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Ten Surprisingly Powerful Benefits of Meditation

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Although the practice of meditation goes back thousands of years, in recent years it has become increasingly popular. Meditation involves both the mind and the body and can produce a state of relaxation. There are many ways to meditate, including:

  • Mindfulness meditation. This type of meditation emphasizes living in the present moment and being mindful, letting your thoughts pass without judgment.
  • Mantra meditation. When practicing this form of meditation, you repeat a syllable, word, or phrase. The mantra may be chanted, spoken, whispered, or repeated silently. Transcendental meditation is a form of mantra meditation.
  • Guided meditation. In guided meditation, you form mental pictures of calming places, using senses such as sight, sound, or smells. This is also called guided imagery or visualization and may be led by a teacher.
  • Yoga. This is a popular practice which uses a series of postures and controlled breathing to attain balance and improve concentration.
  • Qigong. This is a form of traditional Chinese medicine. It combines meditation, breathing exercises and physical movement.
  • Tai chi. This is a form of meditation and also a type of gentle martial arts. It involves a series of slow-paced movements or postures as well as deep breathing.

All forms of meditation share certain key elements. They are done in a quiet place so that distractions are reduced or eliminated. They may be done while sitting, lying down, or in other comfortable positions. Attention is closely focused on a mantra or breathing. The attitude is open and relaxed, allowing thoughts or distractions to come and go without judgment. Meditation is easy, inexpensive, can be done anywhere and anyone can do it. The goal is improved physical and emotional well-being. Here are some of the many benefits of meditation:

Meditation Reduces Stress

Stress is all around us and is an unavoidable part of our everyday life. One of the benefits of meditation is that it helps reduce or prevent stress by teaching us to avoid the “fight or flight” response, which affects our blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. Instead, meditation teaches us to find a state of deep relaxation.

Improved focus

Meditation increases the strength and endurance of our focus. One study even showed that it may reverse the brain patterns that contribute to mind-wandering, worrying and poor attention spans.

Research also showed that an eight-week meditation practice significantly improved the subjects ability to orient and maintain their attention, but even meditating for shorter periods increased attention span.

Reduction of Anxiety

Do you suffer from general anxiety disorder, panic disorder or social anxiety?
Do you worry excessively or do your thoughts race out of control?

Anxiety releases the stress hormones, which causes an imbalance in the neurotransmitters in your brain. Even if you’ve never meditated before, easy, regular meditation practice can break those anxious thought patterns and reduce your anxiety levels. It also can actually reverse some of the damage resulting from anxiety.

Studies show that that meditation benefits many mental disorders including agoraphobia, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder.

Meditation can Helps Fight Addiction

Meditation helps you accept and become more aware of your thoughts and emotions. Studies show that meditation can teach you to shift your mental gears, learn to redirect your attention, and better understand the underlying causes of their addictions.

Physical Health Benefits of Meditation

Meditation should not be used in place of traditional medical care, but it may have benefits for those suffering from a number of health problems, especially those affected by stress. There are, however, benefits to meditation for those managing the symptoms and pain of many conditions, such as cancer, asthma, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome and tension headaches.

Slows Aging

Amazingly, studies show that meditation improves cognitive function and increases longevity. As we age, most of us experience an age-related cognitive decline, which was previously considered inevitable. However, research shows that the adult brain can continue to change, which is known as neuroplasticity. Meditation is a valuable tool that helps improve mental performance in older adults. There is even evidence that it can improve memory in those who live with dementia. Even better, continuing to practice meditation can maintain good mental fitness.

It also impacts the aging effects on physical health. Several studies have shown that telomeres, part of human chromosomes, predict future health. Meditating has been shown to boost your immune system, lower blood pressure and increase your serotonin levels.

Promotes Weight Loss

What if weight loss is about more than calories and workouts? Meditation helps you manage your stress level, control food cravings, and reduce binging and emotional eating. In general, when you meditate, you become more focused and aware of your thoughts and feelings. As you move into a more positive frame of mind, you can work on achieving better health, rather than fighting your body.

Encourages Creativity

There is a myth that angst and unhappiness are a necessary component of creativity. Many of the positive benefits of meditation, however, such as improved attention span, greater learning capability, introspection, and empathy, can greatly enhance creativity. Creativity is all about expanding the mind’s reach.

Sleep Problems

If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, you may want to give meditation a try. Sleep disturbances affect millions of people, however, a 2015 study suggests that the practice of mindful meditation can help. Dr. Herbert Benson, of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, advises practicing mindfulness for twenty minutes a day. The regular practice will make it easier to invoke the “relaxation response” when you can’t sleep at night.

Happiness

It is important to note that the benefits of meditation do not end when your meditation session ends. It will leave you feeling better, mentally and physically. It will release those wonderful feel-good chemicals, like endorphins and serotonin. Studies also indicate it opens you up emotionally, reducing negativity and increasing your capacity for kindness and compassion. With all of those good things going on, you may find you are a happier person. Consider the words of the spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hahn, in a mindful meditation from his book Being Peace: “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.”

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