We’ve all heard that meditation is good for us, but beyond “It’s relaxing”, we might not be sure exactly why. The truth is that you can experience a multitude of both direct and indirect benefits from meditation, and in this post, we’re going to look at 10 benefits of meditation that you might not know about.
Before we begin, remember that these benefits are best experienced through a regular meditation practice. The length of your practice isn’t as important as the frequency; you’re far more likely to experience the many benefits if you meditate for five to 10 minutes a day, 5 days a week than if you squeeze your meditation into a 30-minute session once a week.
One of the most commonly cited benefits of meditation is that it is relaxing. While this is certainly true (and feels great) there are a number of second-hand benefits you can experience as a result of this relaxation. One of these is a stronger immune system. Stress and anxiety wreak havoc with our immune system, leaving us susceptible to all kinds of nasties—particularly during the winter. Developing a regular meditation practice reduces the amount of stress-related chemicals in our body, and also leaves us less likely to turn to unhealthy coping strategies to deal with the stress.
Just as stress has a negative impact on our immune system, it can also affect our fertility. According to WebMD, scientists aren’t sure of the exact link between stress and fertility issues, however, test subjects that took part in stress-reduction techniques were more likely to get pregnant.
Stress-related conditions include anything from heart disease to auto-immune conditions such as IBS. While it goes without saying that meditation alone is not a predictor of good health (other lifestyle factors like diet play a huge role), the mind and body are deeply connected. When we feel stress, we have a physiological reaction, which can negatively impact our health over the long term. Giving your body a break from the physical effects of stress can help alleviate physical symptoms exacerbated by stress.
When we meditate, we become more aware of, and more capable of controlling, our thoughts. A key part of meditation revolves around noticing our thoughts without judging them or getting caught up in their stories or meanings. This helps us to develop a different perspective on our internal dialogue, develop a greater understanding of ourselves, and practice noticing our thoughts and feelings without attaching meaning or judgement to them.
Our self-confidence is built on the stories we have about ourselves, so just as meditation helps us develop self-acceptance, it also works to build our self-esteem. When negative thoughts or feelings about ourselves come up during meditation, we practice simply noticing them in the moment. Over time, this leaves us better able to handle negative internal dialogue outside of meditation too.
Meditation can help improve our relationships in two ways: first, it provides us with time to reconnect with ourselves. The more relaxed, grounded and self-accepting we are, the more we are able to be our best selves with other people. Secondly, meditation also helps develop our awareness of the stories we might hold around our relationships. As well as noticing thoughts and feelings about ourselves, meditation provides us with the opportunity to see stories we have around others from a different perspective too.
Creative blocks are caused by a number of internal and external factors. Whatever the cause, the result is usually that we get stuck in certain thought patterns, and are unable to move past them. When we’re struggling to break through one of these blocks, taking time to meditate is like hitting the reset button. When we step away from these patterns, we also step out of them, making it easier to move past them.
A 2011 MIT study showed that meditation might be effective for pain relief. In the study, subjects trained themselves to focus on physical sensations from certain parts of their bodies, leading researchers to believe that people who suffer from chronic conditions could be able to train themselves to “turn down the volume” on pain.
Meditation is essentially a practice in concentration. Once we learn to concentrate on our breath, notice when we get caught up in thoughts, and return our concentration to our breath, we can translate that skill into any number of settings we choose. Through regular meditation, we also get used to shifting our attention back to the task at hand when it strays.
This is probably the most difficult benefit to define, as it’s something that is hard to explain until you have experienced it. The power of spending even a few minutes a day connecting with your body and your mind is not to be underestimated. Doing so produces this innate sense of well-being that could been described as oneness, stability, grounded-ness, a sense of perspective, or self-connection. In a world where most of our time is spent focusing on external activities, taking even a few minutes to reconnect with our internal feelings and sensations can change our experience of the world.
What benefits have you gained from meditation? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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