I have to start with a confession: you know how it is when you know what could make you feel good, but somehow it’s just too hard to start doing it? That’s how I feel about meditation. So often I wish I could just calm down, get rid of the tension I feel all over my body and improve my ability to focus on thinking, planning and executing. Occasionally I even research ways to start meditating, but I rarely get beyond the third day of practice. Some of the research highlighted by the writers of the Confidence Code, as shared here, removed any doubts I still had on the matter. Although cognitive behavioral therapy—i.e., helping individuals to create new thought patterns—is the most effective approach to specific behavioral change, in MRIs conducted both before and after meditation, it has been proved that even the most basic mediation results in less activity in the amygdala, the fear center. In short, it has been shown that meditation can physically change the brain, training it to better match our needs and goals.
So this post is written primarily to encourage myself, in the hope that others too will find this list of advantages an inspiration for their own plans to start practicing meditation, either alone or as part of a group.
Following is a short but very convincing list of the benefits that come from daily meditative practice….
Meditation is good for the body — Scientists gathering data on meditation have found that regular practice quietens the internal chatter of the brain and reduces stress. Not only does it boost the mind, but it also bolsters the body. Studies claim that meditation can help reverse heart disease, ease pain, and support the immune system by better enabling it to fight disease. As science is discovering that meditation can lower production of the stress hormone cortisol, the mind-body connection between stress and disease becomes increasingly apparent.
Meditation is good for relationships — While meditation helps us tune in and turn inward to our true essence, it also paradoxically helps us to detach from our own egos and to connect with others in more meaningful ways. When we become aware of—and respect—our relationships with others, we are able to recast our perspectives, see our worries in a different light, and embrace gratitude which is the heart’s memory. Meditating regularly fills you with positive energy. This makes you pleasant to be around, and people will naturally gravitate toward you.
Meditation can help us improve and change our lives – It has been proven that the regular practice of meditation has dramatic effects over time. Yogis and doctors both agree that just a few minutes of deep breathing relaxes the brain and reduces anxiety and depression. Frequent meditation can help you stay alert and present in your own life, providing you with: "The serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference." (The Serenity Prayer - Reinhold Niebuhr)
Meditation is not only about being mindful. You can be mindful without meditating, but all the research and experts tell us that meditation is a surefire way of becoming more mindful. It can help to reduce stress, improve cognitive function, and boost well-being. For a more elaborated list of 20 reasons why meditation is good for our mental and physical health, read here; an interesting article about the practical outcome of living a mindful life can be found here.
And it doesn’t have to be such a tall order. I have found that the actual act of meditation can be as simple as sitting quietly and focusing on your breath or on a mantra—a word or phrase. There are countless traditions, and no one "correct” way to practice meditation. By starting with reasonable and seemingly easy to reach targets, we may be able to extend our ambitions even further and, hopefully, achieve higher practices and results. Wish us all good luck!