By Robert Common, Managing Partner, The Beekeeper
Research proves the extraordinary ways meditation can improve human wellbeing
Meditation can have beneficial effects for anyone, no matter their age or lifestyle. And the best part about it is that it’s accessible to any and everyone. Meditation can be defined as a mind and body practice that trains your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. Another way to think about meditation, is that it’s a way to reduce stress by learning to concentrate on what’s important in the here and now.
Due to its beneficial properties, meditation is becoming more and more popular globally as more people discover just how helpful incorporating it into their lives can be. Below are a few ways meditation can improve your quality of life.
Reducing Stress A sought-after benefit of meditation is the reduction of stress. Stress increases our levels of the stress hormone cortisol(1). High cortisol levels can have highly negative effects on our mental and physical health. For example, it can disrupt sleep, increase anxiety, and alter memory capabilities.
A large systematic research study found immense evidence supporting meditation as a way to reduce stress levels in various populations, including both men and women with and without mood disorders(2). Further, clinical research has shown that regularly meditating improves stress-induced effects on mental and physical health in both adults and children across the board(3)—improving sleep, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, and even helping with physical conditions such as heart disease, chronic pain, and gastrointestinal disorders, among many others.
Improving Quality of Sleep Quality sleep is something many people strive for but so few get. Meditation can be very valuable in this regard, and help you fall asleep quicker and sleep better overall.
Research into this topic is growing, but the current evidence suggests that mindfulness-based exercises aid in sleep by reducing insomnia in people struggling with related disorders(4). Additionally, a study from 2015 identified that meditating before bed can help you fall asleep more quickly(5). One last way meditation can help with sleep is by overall helping you to relax; laying down while in a relaxed, peaceful state of mind is an excellent first step towards getting better sleep.
Developing a Healthy Relationship with Emotions Meditation can help to increase our own self-awareness, reduce negative emotions, and – importantly – allow us to focus on the present. All of these are important factors for having a healthy relationship with emotions and thus being in a state of positive well-being. Meditating for long periods of time has been shown to reduce rumination(6) on negative past-experiences. Less of this rumination leads to increases in opportunities for focusing on the present moment, promoting happiness. Additionally, meditating can help you notice negative thoughts as they come and steer those thoughts into more positive, constructive ones(7).
Alleviating Anxiety Meditation has been shown to be an important tool for managing symptoms of anxiety. There is in fact a well reported body of scientific literature supporting this.
Meditation appears to have moderate effects on improving anxiety symptoms(8), so in combination with clinical interventions, meditation can be a great supporting treatment option for clinical anxiety disorders. Prolonged practice (8 consistent weeks) of meditation can reduce many anxiety-related symptoms(9), such as paranoia, obsessive compulsive tendencies, panic, various phobias, and social anxieties. As a last example, in a large study comprised of over 2500 participants, a range of meditation strategies were shown to alleviate anxiety symptoms(10).
Improvements to Attention and Memory There is also scientific evidence for meditation’s ability to improve attention span and memory.
Studies assessing the impact of meditation practices on attention show that it increases participants’ ability to maintain their attention on specific tasks(11). Separate studies showed that meditating can increase attention span(12,13), and a recent 2020 study showed that internet-based meditation apps can increase attention control(14).
Along the same lines, there is scientific evidence suggesting that 90 days of meditation can improve both working memory(15) and long-term memory(16) in adults.
Incorporating Meditation into Your Everyday Life This list only represents some of the many benefits meditation can provide; there are so many more to look forward to.
Because there are various types of meditation out there, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Just remember, they all share the same main components:
· Relaxed, deep breathing
· A quiet, peaceful setting
· A comfortable position
· Most importantly: an open attitude
As long as you incorporate these components into your own meditation routine, you are in a great place.
In addition, all types of meditation share the same goal: to achieve inner peace.
Meditation is a simple practice that anyone can do anywhere. It can take as little as a few minutes a day, and in those few minutes, with consistent practice, you can vastly increase your quality of life.