Mindfulness has become somewhat of a buzzword in recent years. Everybody seems to talk about it. But what’s the need to practice mindfulness meditation? Why should you spend your time sitting on a cushion with your eyes closed? In this article, we’ll discuss why practicing mindfulness can help you live the life you want.
You should practice mindfulness meditation because it offers many physical, mental, and emotional benefits backed by science. It’s also an excellent way to progress spiritually, which is actually its true purpose. But you can benefit tremendously from meditation, even if you’re not into spiritual self-exploration.
So what are the benefits of meditation? How does it help you discover your true nature? Read on to learn how regular meditation affects your daily life.
10 reasons to practice meditation
Meditation has a lot of short-term and long-term benefits. Many studies have revealed that regular practice of meditation rewires neural pathways in the brain and also increases grey matter and thickens certain regions in it.(1) (2) Here are some scientific benefits of meditation you’ll notice in your daily life once you start practicing it regularly:
- Decreased stress and anxiety: Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation reduces the inflammation response caused by stress. Mindfulness techniques are even prescribed to patients suffering panic attacks or anxiety disorders with decent success rates. (3) (4)
- Improved emotional well-being: Meditation increases your emotional stability. It helps you handle your emotions in a better way by teaching you to notice and accept whatever arises without judging or acting on it.(5)
- Enhanced self-awareness: Meditation helps you develop greater awareness of your thoughts, emotions, and actions. By cultivating mindfulness, you can recognize and let go of self-defeating or harmful thought patterns.(6)
- Improved sleep: If you struggle with a lack of sleep and find yourself tossing and turning in bed, meditation can improve your sleep quality.(7) Meditating before going to bed is an excellent way to fall asleep quickly and easily.
- Reduced brain aging: The brain gets older and loses its abilities as people age. Meditation can keep your brain younger by reducing brain aging.(8) To experience this, you’ll have to meditate regularly for a few years.
- Improved focus and attention: Meditation improves cognition and increases your ability to perform tasks requiring focus. Only four days of mindfulness practice increases your focus and attention.(9)
- You’ll be more compassionate: As we’ve seen, meditators are better at regulating their thoughts and emotions. Consequently, they’re also kinder and more empathetic toward others.(10)
- Reduced chattering of the mind: The mind mostly broods over the past or worries about the future. Meditation reduces the brain’s chattering and quiets the voice in the head, allowing you to be happier and present in the moment.(11)
- Clearer thinking: Regular meditation practice clears the mind of harmful thoughts, beliefs, and other unnecessary garbage. This allows your mind to focus on what is useful and important.(9)
- Improved physical health: Meditators usually have lower heart rates, balanced blood pressure, improved sleep, and better immunity. These things make you physically healthier and fitter.(13)
Meditation and spirituality
You can practice meditation just as a mental exercise, but it also has a spiritual aspect to it. It plays a crucial role in the path of spirituality. All the eastern religions give utmost importance to meditation and other mindfulness practices.
There are many ways to look at the aim or destination of one’s spiritual journey, but all definitions point to the same thing. Buddha defines the end goal as the cessation of all suffering. Whereas the Hindu scriptures say that meditation results in a state of union or oneness with everything around us.
We’ve all had this experience of oneness from time to time, however fleeting it may have been. Sometimes we listen to a beautiful song and get completely lost in it, free of “me” thoughts. Or we witness breathtaking natural beauty and, just for a split second, we’re free of our egos and feel one with everything around us. All our problems, worries, and anxieties melt, and we’re at peace.
These experiences can be termed as glimpses of the other side. Meditation can help you attain that calm, blessed state of the union. It can dissolve your ego and all the drama that comes with it. To learn more about this goal of meditation, read the article on the true purpose of meditation.
How to get started with meditation
You can meditate in many ways. Usually, you’ll find people focusing on their breath, chanting a mantra, listening to a sound, or noticing body sensations. All of these techniques are correct and have the same goal. Anything that forces you to focus your mind on something and let go of other thoughts or emotions is meditation.
I recommend you start with breath meditation as it’s simple and easy to learn. Here’s how you do it:
- Set a timer for 10 to 20 minutes.
- Spread a mat on the floor and sit cross-legged on it. If you can’t do that, sit on a chair.
- Make sure you’re comfortable, and the room is quiet. Trust me, the voice inside your head is loud enough. You don’t want other disturbances.
- Sit upright with your back straight. Keep your neck straight and rest your hands in your lap. Don’t place your wrists on your knees by straightening the elbows. That’s not how you meditate.
- Your palms should be one on top of the other, facing upward.
- You can close your eyes or keep them slightly open. If they’re open, direct your gaze at about four fingers away from your nose. Don’t focus on anything.
- Take a few deep breaths from your belly. Settle your mind and relax, but don’t let go of the posture.
- Now, breathe in through your nose and notice the sensations at your nostrils. You can also notice the rise and fall of your belly button.
- Stay with your breath and don’t chase any thoughts. Keep breathing and focus your mind on your nostrils or stomach.
In the beginning, you won’t be able to hold your awareness for more than a few seconds. Many thoughts and distractions will pop up, and you’ll get drifted away without even noticing. This is perfectly normal.
Take it as a given that you’ll only meditate about 2-3% of the time. The rest of the time, your mind will keep thinking about your ex, job, money, market, etc. The effort of meditation lies in bringing the mind back to your breath repeatedly.
Also, it’s easy to get started with meditation, but difficult to stick with it and be regular. To help you with this, I’ve discussed tips to make meditation a daily habit. Some other helpful articles are a guide to meditation posture and mindfulness meditation explained.
Mindfulness meditation is a wonderful tool to better understand ourselves and the world. It enhances the functions of our brain and increases our emotional intelligence. Although the scientific studies aren’t comprehensive and more quality research is needed, meditation has no side-effects, so you should certainly try it.
For starters, just think of meditation as a gym for your mind. The best thing about this gym is that it costs nothing, and you can do it anywhere you want.
If you want to get into meditation, I recommend you explore the meditation FAQ category. I’ve answered many questions that beginners have as they try to incorporate meditation into their lives. You can also find in-depth articles teaching fundamentals of meditation.
I hope this article inspired you to start your meditation journey. Good luck. 😊
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|2.||↑||Luders, E., Toga, A. W., Lepore, N., & Gaser, C. (2009). The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter. NeuroImage, 45(3), 672–678.|
|3.||↑||Melissa A. Rosenkranz, Richard J. Davidson, Donal G. MacCoon, John F. Sheridan, Ned H. Kalin, & Antoin Lutza (2013). A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 27, 174-184|
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|10.||↑||Berry, D. R., Cairo, A. H., Goodman, R. J., Quaglia, J. T., Green, J. D., & Brown, K. W. (2018). Mindfulness increases prosocial responses toward ostracized strangers through empathic concern. Journal of experimental psychology. General, 147(1), 93–112.|
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