Previously, the benefits of meditation were merely products of speculation. But now scientific evidence, top athletes, and the world’s most powerful people are singing its praises. From stress reduction and weight loss to increased energy and enhanced sleep, meditation could be your most powerful prescription to date.
The whole idea of meditation is to find a place of pure awareness that is unaffected by anything, especially disturbances within the mind. When you experience meditation, the fears and anxieties of the lower mind drop away and you get to a place where you no longer care what your ass looks like in your stretchy pants. The attachment to (or obsession with) the physical world doesn’t exist in deep meditation, so for anyone with body image issues, it’s a welcome respite!
We can’t avoid stress, it comes with the territory of living in the 21st century, but thankfully, we can reduce the impact it has on us. The deep relaxation we experience in meditation is a great way to offset and release stress, and as we practice staying detached from our thoughts, we are preparing ourselves to be detached from – and therefore less affected by – future stressful events. Think for a moment: What bugs you out? Chances are you have no trouble coming up with a long list of your day-to-day stressors. However, each morning you wake up with an opportunity to fight them off before they have a chance to come at you. “It’s easiest to meditate in the morning before your day has started, before you’ve checked your email, or done anything,” says Dr. Christopher Vincent, sports physician and CEO of Altus Sports Institute in Santa Monica, CA. If you make it a daily habit, meditating can decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and honestly make your day that much easier to get through.
Meditating for 30 minutes each day reduces stress and, as a result, helps prevent emotional eating, suggests research from UC-San Francisco. When you bring mindfulness into the equation, you’re able to rationally assess how you’re feeling—whether you’re hungry or just bored—and make eating choices accordingly.
One of the best ways to fight fatigue is to take some time each day to detach yourself from all distractions. Kerry Bajaj, a certified health coach at the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City says, “Meditation is going to make you feel better because you’re disconnecting from all the stimulation of life.” Close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Just a few minutes of daily meditation will help you start to feel less rushed, more in control, and reenergized.
Improve Sleep Quality
A single sleepless night can impair brain function, mess with your eating habits, and screw up your immune system. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, practicing relaxation techniques during the daytime, like incorporating small bouts of meditation, can improve sleep quality during the night. In meditation, the alpha brain waves are dominant which are the same brain waves that we experience when we first drift off to sleep. Alpha waves are deeply rejuvenating, so any practice that keeps us in this state is as good as a dose of sleep! By regularly practicing meditation, not only will you fall asleep faster, but you will also stay asleep for longer and wake up feeling more rested overall.
A strong immune system comes from a number of things: your diet, activity levels, and sleep quality, to name a few. What many people don’t know is that meditation has the power to seriously boost immune function. A study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that meditation can increase your body’s ability to ward off illness and infection. If you feel a cold coming on, or everyone in your office is passing around some wonky virus, take some extra time each morning to disconnect and build up your body’s defense.
It’s Easier Than You Think
Meditation doesn’t have to be challenging and you really don’t have to sit in perfect stillness for hours on end to get the benefits. Working with a technique that gives your mind something to focus on is easier than just sitting down and expecting the mind to switch off completely. You don’t need any props or gear. As long as your clothes are comfortable you’re good. Also, you can meditate pretty much anywhere (like meditation expert Gabrielle Bernstein on our title photo).
Get To Know Your Thoughts
Our thoughts can have a huge impact on our reality so it pays to be aware of what and how you are thinking! Everyone has a unique mind that turns and works in its own way and getting to know your mental patterns can be achieved through meditation. Your self-awareness can reach a whole new level, which can have a big impact on how you respond to situations and other people in daily life.
Improve Overall Wellbeing
The combination of meditation with postures can be a golden ticket to holistic health. In the same way postures can keep the physical body flexible and strong, meditation can keep the mind flexible and strong. As we release mental and emotional tensions from our mind we also release tension from our body therefore helping us feel great on every level.
Be Guided By Your Intuition
Intuition is the higher aspect of mind that has the potential to lead us in the direction of our dreams, if we listen to it. Unfortunately most of us spend more time tuned into thoughts about weight gain, bills and whether we are meditating properly! The more you practice meditation, the easier it is to still those distracting thoughts and create space for magic to happen. Your intuition can be quite active after meditation so it’s a great time to tap into some rich internal clarity and insight.
Image Source: Corbis