benefits of meditation

Five Amazing Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness

While ultimately rooted in the religious practices of East Asia, meditation and mindfulness are essentially the cultivation of a positive and tranquil mental state via focused periods of practice. Just as your body needs nutrition and exercise to function properly, so too does your emotional center and state of mind require special tools for their maintenance. While their origins lie in theology and spiritual study, both meditation and mindfulness have been linked to measurable benefits for adults regardless of their metaphysical or philosophical inclinations.

Reduced Anxiety

One of the key concepts to meditation is its understanding of the relationship between the physical body and its more ephemeral moods and processes. As exemplified by the concept of chakras (see the chakra chart here for more information), emotional and spiritual states are linked to physical centers of the body and real biological processes, a fact supported by meditation and mindfulness’ impact on anxiety.

While it varies by individual, mindfulness reduces anxiety in patients in as little as eight weeks of practice. This not only includes the mental aspects of anxiety, but also physically measurable symptoms like blood pressure, quality of sleep, jaw clenching, and chronic headaches. This further shows the link between the emotional or spiritual states meditation attempts to treat and their physical manifestations.

Decreased Depression

Rumination, or the constant focus on the negative symptoms you’re experiencing, is one of the most difficult challenges for psychologists to treat. Because it forcefully captures the patient’s attention, it essentially creates a self-feeding loop in cases of depression by preventing patients from turning their minds towards solutions.

This can make traditional, cognitive-oriented treatment methods ineffective because patients are simply unable to apply the behavioral changes and coping skills needed to combat depressive episodes. Practicing intensive mindfulness over a period of 10 days has been demonstrated to not only reduce depressive symptoms, but more importantly, helped patients to ruminate less on these symptoms and therefore work more effectively towards rehabilitation.

Improved Cognition

While neuroscience has advanced significantly with the advent of better scanning and monitoring tools, it’s an understatement to say that the brain is only dimly understood. Nutrition, environment, mood, inherent talent, and other factors all play a role in determining the acuity of your cognitive faculties. While plenty of questions remain, what is understood is that meditation’s ability to positively impact mood also translates beyond emotional states, directly impacting how the brain functions. Students who regularly practice mindfulness are more capable of creative thinking and problem solving, a fact which has been replicated under lab conditions with cognitive testing.

Lower Blood Pressure

Independent of diet or genetic factors, one of the strongest causes of high blood pressure is stress. Whether from schoolwork or the office, young adults and seniors alike are subject to the same cardiovascular risks that years of untreated hypertension causes to the arteries of the heart. Because of its ability to reduce anxiety and increase your mind’s ability to intellectualize and cope with stressful events or circumstances, regular meditation can help naturally lower blood pressure caused by stress. While it might not be a substitute for medication or dietary changes in those with a genetic predisposition, for some patients simply lowering stress is enough to bring blood pressure back down to healthy levels.

Sharper Focus

College students know better than anyone that attentiveness, whether while studying alone or in the classroom, is often in short supply. Even with a placid, secluded environment and limited distractions, it’s common for young adults to struggle with focusing on necessary tasks while ignoring intrusive or distracting thoughts.

Regular practitioners of mindfulness and meditation have been shown to not only possess improved memory, but also the ability to ignore trivial or unrelated details. This is because meditation lowers stress responses like hypervigilance, an anxiety-related sensory issue that forces sufferers to apply equal attention to otherwise unimportant stimuli. Its ability to improve creative thinking and problem solving also plays a role, enhancing the sort of novel thinking required for engaging with difficult material.

Regular Practice

While there’s ample evidence for the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, the only way to experience them is to take up the practice yourself. Meditation requires minimal time investment, no equipment or personal talents, and can be learned regardless of age or ability. Set aside a few minutes a day for mindfulness and meditative practices and you may be surprised at the positive impact it can have on your mental and physical health, cognitive ability, and overall wellbeing.

Photo by Afonso Coutinho on Unsplash

Dixie Somers

View posts by Dixie Somers
Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger for business, home, and family niches. Dixie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband.

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