Starting a meditative practice is one of the single best things you can do for yourself. Meditation has been scientifically proven to improve mental health in a whole host of ways, improve your physical health, and even help slow aging. Whatever you’re up against in life, whether you’re dealing with depression and anxiety or just want to improve your health, meditation can help.
If that’s not enough to convince you, here are ten reasons you should meditate, with a ton of great scientific studies for you to check out if you want some extended reading!
1. Chill Out
When it comes to managing stress, meditation is one of the best tools out there. Meditation activates your vagal nerve, which is involved in your fight-or-flight response and helps to slow your heart rate in stressful situations. In addition to teaching you tools to physically calm you down, meditation can literally shrink your amygdala, which also plays a role in your fight-or-flight reaction. Meditation also helps you regulate your emotions better so you’re less likely to sweat the small things.
2. Be Happier
If you’ve been feeling down lately and you’re looking for a way to boost the positivity in your life, mediation can help with that, too. Having a meditation practice, especially loving-kindness meditation, actually induces positive emotions. By drawing your attention to things which cause you joy and happiness and allowing yourself to really dwell in those moments, you’re teaching your brain what to focus on. In fact, meditation actually begins to rewire your brain so that positive emotions come more easily.
3. Beat Procrastination
A recent study found that there’s an inverse relationship between mindfulness and procrastination. This suggests that, rather than being a time-management issue, procrastination is actually rooted in your emotional response. If you perceive your to-do list in a negative way, it’s natural that you put things off. When you practice meditation, you’re better able to recognize negative emotions and consciously adjust your attitude.
4. Deal with Depression
The relationship between meditation and depression has been (and continues to be) a hot topic. In fact, out of all of meditation’s benefits, its most profound effects are on depression (followed closely by anxiety and pain relief). Along with the prescription of antidepressants, the main treatment for depression is increasingly Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which is an effective form of cognitive behavioral therapy modeled off of mindfulness meditation. A regular meditation practice has even been found to be just as effective as therapy alone.
5. Live Longer
If you’re interested in anti-aging techniques and longevity, you should be meditating. Studies show that meditation can reduce blood pressure and ultimately decreases mortality rates. Meditation, specifically loving-kindness meditation, is also associated with longer telomeres, which are a biological age marker. Stress shortens your telomeres, but people with a steady meditative practice have been found to have longer telomeres. Meditation can help your body stay healthy and youthful even while you age.
6. Bulk Up Your Brain
Meditation can help your brain in a bunch of different ways. It’s been shown to help your attention span, memory, and neuroplasticity. One study found that people with a lasting meditative practice had increased gray matter in their brains. This is associated with optimism and greater emotional control. Meditation acts as a kind of brain hack, making improvements in different sections that help you to be more focused and effective in any task.
7. Tap Into Your Creative Side
You don’t have to be an artist to benefit from creativity. Whether you’re painting a picture or solving complex problems, creative thinkers tend to have an edge, and meditation can help sharpen it. Even just participating in a single, short-term meditation session can improve your performance in tasks requiring a creative approach. As it turns out, meditation can work just as well as angst for channeling your creative side.
8. Build Stronger Relationships
Studies have shown that meditation can increase feelings of interpersonal connectivity, leading us to feel less lonely and more like an active part of our communities. This is a big deal in a time where more than half of all people in the US report experiencing loneliness and a feeling of isolation. Meditation, on the other hand, brings us together with others by helping us learn to be more emotionally resilient and aware of other people’s feelings and needs.
9. Become More Empathetic and Compassionate
Meditation is a great tool for cultivating your senses of empathy and compassion, which are the building blocks of healthy relationships. Interacting with the world and others in a gentler and more compassionate way helps to make society a better place, improves your relationships with others, and also helps you to be a generally healthier, happier person.
10. Mitigate Chronic Pain
In addition to all of those benefits, meditation can also literally help you reduce chronic pain and migraines. One study took 27 people suffering from migraines and gave them a course on loving-kindness meditation. The results were immediate. After the session, participants reported a 33% decrease in pain and a 43% decrease in associated emotional tension.
Conclusion and Further Reading
A lot of scientific research has gone into determining how and why meditation is such a powerful process. It is one of the single most beneficial things you can start doing today for your physical, mental, and spiritual health. There are many ways to incorporate meditation into your life in small increments. Plenty of resources are available to help you get started too. There are guided meditations, mindfulness apps, and you can always track down local meditation groups if you want to learn how to meditate in person.