, meditate on the entirety of your environment, sensations and thoughts (Open meditation).
Transcendental Meditation improves brainwave coherence
Studying Transcendental Meditation technique makes your brain more coherent and integrated, according to researchers.
Brainwave coherence refers to how settled the mind is. If you study an average non-meditators brain via EEG you will usually observe scattered and disorderly patterns. Conversely, the brains of people who study Transcendental Meditation are more rhythmic and orderly. This coherence shows more effective thinking and behaving, and suggests greater intelligence, creativity, learning ability, emotional stability, and moral reasoning.
Meditation helps us to learn and to remember
Whether you’re studying to ace that exam or trying to learn a new skill for work, meditation can help you out.
There are two parts of the brain that are highly active during memory storage and recall: the frontal lobe and the Hippocampus. These two regions are highly activated during meditation. Meditation acts like exercise for these regions of the brain, making them stronger. This in turns makes you more able to memorise and recall information.
Source: Scientific American
Mindfulness helps you to remove bad habits
Let’s be completely honest with one another. We all have some bad habits? After all, imperfections make us human. But there are times when you might like to get a handle on your bad habits.
Both mental and physical habits can interfere with your life. Nail biting, negative thinking, drinking. These bad habits get repeated over and over again until they are so ingrained in you that they happen on auto-pilot. The problem is that because you do these habits on auto-pilot you often don’t notice you’re doing them. So how can you stop them?
The key is to practice mindfulness.
When you are mindful you become more aware of… everything. You become more aware of what you are doing, in particular. And when you are more aware of what you are doing you are more in control. Then you can stop those bad habits.
Mindfulness gives you the ability to be aware of what you are doing. It makes you more conscious of your bad habits so that you can change them more easily.
Meditation improves intuition
Everyone is naturally born with intuition. Intuition is the little voice inside that offers you advice and direction. But that little voice can be quiet, and you will miss it if you do not listen attentively. Thankfully, meditation can help.
When you meditate, and particularly when you practice mindfulness meditation, you silence your mind of unnecessary and unhelpful thoughts. That helps you to hear better, which in turn allow you to tune in to your intuition. When you are silent you will hear your intuition. And the best way to find silence is with meditation.
Read: How Meditation Improves Intuition
Mindfulness training makes you productive (which is why it’s used in business training)
Do you ever wish that you could get more done at work? Do you ever feel that you would be much more productive if only you weren’t constantly distracted and always being pulled this way and that? Meditation can help you to put your energy to good use so that you are more productive.
One study showed that eight weeks of mindfulness training can make employees (in this instance they were human resource managers) less stressed and more able to focus on their jobs, which increases productivity.
Meditation helps you see the big picture
When you focus too much on small details you can get bent out of shape over nothing. For instance, if you are too concerned about a minor ailment you might completely forget that you are 99% healthy person. Focusing on the 1% of you that isn’t perfect will then lead to stress, which will cause more of you to become unwell.
When you are able to see the big picture you stop worrying about those little things.
The problem is that sometimes momentary problems seem large simply because they are right in front of us. But meditation let’s you see past the current minor problem so that you can appreciate the full, big picture. And that’s a much healthier way to live.
Meditation stops “Monkey Mind”
If you have been meditating for a while you have probably noticed those times when your mind seems to completely stop. You feel as though you’re stepping out of a tight space into a vast open field. There’s freedom and mental liberation. And your monkey mind stops.
“Monkey Mind” is a Buddhist term that refers a constantly noisy, ever changing mind.
Buddhist philosophy has told us for millennia that meditation stops monkey mind. Now, science has proven it.
In a study by IONS, PhD student Travy Brandmeyer studied 12 novices and 12 expert meditators and intentionally distracted them in order to see how their minds wandered. The results showed that experienced meditators suffer considerable less monkey mind than novices. But the researchers note that further studies are required to substantiate the findings.
Meditation helps us solve complex problems
One of the good things about meditation is that it’s always there whenever you need a little helping hand. For instance, you can turn to meditation when you need help solving a complex problem.
In one study, a group of German psychologists asked volunteers to try to complete a complex problem-solving task before and after meditating. Before meditating most of the group struggled. But when they meditated, the researchers say, they were more able to think outside the box to find solution. The scientists state that this shows that meditation helps you to solve problems in creative ways.
Source: Live Science
Interpersonal / Relationship benefits of meditation
Meditation makes us more responsible
An interesting fact about meditation is that it makes us more responsible. This is because of the effect meditation has on relationships and mood. Meditation makes you more empathetic, more compassionate, and more in control of your own actions, so it both motivates and enables you to be responsible and enables you to be more responsible.
A Harvard study confirmed that people who meditate were more likely to give up their seat for a woman in pain. Dr. Hölzel, who conducted the study, said that people who meditate “may be more willing to help when someone suffer.”
Meditation makes us better listeners
Have you ever been listening to someone when you suddenly realised that you’re actually not paying attention to what they’re saying? We’ve all been in that position, haven’t we? Thankfully, something meditation is good for is making you a better listener.
The Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied the affect of meditation on listening skills in 2009. They found that when you meditate you improve your attention and this in turn makes you a better listener. Even more amazing, it turns out that meditation is especially good at making you listen when you’re not actually interested in what the other person is saying.
Meditation significantly improves relationships
Writing for Psychology Today, Marsha Lucas, Ph.D stated that there are nine ways in which meditating improves your relationships. They are:
- It helps you react better
- It improves emotional resiliency
- Improves your communication
- Enables you to respond in more flexible, less stubborn ways
- Improves empathy
- Improves insight
- Increases intuition
- Increases morality
Have you noticed that your relationships seem better after you meditate? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment at the bottom.
Meditation makes people less aggressive and less angry
The journal Consciousness and Cognition published a study that stated that meditation improves your body’s response to anger.
Have you ever experienced those moment when you feel angry, your chest is tight, you’re gritting your teeth and you just can’t help but spit it out and say the wrong thing? Imagine if you had more control at those times. You would be able to respond more positively. This study shows that meditation lets you do just that.
The study showed that one twenty minute meditation session improves your body’s response to anger by reducing breathing rate and heart rate, helping to balance blood pressure, and giving you more self control. And in fact, people who have been meditating for a long time may exhibit no bodily response to anger at all.
Meditation makes you more sociable and treats social anxiety
If like me you have suffered from social anxiety at some point in your life, you will know that it can really affect your lifestyle. But thankfully, meditation can treat social anxiety and make you more sociable.
Candance Pert [pharmacologist, neuroscientist and researcher at the National Institute of Health] found that meditation releases endorphins which create positive feelings and cure social anxiety. Another study by Dr. Sara Lazar compared the brains of meditators to non-meditators and found that meditators had thicker areas of their brain’s cortex, especially in emotion processing areas. This showed that they were happier and more confident, and thereby less likely to suffer social anxiety.
A Reddit user asked the community whether they were more or less sociable since they started meditating. The vast majority of people said they are more sociable. But interestingly, people who were overly sociable and who felt dependent on socialising said they felt less obligated to be social.
Meditation makes you more intimate with loved ones
Meditation makes you more intimate with loved ones because of the other benefits that we have looked at in this list. For instance, meditation makes you more confident so you are more comfortable being intimate. Meditation also makes you more aware, so you can truly feel your lover. Meditation also helps you to relax and be in the moment, and it’s easy to see how those qualities would help with intimacy too.
Loving Kindness Meditation improves tolerance and stops racism
Meditation makes you more tolerant of other people and can stop prejudices. And this is particularly true of Loving Kindness Meditation.
Alexander Stell, a doctoral student on the University Of Sussex’ psychology degree program, says, “Some meditation techniques are about much more than feeling good, and might be an important tool for enhancing inter-group harmony.
“We wanted to see whether doing Loving Kindness Meditation towards a member of another ethnic group would reduce the automatic preference people tend to show for their own ethnic group.”
In his study, Stell took 71 Caucasian, non-meditating adults and showed them a photo of a black person. Half the group were asked to just look at the photo. The other half were asked to practice loving kindness meditation and imagine sending out positive feelings to the black person in the photo.
The researchers studied the participants’ prejudices using the Implicit Association Test, which asks test subjects to describe the people in the photo.
The research shows that after loving kindness meditation people are more likely to describe the black person in the photo in a positive way. The researchers concluded that Loving Kindness Meditation is a powerful way to quickly end personal prejudices.
Meditation increases our capacity to love
Buddhists advocate the important of “universal loving kindness”, which is love for all people and animals. But naturally, this is not easy to achieve. The average person has certain prejudices, and even the most enlightened among us tend to have one or two people who we struggle to get along with.
Meditation, however, can increase your capacity for love. It does this in a number of ways. Firstly, it allows you to see past your own prejudices by being mindful. It also helps you to accept other people, and especially their shortcomings. And it boosts compassion.
Source: Own experience, plus a combination of the scientific research above.
Meditation increases empathy and compassion
One of the lesser known and lesser studied benefits of meditation is that it makes you more empathetic and more compassionate. But historically, this was one of the main reasons why Buddhist monks meditate.
Buddhists have always known that meditation improves empathy and compassion. And now, scientific research has proven that claim. In a study, a group of meditators heard the sound of a woman in distress while researchers studied their brains. The tests showed that meditators have heightened activity in the areas of the brain that regulate empathy and compassion.
Isn’t it amazing how meditation affects you? So far we’ve looked at psychological, health, and relational benefits of meditation. And it’s already obvious that meditation is extremely helpful.
My aim with this list is to encourage people to start meditating. If that is a cause you believe in, please help by sharing this article on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks.
Now to look at one more aspect of your life that is improved by meditation: your mood.
Benefits of meditation for improving mood
Meditation improves relaxation
This is one health benefits of meditation that surely requires absolutely no proof. We all know that meditation makes you more relaxed. But if you would like to read more about meditation and relaxation I recommend the article o Mayo Clinic for which you can find the link below.
The Mayo Clinic tells us, “During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. This process may result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.”
Source: Mayo Clinic
Meditation improves relations at work
It can be a challenge to maintain healthy and productive workplace relationships for one simple reason. Work is one of the most stressful environments. And when we are stressed we become less receptive, less emotionally balanced, less empathetic, less compassionate, and less tolerant. That’s precisely why if you have a bad day at work you might end up regretting something you say. But meditation can help.
Meditation helps you to relax at work. Take a 15 minute mindfulness break at some point in the day. It will remove stress, help you to relax, and restore you to your normal, tolerant, patient self. And then you will have positive workplace relationships and you will be less likely to say something you end up regretting.
Transcendental Meditation helps with road rage
Even the most Zen-sational people on Earth can have a bit of road rage every so often. When you get cut-up on the highway it can be easy too raise that middle finger. But wait. Meditation can help.
Jeanne Ball is a Transcendental Meditation teacher. She tells us that, “The best way to deal with road rage is to avert the danger that has not yet come”. To do this, she suggests meditating before you drive.
Clinical studies have proven that decreased stress is one of the benefits of Transcendental Meditation (TM). So when you practice TM before driving you will be less prone to road rage.
Meditation settles restless thinking
Do you ever suffer from a restless mind? Oh wait, silly question, you are human, of course you do. But the good news is that one of the benefits of meditation is the end of your restless mind.
When you meditate you create inner stillness and quietude that is conducive to a calm mind.
Source: Personal experience
Meditation improves peace of mind
Is it me or can it be a challenge to keep your mind tranquil and pure? There are so many sources of stress and so much information flying through your brain that you need to take care of your mind like a master gardener, or else you will suffer mental weeds that disrupt your inner peace.
A turbulent mind stops the flow of prana and leaves you feeling exhausted and emotionally rocked.
Sri Sri Yoga teacher Shriram Sarvotham says, “We cannot directly force or demand peace of mind but we can prepare the mind to become still.” Meditation lets you prepare that inner stillness.
Take a look at my guide to using meditation for inner peace.
Meditation helps us find our purpose in life
This one is from personal experience and also from many friends and meditation teachers whom I have spoken to through the years. General consensus is that when you meditate you remove the noise in your mind and you begin to zero-in on what truly matters. This helps you to find and to live your life purpose.
Meditation allows us to discover consciousness beyond ego
Have you ever experienced a moment when it felt like you stepped outside of yourself? Perhaps you saw a truly beautiful scene, like an eclipse or a stunning sunset. And it took your breath away. And for a moment you forgot yourself and felt as though you were one with the universe. That is an example of living beyond your own ego.
The average person filters reality through their ego. They have their own concepts of good and bad. They think only about things as relates to themselves. They do not simply allow the universe to exist in its purest sense.
When you practice meditation you silence your mind and come to experience the pure reality of existence. It is a heightened state. It’s a state where you live in equanimity and complete tranquility. And it is one of the most pleasurable benefits of meditation.
How do you get to that point of consciousness beyond ego? Read my guide to finding enlightenment and I will show you the way.
Meditation makes us more enlightened
To a Buddhist, the ultimate purpose of meditation is to achieve enlightenment. This is a point at which you experience personal liberation and transcend to a higher state of existence.
Enlightenment is marked by oneness, the complete release from ego. But you might ask, “does oneness really exist?” And that is an absolutely fascinating question scientifically. Scientific research shows that both the state of oneness and the opposite, duality, are actually illusions of the mind. You can read more about this in my article on oneness. Take a look.
Meditation increases self actualisation
Self actualisation means to achieve your full potential. It’s a term that psychologist Abraham Maslow came up with in 1954 when he wrote the Hierarchy of Needs, which you might have hear about. Maslow stated that only one in a hundred people ever achieve self actualization and that those people share many things in common, such as an ability to see life clearly and to put other people above themselves.
Maslow taught that to become self actualized you should live fully, be honest in your choices, appreciate your own uniqueness, act with integrity, be courageous, work towards your one ultimate goal, experience moments of pure peace, and let go of ego. And as we have seen, meditation can help with many of these things, such as living fully, experiencing serenity, and living beyond ego.
Meditation improves synchronicity with life.
One of the good things about meditation that is hard to prove as fact is the idea that meditation increases synchronicity.
Synchronicity is all about moments when things happen out of the ordinary. For instance, you and your friend happen to send each other texts out of the blue at the very same time. Coincidence? Or something more? Very difficult to prove either way.
Licensed clinical psychologist Robert Puff Ph.D says, “I believe that synchronous events happen more often when we’re meditating. Why? Here’s my theory: The central goal of meditation is to help you slow down, quiet your mind, and be still. As you develop your practice, as you learn to slow down, and as you quiet your mind, you may find that synchronous events begin to increase. Because meditation is such a powerful change agent and improves your life, I sometimes wonder if the universe or God is giving back to us to let us know that we are on the right track and remind us to keep meditating.”
Source: Psychology Today
Meditation helps us forgive
Another way meditation will help you is by promoting forgiveness. Forgiveness is one of the most important traits in the world. I’ve written an in-depth article about why forgiveness is so important in life. Essentially, the more you forgive the better your relationships will be and the less anger you will have.
What does forgiveness have to do with meditation? When you practice mindfulness meditation you give your mind a chance to stop. This, for starters, lets you take an emotional breather and gives you the chance to look at your emotions in a new light. You then become conscious of your personal prejudices and of any resentments that you might have going on. Research has shown that when you are mindful of your emotions like this you give yourself control over your emotions. And this helps you to stop feeling angry at people and to forgive them.
Source: Own experience and from teaching meditation. For more see, Meditation For Forgiveness.
Mindfulness and Vipassana meditation make you wiser
People tend to assume that wisdom comes from old age, even though this often is not the case. And there are many other things that can make you wise. Meditation being one of them.
The study “The Relationship between Mental and Somatic Practices and Wisdom” confirmed that meditation will make you wiser. The researchers studied 298 participants and asked about their experiences in the Alexander Technique (which is used for good posture), the Feldenkrais Method (a form of somatic education), meditation and… ballet. The participants also completed a psychological questionnaire to determine how wise they were.
It turns out that meditation makes you wiser. But interestingly, so does ballet. The researchers also looked at which meditation practices were best for wisdom. They found that the best meditation techniques for wisdom are Vipassana and mindfulness.
Source: University of Chicago
And of course
The Huge benefits of Meditation For Athletes
Colombian weightlifter Oscar Figueroa, British Olympic diver Tom Daley, and American gymnast Gabby Douglas all come from different walks of life, and they all compete in very different Olympic events. But when it comes to Rio 2016, they all share one thing in common: they have the weight of their countries on their shoulders, and millions of people expecting them to perform to their best potential in the most heated battled in the world of sports: the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
The sheer weight on these athletes’ shoulders would be enough to crush a mere mortal. But Olympians like Tom Daley, Gabby Douglas, and Oscar Figueroa are not your average humans. For countless years they’ve been training ready for the Olympics. They’ve trained their bodies to become the ultimate fitness athletes. And they’ve trained their minds too, using everything from positive affirmations to visualisations to get their heads in the game.
And as we now enter the Olympics, there’s one things that’s clear. No matter what sport you do, meditation will help you to do it even better.
Weightlifting, diving, and gymnastics require very different training regimes that focus on different disciplines, gymnastics focusing on balance, physical flexibility and grace; diving focusing on split-second movements to get the body into the right position to perform aerobatic displays; and weight-lifting focusing on sheer strength and determination.
But what weightlifting, diving, and gymnastic have in common is this: When the stage is set and the thousands of audience members gaze down on them, the athletes have to fight away the social pressure and anxiety. They have to focus absolutely on the task at hand. They have to be in the moment, ready to perform.
It’s a skill every single one of us could use. We might not be Olympic athletes, but life throws stress at us no matter who we are. The ability to focus single-mindedly on the task at hand is a key strength. When the mind focuses all energy on one objective, we tap into our innate mental and physical strength, and we can overcome all challenges.
To establish this mental strength, this Zen-like focus and single-minded determination, athletes like Tom Daley, Gabby Douglas and Oscar Figueroa turn to meditation, the 2500 year old practice that has been scientifically proven to strengthen the mind and to focus our attention like an arrow so we can put all our energy into the one thing we are doing at any given time.
Oscar Figueroa came to Rio 2016 with the weight of the world on his shoulders. A silver-medalist in London 2012, Figueroa was hotly anticipated to take home a medal, despite the fact that he had to fight his way back into competition in January after a back operation.
Surrounded by 60KG weights and biceps so large they’d impress even Hulk Hogan himself, Oscar Figueroa finds inspiration from a much quieter source: nature. His love of nature helps him to overcome the pressure his country puts on him.
Speaking to Rio2016.com, Oscar Figueroa says, “There’s a lot of pressure because the Colombian public have very high expectations of their weightlifters and they expect great results.” It’s here that the importance of meditation for athletes become clear. All athletes face pressure. How d they overcome it? “I meditate a lot and I like to be in regular contact with nature,” Figueroa says.
Despite the fact that Oscar Figueroa walked into Rio 2016 off of a back injury, and with many people doubting his ability to compete, he lifted a staggering 318KG to take home the gold. It goes to show, no matter how strong a person’s body might be, mental strength is equally important, even in an event like weightlifting.
Same thing for Tom Daley
Daley is regarded as the best diver in Great Britain, and every British diving fan is placing their faith in Tom Daley’s abilities.
Having competed at London 2012, where he took home the Bronze for the 10m platform event, Tom Daley knew full well the burden of stress and anxiety that such a gargantuan event can place on a person. This time he came prepared.
To help get his mind into the right space, Tom Daley has been using a meditation app called Headspace. In an article on ESPN.co.uk, Tom Daley says, “I massively recommend [the Headspace app]. Lots of the English Institute of Sport guys are actually using it. It’s helped me massively.”
Headspace uses basic meditations to help an athlete (or anyone else seeking relaxation and focus) to get into the moment and to calm their mind. “It’s mainly focusing on my breathing, being completely in the moment and not getting ahead of myself,” says Daley. “Not focusing on things that have been and gone. If I do a bad dive, that’s in the past, move on. The next dive is a completely separate thing. It’s just about being really present in a particular moment.”
The state of being ‘present in a particular moment’ that Tom Daley mentions here is known as Present Moment Mindfulness and is famously taught by meditation teachers around the world. Present Moment Mindfulness helps to silence thoughts so that consciousness is focused on the reality of the moment. In other words, is about focusing on what’s happening in the moment.
Tom Daley compliments the Headspace app with other meditation techniques. “Every morning I do 10 minutes of mindfulness where I do meditation and I use that in competition and every day life. I’m getting better and better in being able to zone in on what I need to focus on.” That’s one of the best things about Headspace; it can readily be used in conjunction with other meditation techniques.
Daley has been using Headspace for several months and says he has seen serious improvements in his mental state. “I started at the beginning of this year and I’ve done it every day since. It’s helped me massively and I feel like that’s one of the reasons why this year I’ve been the most consistent that I’ve been in competition.”
This new mental headspace helped Tom Daley to secure the bronze for the Men’s synchronised 10m platform event.
Gabby Douglas knows all about the pressures of the Olympics. She was only 16 when she competed at the 2012 London Olympic Games, where she became the first African-American woman to win the all-around title.
Coming to Rio 2016 as an accomplished 20 year old already with a gold medal to her name, the pressure on Gabby Douglas is different this time around. Gone are the nerves of the unexpected. Here are the nerves of an athlete expected to come in one of the top positions of the fiercely competitive women’s gymnastics competitions.
Gabby Douglas has specific techniques for handling the pressures and stress of the Olympics. She makes sure to ignore any negative comments, and to only listen to positive ones.
Speaking to People.com, Gabby Douglas says, “When I go on my Instagram or Twitter, for the most part I see comments like “I love you!” or “first like!” or something like that,” she says. “I have no idea where to go and find negative naysayers.”
Bolstering this ability to zone-out negativity is a meditation practice that Gabby Douglas firmly believes in. Before her events start, Douglas makes sure to clear her mind of thoughts and to focus on the present moment. “I love just meditating on scripture,” she says. “The one I love says, ‘I’ve crossed the finish line, I’ve done everything that I’ve done, and now waiting for me is a gold at the end of the day.’ ”
Douglas, Daley, and Figueroa all advocate the importance of meditation for athletes. When you’re training day in day out, thinking about that important final day, the day when you’ll be put to the test, when all the weight will be firmly on your shoulders, the best thing to do is to know how to zone-out the noise and focus on the task at hand.
It’s a skill we could all use a little more of.
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Personally I think we owe it to ourselves to meditate once a day. But of course that is entirely your choice.
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