The powerful effects of meditation have now been proven by numerous studies. The overwhelming evidence has led scientists to suggest that if meditation was available in pill form, it would be the biggest selling drug of all time!
The number one reason why people are not meditating is procrastination. They are putting it off to a future time when their lives will not be so busy and full of distractions. The truth is, that time will never come. So, if you have been making excuses not to find 10 minutes a day to meditate, here are some compelling reasons to start cultivating the habit today!
1. Meditation reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and boosts immunity.
Given that stress is an epidemic problem in our modern society, and the negative impact of stress on mind and body, this benefit is an important place to start. Stress plays a role in many physical symptoms such as chronic pain and inflammatory conditions, so meditation can help manage them. Studies have also shown that meditation not only helps manage hypertension but can actually treat heart disease. It is also well established that when we meditate, our bodies shift into self-repair mode, and our production of endorphins dramatically increases, as does immunity-boosting hormones, such as melatonin, which destroys harmful free radicals.
2. Meditation slows ageing and reduces mortality.
Telomeres are found at the end of each chromosome in our bodies, protecting them from deterioration. As we age, our telomeres get shorter, but meditation can improve telomerase activity, an enzyme that helps rebuild them. Also, the only hormone known to decrease directly with age, DHEA, has been shown to increase through meditation. DHEA protects us from heart disease, fights bacteria and viruses, and has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which are critical in preventing many illnesses.
3. Meditation promotes good sleep, and emotional resilience.
Meditation promotes healthy melatonin levels which are important for managing stress and getting a good night’s sleep. It can thus help overcome disrupted sleeping patterns, help people get to sleep more easily, sleep for longer and reduce the use of sleep medication. During the day, meditators are less reactive, and respond more rationally, rather than emotionally, to situations. Enhanced emotional regulation allows us to get along better with each other, and workplaces are happier and more efficient all round. As our mind becomes calmer and more stable, we are better at dealing with the inevitable ups and downs in life.
4. Meditation improves mental clarity, working memory and performance.
Mental clarity is one of the defining experiences of all meditators. Focusing attention on just one thing over a sustained period of time goes against all our mental conditioning. For most people, every minute their minds are rapidly switching from subject to subject, and their attention is divided between many different things simultaneously. Meditation allows us to experience the space between the distractions, and intrusive thoughts become briefer in duration and further between. Paying attention to the present moment deliberately and non-judgementally in meditation makes us better at paying attention generally to what’s happening, and so we’re more likely to remember it later. This improves our academic performance and productivity at work.
5. Meditation helps break tough habits and increases self-compassion.
Many people engage in addictive behaviours such as overeating, smoking or substance abuse. Emotional factors are a critical reason people struggle to break tough habits. Mindfulness meditation allows us to see thoughts as just thoughts, not concrete facts or truths, and this diminishes their emotional impact. As our awareness of thought and bodily sensations increases, habitual responses are quickly extinguished. Many of us direct our most judgemental attitudes towards ourselves. An over-identification with self can manifest as arrogance, a sense of being superior to others, or its opposite, poor self-esteem. Meditators recognise that this false sense of self is nothing more than thought created in the mind. Inner space consciousness, an awareness of the space between thoughts, is where you discover your authentic self.
6. Meditation rewires the brain for happiness.
Meditation not only helps prevent the relapse of depression, and manage and prevent anxiety, it actually rewires the brain for happiness. Neuroscientific research has shown that the brain circuits of emotionally distressed people are most active in the right prefrontal cortex. In contrast, when people are happy and energised, the activity shifts to the left prefrontal cortex. Each person has a set point towards either the right or left side. Meditation can cause a shift from the negative, right side of the spectrum towards the left. Through neuroplasticity, the brain continues to evolve and opens up new neural pathways, physically reshaping our brains.
Michie, D. (2014). Why mindfulness is better than chocolate. Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin.
Murphy, M., & Donovan, S. (1997). The physical and psychological effects of meditation: A review of contemporary research with a comprehensive bibliography, 1931-1996. Petaluma, California: Institute of Noetic Sciences.