Meditation – I used to think it was one of those things reserved for long, grey-haired hippies and Buddhist monks undergoing pilgrimages in Nepal or something… but today this stereotype is no longer relevant and meditation is an activity that’s not only easy to take up in order to complement your daily life, it’s incredibly beneficial. Here are a few reasons why you should start meditating today.
Now I’m fully aware that there are people that will read phrases like “mindfulness meditation” “enhancing self-awareness” and so forth, and then immediately turn off.
Do you have any idea how fucking busy I am? What makes you think I have time in my day to sit down and basically do nothing?
A year ago, I would have said the same thing… not only is it time consuming, but this is snake-oil stuff… a passing fad that doesn’t have any real benefits. It’s reserved for the holistic lifestyle, not for typical working people, right?
No, not really.
There are countless entrepreneurs, CEOs and businessmen that swear by meditation. Some famous examples include Joe Rogan, Oprah Winfrey, Russell Simmons, Arianna Huffington and Jerry Seinfeld. My decision to begin meditation was similar to my decision to start working out. If we hit the gym and keep our bodies in shape on a daily basis, why would we not pay our minds the same courtesy? I know countless millennials that actually get withdrawal symptoms from missing a day or two in the gym… because it feels damn good to be in top shape.
So, again, ask yourself, why does it make sense to take time out of your day to keep your heart beating and your body limber, but such a stretch to center your mind and relieve the stress that it’s been under for the rest of the day?
Taking up meditation is easy too… you don’t even need to spend that much time on it. Some people can spend hours meditating, but also some are satisfied by unplugging for as short a time as 15 minutes. Here are a few reasons why you should start meditating today.
Now, you probably find yourself thinking “I don’t even know how to meditate” and you don’t want to pay some guru to teach you how to do it either. Luckily we live in 2020 and there’s an app for everything… Apps like Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer and Simple Habit give you some simple guided meditation tutorials that teach you how to find your self-awareness and mindfulness. The people that speak to you have silky smooth voices that make 15 minutes fly by and, once you’ve made your way through the free features, you can decide whether meditation is the thing for you and if you want to start unlocking some of the paid features. Even if you don’t want to unlock the paywall on these apps, there are enough free features to get you started and you’ll always be able to find someone on YouTube giving guided meditation sessions out for free.
It reduces stress
Not only do many styles of meditation reduce stress, but they also can reduce the symptoms in people with stress-related medical conditions. A PubMed study found that over 3,500 adults reported a reduction in stress after taking up meditation. In fact, stress relief is the most commonly cited reason for people to take up meditation in the first place.
As would typically follow reduced stress, meditation also reduces anxiety. Not only that, but an eight-week study on mindfulness meditation found that participants were able to control and reduce symptoms for various anxiety disorders such as phobias, paranoia, panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder. Habitual meditation is an easy way to mitigate anxiety in a variety of forms and the science is there to prove it.
Improved emotional health
Meditation has also been found to help people escape depression, improve their self-image and create a better outlook on life. Another PubMed study found that depression decreased dramatically among a focus group of 4,600 adults practicing meditation.
There are self-inquiry styles of meditation that allow you to practice a little introspection, which gives you a better sense of “knowing yourself”. You can remove harmful, self-defeating thoughts from your head and exercise greater control over your thought habits, while cultivating a mind more capable of problem-solving. Here’s another study that proves that meditation can lead to greater personal insights and a better focused mind.
Longer attention span
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably reached the point in this article where you couldn’t be bothered to focus too hard on the words I’m writing… your attention span is starting to waver. Don’t worry! It’s okay, all of our minds get a bit jaded after a while, after a long day or at the end of a long week. Meditation can fix that too! A Springer study addressing the attention spans of participants in an eight-week mindfulness course found that workers who regularly practiced mindfulness meditation stayed focused on a task for longer and were also able to remember the details of those tasks better.
Reduces age-related memory loss
Some of us millennials may already be feeling a little long in the tooth and I know for a fact that my memory is nothing near what it used to be… but the advantage we have over our parents is that there is more science surrounding meditation today than there was 30 years ago. And one study found that meditation techniques combining mantra or chant with repetitive finger motions improved participants’ abilities to fulfil memory-related tasks. Another study found increased attention, memory and mental quickness in older volunteers practicing various meditation techniques.
Positivity, empathy and compassion
If there’s anything the world needs it’s more kindness. Twenty-two different loving-kindness meditation techniques have been surveyed in another PubMed study to enhance people’s ability to practice kindness and forgiveness externally for everyone from friends, family, and, ultimately, all the way towards one’s enemies.
Looking to quit smoking or reduce your coffee intake, or dealing with an even worse addiction? Meditation might be the answer to tackling the very testing affliction of addiction. Research finds that those who practice meditation are better able to focus on controlling impulses and emotions while increasing their willpower and redirecting focus from habitual impulses towards more constructive thoughts and feelings.
This is a big one. Lack of sleep or low-quality sleep affects us all. You could be the healthiest person in the world, with the best habits and practices, but when the time comes to lay your head down on your pillow at night, you might still struggle to drift off into a deep, comfortable state of slumber. However, the relaxing techniques and practices to empty one’s mind that one learns through meditation is a genuine game-changer. Even guided meditation while you lie on your back in bed makes life incredibly easy for the least experienced meditators. Don’t believe me? Check out this study on the value of using mindfulness meditation as a treatment for insomnia.
Decreased blood pressure
When it comes to one of the most critical features of your physical health, your blood pressure will always rank up there right at the top of the list. A study of 996 volunteers published in PubMed found an average of a five point drop in blood pressure for older participants.
Pain comes from the mind – this is a basic fact. And one study, using MRI’s to study the brain’s pain receptors, found participants to have greater ease at modulating pain receptors after practicing mindfulness meditation for just four days.
A UC Berkley study surveyed several workplace meditation techniques that were used in offices on Wall Street, reporting massive improvements in productivity in the businesses practicing meditation techniques during working hours. There are numerous meditation techniques that you can practice at work or even school/university that not only improve focus and memory, but also that equip your body better on a physical and mental level to cope better with a longer work day. Study participants also reported an improvement on happiness in the workplace.
Whether you need to work on your love life or connect better with your friends and family, meditation can prove an incredibly positive force in your life through your connections with other people. It teaches you to be grateful, curbs stress on your relationships, makes you kinder and more considerate, keeps you positive and improves your feelings of connection to other people. In fact, another UC Berkeley study found that participants observed a dramatic improvement in their relationships if they meditated together with their partners.
The powerful benefits of combining exercise and meditation
This one is directed at all the fitness freaks out there. Don’t we all enjoy the peace of mind that we find when exercising (particularly runners and swimmers)? Why not take out the earphones and practice meditation techniques and exercise at the same time? A PMRI study finds that the most effective form of meditation is one where people combine their techniques with their exercise routines. It may seem weird to hit the treadmills without the heavy beat of your favourite artists, but after a while it’s even easier to exercise with a mind that doesn’t drift or focus. The well documented, meta-analysed improvements to people suffering from depression are another reason to start picking up the habit.
The part of the brain that shows the best responses to meditation techniques is the neocortex, which is the creative epicenter of the brain and a study, conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, found that meditation reduces mental rigidity. So, for all the creatives out there, don’t think that you’re excluded from the equation when it comes to the overwhelming mental benefits of meditation.
Something for the kids
Yes, some of us millennials are already parents or planning to become parents. And what could be better for your kids than instilling the healthy habits of meditation into them from an early age? We all know that raising children is no easy task and with research showing that meditation helps children to learn core emotional regulation skills, reduces their strength and anxiety, aids in the development of their brains, helps moderate their breathing patterns, improves focus and increases emotional and psychological resilience.
“Meditation is one of the healthiest activities that a parent can do with their child. Meditation affects different parts of the brain, including the parietal lobe. Activity in the parietal lobe slows down during meditation, and children are able to process information more clearly, ” Dr. Bryan Bruno, Founder and Medical Director at Mid City TMS, tells Thrive Global.
What could be better for you than a way to extend your lifespan? A review on two controlled studies in The American Journal of Cardiology found that meditation improves your immune system among the other various benefits already discussed and can extend your life by an average of 14 years!
Believe it or not, but meditation can actually make you look better as well. A University of Sheffield study found that using meditation and the associated reduction of stress and other health improvements resulted in numerous improvements in skin condition for participants that suffer from skin disorders like acne, psoriasis, eczema and vitiligo (a pigment disorder). Not only that, but long-term meditators were also found to develop wrinkles at a slower rate.
You can do it anywhere
The best reason to start taking up meditation is a practical one. Whether you travel a lot, work long hours or have left your phone at home, the beauty of meditation is that, once you’ve familiarised yourself with the various techniques, you can take it with you wherever you go. There’s no equipment involved and it doesn’t require money or facilities. Stand up, sit down, lie back, whatever you please. On the train? In the office? At home? It’s easy to establish a state of mindfulness and focus from wherever you are. It is preferable to meditate in a quiet, comfortable place, but once you get the hang of it, you could find that sweet spot in a construction site if you wanted to.
So there you have it, 20 reasons to move past the stereotypes and start taking the practice of meditation seriously. As part of a younger generation, we may find that meditation becomes more commonplace in years to come at schools, in offices and at home. The benefits are practically endless and there’s no better time to jump on the bandwagon than right now.