Meditation is now more popular than ever. Many of us want to start our mindfulness journey but aren’t sure if it’s worth it. We want to be certain about the benefits we’ll experience and the time it’ll take to get there. In this article, we’ll discuss how your physical, mental, and emotional well-being improves after meditating for 21 days.
This is one of the several posts where we discuss the benefits of meditation after a certain period. Keep in mind that these benefits aren’t guaranteed. Several factors affect your progress in meditation, such as:
- Your time spent meditating: This one’s obvious. The more you meditate, the more you benefit from it.
- Your chosen meditation practice: Different techniques affect the brain slightly differently. Choose from mindfulness, loving-kindness, Tonglen, or mantra meditation.
- The quality of your practice: This is determined by your posture, outer environment, willingness to learn, and technique.
- How you spend the rest of your day: It’s not just about sitting on the cushion for half an hour. You also have to conduct yourself mindfully throughout the day.
Regardless of these factors, we can have a general idea of what you’ll experience in the first few weeks. Researchers have conducted many studies to back the claims about meditation. Here’s what happens when you meditate every day for 21 days:
1. You’re less stressed
Stress is often seen as a negative emotion, but it’s also inevitable. This means healthily coping with stress is the best we can do.
Research shows that mindfulness meditation improves our coping abilities and reduces perceived stress. The more time you spend meditating, the more intensely it affects you.(1)
Studies also show that even a single session of mindfulness meditation can reduce stress. Preliminary evidence suggests practicing it for a week leads to a significant decrease in anxiety. The researchers also found a reduction in stress on organs like the kidneys and the brain. This shows that meditation helps prevent conditions such as hypertension.
Takeaway: After meditating for 21 days, your stress and anxiety levels will decrease. You’ll start feeling lighter and calmer in situations where you would otherwise flip.
2. You sleep better
Many of us have trouble sleeping at night because of intrusive thoughts. We keep tossing and turning, sometimes for hours. Mindfulness meditation reduces the number of random thoughts we have, allowing us to fall asleep more easily.
Studies also show that meditation is effective in the treatment of insomnia. Many therapists suggest the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program to patients of insomnia.(2) If you use meditation apps, you’ll find guided audio recordings and soundscapes designed to lull you to sleep.
Takeaway: This is one of the most noticeable benefits of meditation. You’ll find yourself falling asleep more quickly after a few weeks of practice.
3. Your focus and attention improve
This is one of the obvious benefits of meditation. It improves your concentration and attention-span by training the mind to focus on a single object.
A study found that just two weeks of meditation training improved focus and working memory of GRE students. They experienced decreased mind-wandering and increased cognitive performance. As a result, they scored better in the verbal reasoning test than non-meditators. (3)
Short-term meditators are also able to sustain their concentration with more accuracy and longevity.(4)
Takeaway: Meditating every day for 21 days will enhance your focus and attention. These benefits may not be immediately clear, but they’ll become more noticeable if you keep practicing.
4. You’re more peaceful
Meditation has a calming effect on the mind. It clears your head and allows you to deal with situations gracefully. Peace of mind is one of the biggest reasons why people turn to meditation.
Research shows that regular meditation decreases activity in the default mode network. The DMN is the brain network linked with mind-wandering. It’s the “me center” of the brain—the “monkey mind.” Since a wandering mind is an unhappy mind, you want your DMN activity to be as little as possible.
Studies show that meditation does just this. And even when the mind wanders, meditators are better at controlling and directing their thoughts. They find it easier to snap out of it.(5)
Takeaway: Meditation makes you calmer. In 21 days, you’ll notice that you’re more composed throughout the day than before.
5. Your brain chemistry starts changing
Scientists have studied the neurophysiological relationship between breathing and sharpness of mind. Research reveals that breathing affects the levels of noradrenaline in the brain. It’s a chemical messenger that’s released when we’re curious, challenged, or focused. It can help the brain grow new, powerful connections if produced at optimal levels.(6)
Mindfulness has also been found to increase cortical thickness in key areas of the brain. It increases the volume of the hippocampus, which is associated with learning and memory. At the same time, it decreases the size of the amygdala, which is related to fear and aggression.(7)
Takeaway: Meditation leads to many positive changes in brain structure. In 21 days, you should start seeing some of these benefits. You’ll be relatively less aggressive and your learning ability will start improving.
6. Your physical health improves
Meditation affects your physical health because the mind has a direct impact on the body. Practicing mindfulness improves blood flow, strengthens the immune system, and balances blood pressure.
We’ve seen how meditation reduces stress levels in the body. Stress reduction results in better immunity, higher energy levels, and a healthier heart. And you probably already know how crucial sleep is for the body.
Apart from that, meditation also helps the body work against pain and discomfort. It prepares the mind for recovery and helps control pain.(8)
Takeaway: Coupled with exercise, meditating every day improves your physical wellbeing too. You should start noticing minor changes after a few weeks of practice.
7. You’re more patient
One of the side effects of meditation is that it slows you down. That might sound like a bad thing, but it’s not. Slowing down your thought process helps you make clear decisions. It also makes you more patient with yourself and others.
Patience isn’t something we create or develop; it’s already there. A calm and clear mind is a patient mind. We only have to let go of impatience, which means letting go of the inner noise. Mindfulness helps us regain our innate calm and patience.
Takeaway: Meditation increases your patience by clearing your mind. You won’t get angry like you used to waiting in a traffic jam. Your thoughts will be clearer, and your speech may slow down as well.
8. You build a habit of meditation
Sticking to meditation for three weeks straight helps you make it a daily habit. I’m not saying that it takes 21 days to build a new habit—that’s a myth. It can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to ingrain a new habit. But meditating daily for 21 days is a good start. By then, you’ll have figured out how to fit meditation into your routine. You’ll know whether you want to do it at night, or before or after your shower, coffee, or workout.
Also, if you’re struggling to meditate daily, read the article on 10 practical tips to make meditation a daily habit. It’ll help you plan your daily routine and stick to your practice.
Takeaway: Meditating every day for 21 days sets the foundation for daily meditation practice.
Meditation is a gradual process. The tendencies of the mind are as old as time. So it takes a lot of time and effort to gain control over the monkey mind.
However, the benefits of meditation start showing up just after a few weeks of practice. Several studies have documented remarkable transformation within weeks or even days.
I hope this article has inspired you to start your meditation journey. Good luck.
|1.||↑||Tsukasa Kato, Masako Kadota, Shunsuke Shimoda. (2019) Effects of Coping Flexibility in Young Women on Depressive Symptoms during Chronic Pain. Behavioral Medicine 0:0, pages 1-9.|
|2.||↑||Martires, Joanne; Zeidler, Michelle The value of mindfulness meditation in the treatment of insomnia, Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine: November 2015 – Volume 21 – Issue 6 – p 547-552|
|3.||↑||Mrazek, M. D., Franklin, M. S., Phillips, D. T., Baird, B., & Schooler, J. W. (2013). Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering. Psychological Science, 24(5), 776–781.|
|4.||↑||Valentine, Elizabeth & Sweet, Philip. (1999). Meditation and attention: A comparison of the effects of concentrative and mindfulness meditation on sustained attention. Mental Health, Religion & Culture. 2. 59-70.|
|5.||↑||Brewer, J. A., Worhunsky, P. D., Gray, J. R., Tang, Y. Y., Weber, J., & Kober, H. (2011). Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(50), 20254–20259.|
|6.||↑||Christopher Melnychuk, M, Dockree, PM, O’Connell, RG, Murphy, PR, Balsters, JH, Robertson, IH. Coupling of respiration and attention via the locus coeruleus: Effects of meditation and pranayama. Psychophysiology. 2018; 55:e13091.|
|7.||↑||Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry research, 191(1), 36–43.|
|8.||↑||Zeidan, F., Gordon, N. S., Merchant, J., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). The effects of brief mindfulness meditation training on experimentally induced pain. The journal of pain: official journal of the American Pain Society, 11(3), 199–209.|