Top 10 Science-Backed Health Benefits Of Meditation
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- What Is Meditation? Meditation Explained
- Top 10 Science-Backed Health Benefits Of Meditation
- 1. Meditation For Anxiety
- 2. Meditation For Sleep
- 3. Meditation For Kids
- 4. Meditation For Weight Loss
- 5. Meditation For Pain
- 6. Meditation For Depression
- 7. Meditation For Focus
- 8. Meditation For Awareness
- 9. Meditation For Hypertension
- 10. Meditation For Addiction
- Meditation For Beginners Breakdown
Believe it or not, the words “meditation” and “science” are not always mutually exclusive. Sometimes, there are benefits to meditation that genuinely transfer to the world around us, and which help us govern our actions and conduct ourselves properly. It’s not always purely medical or health-related, and it sometimes touches on the metaphysical, which is why some may discount it as rubbish. These are our top 10 science-backed health benefits of meditation.
Science isn’t everything; people have agendas; it’s easy to manipulate or misrepresent studies. This is my mindset, by and large. I, for one, didn’t require the medical sciences’ stamp of approval, nor their validation of the benefits I was experiencing. When I first started meditating, the day-in-day-out practice of zazen was clearly helpful and beneficial for me. And I don’t think I am alone there.
Some are terribly rigid and exceedingly suspicious in their approach to traditional medicines or alternative practices. But even if science is entirely where you place your faith and trust, meditation has a few scientifically-backed gems up its sleeve.
What Is Meditation? Meditation Explained
Forget the dictionary definition for now. Meditation is about one’s core humanity. Whether through chanting, staring, humming, breathing, moving, speaking, or staying completely still and silent – it’s about excavation. About nothing and everything. Contending with self (at times seriously submitting to the universe around you), and exploring deeper and more subtle expressions of who and what you are.
It’s about one’s perspective, and about the very existence of being. Awareness – particularly awareness of the self – means everything. It’s akin to truth, and I find truth to possibly be the most powerful thing in the world. Despite its importance, many choose to reject this power and forsake the excavation.
Does all this borderline-New-Age-ish talk sound like something that science can measure? Well, yes and no. Brain waves can still be measured, as can heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, sleep, pain management, and a host of other significant indicators of health and wellness. So yeah, there is some science in it after all.
Speaking of science, let’s talk apps. There are so many apps out there, many of them free (with the option of purchasing extra content), which can help you to meditate. Everything from chants and mantras, to breathing exercises and guided meditations, and so on. If you are experiencing difficulties starting on your own, do yourself a favor and download a free app or two to get you going. It can make the practice significantly easier, and take some of the weight off your shoulders as you strive to establish a healthy routine.
Top 10 Science-Backed Health Benefits Of Meditation
1. Meditation For Anxiety
Stress and anxiety are at the root of certain physical ailments and conditions. The levels of the hormone cortisol, your body’s “stress hormone”, can be lowered through the ongoing practice of meditation.
2. Meditation For Sleep
Getting quality sleep is a cornerstone of healthy living, and is a staple of wellness and vitality throughout the world. Meditation can help those who practice it to fall asleep sooner and sleep better and longer overall.
3. Meditation For Kids
Discipline and structure are paramount when it comes to children. Kids thrive on routine, more often than not, and it helps to sustain them and keep them oriented. Meditation can help develop concentration, memory, skills, and learning abilities.
4. Meditation For Weight Loss
Diet and exercise help you to lose weight and get fit. Those are the main components of any long-term plan or goal. Meditation can help sustain that routine, process related emotions, and introduce more awareness, kindness, patience, improved breathing – all of which help keep you from yo-yo-ing or spiraling.
5. Meditation For Pain
Practices such as mindfulness meditation have been particularly successful in pain management (mostly in tandem with ordinary treatment). The areas of the brain which are associated with pain and the processing of pain are affected by meditation, and this can produce some serious results.
6. Meditation For Depression
Emotional pain and depression can be caused due to a wide range of reasons, some more identifiable and/or treatable than others. Meditation, especially long-term practice, has the potential to increase positive emotions and reduce negative emotions, directly affecting mood, behavior, and quality of life.
7. Meditation For Focus
I mentioned focus and attention with children. With adults it’s the same deal: concentration, memory, attention – these can all be greatly enhanced with the power of meditation. Plus, it’s one of the most visible benefits of meditation, and it can be acquired rather quickly (compared to other benefits).
8. Meditation For Awareness
Meditation can raise your awareness, even during times when you are not meditating. Many times, self-awareness brings with it a measure of kindness, compassion, and empathy – all of which help to prolong life and improve its quality, by avoiding anger, aggression, and unnecessary conflict.
9. Meditation For Hypertension
Riding on the back of several of the previously mentioned benefits, we have this one: reduced blood pressure. Meditation has been linked to lower blood pressure, especially among those who already have a condition of hypertension. When you are in a relaxed state of being, the body relaxes more easily.
10. Meditation For Addiction
Again, it’s important to reiterate that meditation is not a cure-all, and it is best when you pair it with ordinary treatment (in the case of illness and ailment), under the supervision of a medical professional. Addiction is still classified as a disease by many professionals, so treat it as such. Get the help you need.
Meditation For Beginners Breakdown
How to begin? Where to start? Why even bother with it? Is it worth my time and energy?
These are examples of questions that some people may bring up when they approach the topic. There is no one-size-fits-all answer since it is really personal. You have people who have been meditating for decades and reaping the rewards. On the other side of the spectrum, you have people like Gary Vaynerchuck who says he doesn’t meditate since he finds he does not have to. He also says his head is already set up, and he doesn’t want to mess with it.
Don’t rush yourself. Better to practice 2 to 10 minutes daily, than undergo an intense hour-long session once a week. Repetition and routines are character-building elements of life, and when you set meditation as part of your daily schedule, it can make a huge difference (sometimes quicker than you imagine, and perhaps in stranger ways).
If you are just starting out with meditation, here are a few meditation techniques for beginners:
Sit down, back straight, eyes closed, and breathe through your nose and out your mouth. Focus on your breaths, notice as they enter, circulate, enliven you, and exit your physical body transformed. Embrace the whole “in with the good air, out with the bad air” thing. No counting breaths or breathing differently.
Remain silent and still, eyes open. Find a focal point of some kind in the space around you, and observe it. It can be literally anything that remains somewhat static, and which acts as a point of return. A candle’s flame or trickle of running water are both classic focal points.
This one is about being aware of the mind, body, thoughts, actions, and the world around us and inside us. Feelings, ideas, wonderments, “brain chatter” – like waves on the sea which rise and fall. With practice, one can achieve a balance and get to know themselves, while exploring the patterns and behaviors of their own psyche.
Get a good chair or pillow, especially if you want to practice mediation long-term. A healthy mind in a healthy body is a powerful combo, and while investing in an accessory may seem frivolous or unnecessary to some – after all, you can meditate anywhere using anything – for those who are serious about it, it can be a real game-changer.
So, back to the notion of scientific research backing-up meditation practices. I believe that whether we are aware of it or not, certain agendas are being promoted for the sake of marketing. Not in a “conspiracy theory” kind of way, but in a very blunt way – companies want to make a profit, so they will order this study or another.
Meditation has been around long before modern science poked its head ‘round the door. Now, even though meditation has “rank” over science – chronologically speaking – that’s not enough to automatically make it better or more accurate.
There is a reason why meditation is still being practiced, though. In some cases, meditation has remained unchanged for thousands of years. There is something there that transcends science and nature itself since it touches on the human being’s spiritual nature, and on its metaphysical being.
Don’t ask yourself: should I be meditating. Start. Start with a two-minute daily session of ordinary breathing. Do that for 21 days, or 60 days, or 90 days, or however long you wish. The more you practice it, the more embedded the routine becomes in your mind and body. You’ll find yourself looking forward to it.