There are thousands of internet think-pieces about self-care floating around these days. They encourage us to take time for ourselves, relax, release stress, and reflect on our thoughts and feelings. These are all principles of meditation, and yet many of us still ask ourselves whether meditation actually works. Does all that sitting around and focusing the mind actually achieve anything?
The answer is a solid and scientifically proven yes!
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. As far back as 1500 BCE in India, people have been taking part in meditation. There are many different forms of meditation – sitting meditations, chanting, and modern mindfulness meditation, for example. At its core, though, meditation is a mental exercise which seeks to neutralize thoughts and focus on the present moment to bring about a sort of thoughtless awareness. It has several key benefits, namely helping to reduce stress, manage emotions, improve attention, and alleviate chronic pain. Let’s take a closer look at the evidence:
Meditation reduces your stress levels
Meditation encourages you to pay attention to the present moment in a non-judgemental manner. This helps to ease the stresses and strains of daily life, and it’s no surprise that meditation reduces stress levels as a result. Many scientific studies have shown these stress-reducing effects of meditation. A study of patients with anxiety disorders found that regular mindfulness meditation helped to reduce anxiety and depression levels. Other studies have found that overall stress decreases massively thanks to mindfulness meditation, even when practiced at home by inexperienced meditators. An overall review of the research suggests that meditation can help a wide range of people to cope with stress at all different levels.
Meditation helps you manage your emotions
When you meditate, you need to brush off unpleasant or intrusive thoughts as they occur to you. It’s all about focusing on the present moment and putting irrelevant thoughts and feelings aside. For this reason, it also helps you to manage your emotions even when you aren’t meditating. An impressive research project has shown that as well as reducing stress, meditating helped people to manage their levels of anger, depression, anxiety, and reactivity. Meditation can ease mood swings and help you react more evenly to difficult situations. Meditation even stops strong emotions from interfering with your performance in mind-based tasks.
Meditation improves your concentration
As you focus on your meditation practice, you’re also improving your ability to concentrate. This can be useful in your work life, your hobbies, and your social interactions. Even a small amount of meditation training can help people to pay better attention. On top of that, meditation allows you to pay attention for longer too, so you are better able to cope with long presentations, study sessions, and topics you need to focus on but don’t find all that interesting.
Meditation eases chronic pain
It might surprise you to learn that meditation can even help to ease chronic pain. Some people suffer from terrible ongoing medical issues that cause them a great deal of physical distress. Scientific research shows that meditation can help to manage this pain and the mental stress it causes too. Chronic pain sufferers reported less medical symptoms and less pain after a 10-week meditation program. In another study, more than a year after the original training, people with chronic pain were still practicing meditation and reporting that it helped them manage their chronic pain. Meditation is an amazing compliment to modern medicine, and its benefits shouldn’t be underestimated.
Of course, people who meditate notice a whole world of other benefits too. These are simply the most commonly reported ones. Meditation does work, and it can help you in numerous ways. If you want to learn more about meditation, come and join us at Samadhi Yoga. As well as our regular yoga classes, we offer a monthly Full Moon Meditation to help you relax, refresh, and realize your deeper hopes and intentions.