For thousands of years, meditation has been used to help the body, the mind, and the spirit. Today, meditation is making news as a reliever of stress, a way to lower blood pressure, a way to improve focus and even as a way to reduce violence and negative emotions. As meditation guru Deepak Chopra likes to point out, “Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering the quiet that is already there.” What do people who have a meditation practice want you to know about people who meditate?
1. We are happier.
Dascher Keltner, head of Berkeley’s Positive Psychology Program teaches that meditation boosts positive emotion, lowers negative emotion, and strengthens coping mechanisms. Meditation is one of many tools that schools and workplaces are employing to increase well-being of students and workers.
2. We are healthier.
The vagus nerve literally connects the heart to the brain. In studies, people who meditated for up to 15 minutes once a day showed improved vagal tone. This means reduced levels of stress chemicals like cortisol. Reducing the body’s exposure to these while improving vagal tone has been shown to decrease chance of stroke and heart attack. A recent study even showed that meditators were able to change the piece of DNA, the telomere, that controls the aging of cells.
3. We are more creative.
People who meditate regularly have reported both greater sense of creativity and a feeling of “direct downloads” from the universe. Where was the song before the composer wrote it? Where was the dance before the choreographer set it? Although we don’t have scientific answers to these questions yet, we do know that people who meditate experience a measured increase in creativity and innovation.
4. We feel connected.
When we meditate, we are going within, and yet one of the paradoxes of meditating is that by spending time with yourself, you feel a greater sense of connection to others.
5. We let go more easily.
We don’t hold on to grudges, or fear, or pain. By spending time in meditation, we turn up our ability to be compassionate and empathetic, and we spend less time in critical self-rumination.
6. We feel pain less and pleasure more.
When people who experience chronic pain due to disease were taught meditation, they reported a reduction of pain and an increase of their tolerance for the pain they had. Meditation actually changes the brain and teaches it the skill of self-generating positive emotion.
7. We are more resilient.
People who meditate have a healthier stress response than non-meditators. The results of bran scans on meditators shows different areas of the brain being used in stressful situation by meditators. By sitting silently for a few minutes each day you actually change the density of grey matter and the right to left ratio. This means that when things go wrong, our brain is better at thinking its way out of the situation and coping with the stress. We become skilled at seeing half-full.
8. We are kind.
People who meditate use that sense of connection to become more pro-social. That is a fancy way of saying that people who meditate are more likely to volunteer, donate or be heroic.
And if you need more reasons to get you started.
In prison, meditation reduces hostility issues. In studies of veterans who had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, there is a reduction of incidents when mindful meditation is introduced. Children who are taught to meditate score better on tests and have decreased anxiety around testing. I have yet to uncover any studies that show anything bad about meditating.
If you haven’t started I encourage you to register for a 21-day meditation challenge, start a home practice or download a guided meditation app. Spending time alone may seem daunting in today’s busy world, but as the Zen proverb says, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes a day, unless you are too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”
Featured photo credit: Young girl meditating at the sea via shutterstock.com