Getting regular exercise is something many of us struggle with. So adding meditation into our already hectic schedule can seem impossible. Additionally, if you don’t see the benefits of doing meditation, you may wonder why it’s worth the hassle.
Many people know about meditation as a form of stress management, and it’s easy to see why. Countless studies have proven that meditation reduces your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol.
However, there are other benefits of meditation that are often overlooked, some of which may even surprise you.
So why should you try meditation, and how does it really work? Below, we’ll explore some of the biggest health benefits of mindfulness exercises, as well as the different types of meditation so you can choose the best practice for your lifestyle.
6 Lesser-Known Health Benefits Of Meditation
1. Better Mood
Stress is often tied to anxiety and depression. By reducing stress, you can often see a significant improvement in symptoms of anxiety and depression. You also experience a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing.
Mediation also reduces symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as phobias, social anxiety, paranoid thoughts, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and panic attacks. In one study, 40 seniors who participated in a mindfulness meditation program experienced reduced feelings of loneliness.
2. Improved Self Awareness
Some forms of meditation, such as self-inquiry meditation, are specifically designed to help you develop a greater understanding of yourself and how you relate to those around you. Meditation can even help you recognize harmful or self-defeating thoughts.
3. Better Mental Performance
In the same way weight lifting works out your muscles, meditation works out your brain. It increases the strength and longevity of your attention span, allowing you to perform better in and out of the office.
One study found that employees who regularly practice mindfulness meditation stay focused on a task longer and remember more details of their tasks. Meditation may even prevent mind-wandering, worrying, and poor attention.
4. Improved Sleep
Getting enough sleep is something most Americans struggle with. As a result, fatigue and exhaustion become daily problems. Meditation is an easy solution. According to research, individuals who meditate regularly fall asleep sooner and stay asleep longer.
Meditation can help you manage racing thoughts that often lead to insomnia. It also relaxes your body, releasing tension and putting you into a peaceful state. This makes you more likely to fall asleep.
5. Helps Control Pain
When you think of pain management, meditation probably isn’t your top solution. But meditation can have a profound effect on your pain levels. This is because the perception of pain is connected to your state of mind, and it is often elevated when you’re under high levels of stress.
People who meditate show increased activity in the brain centers known to control pain. They also reported less sensitivity to pain, decreased pain spasms, and a greater ability to cope with pain.
6. Prevention & Management Of Certain Illnesses
Meditation can help you manage and even prevent certain chronic conditions. Research suggests that meditation may help people manage symptoms of conditions such as:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Sleep problems
- Tension headaches
Types Of Meditation
When you think of meditation, you likely think of sitting with your legs crossed and saying, “Ohm.” However, meditation is actually an umbrella term for the many ways to a relaxed state of being. There are many types of meditation and relaxation techniques that have meditation components, all with the same goal of achieving “inner peace.” This peace is a state of deep relaxation, something we can all use more of.
Types of meditation include:
Guided meditation, aka guided imagery or visualization, is one of the most common types of meditation. It involves creating mental images in your head of places or situations you find relaxing, such as a beach, a forest, a desert, or a mountain peak.
While you create images of your place of relaxation, you should try to use as many senses as possible. Imagine what the scenery smells like, what sights you may see, what sounds you may hear, and what textures you may feel under your fingertips.
The video below is perfect for beginners. For best results, try to do 15 minutes of guided meditation in the mornings before you start to work or in the evenings before you get ready for bed.
This is where “ohm” comes in. In this type of meditation, you silently repeat a calming word, thought, or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts. Ohm is a standard, but any phrase that provides relaxation can be used, such as “inhale peace, exhale stress.”
Starting this type of meditation may feel strange at first. In the video below, actor Russell Brant provides helpful tips for mantra meditation, as well as the phrases that help him destress the most.
This type of meditation has the biggest benefit on your sense of self-awareness and creating positive thought patterns. It involves being mindful: having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment.
In mindfulness meditation, you focus on what you experience during meditation, such your breath flowing in and out of your chest or the steady beating of your heart. You may also observe your thoughts and emotions, paying attention to whether they are positive or negative.
The video below can help you practice mindfulness every day in just 10 minutes.
Qi gong (CHEE-gung) combines meditation, relaxation, physical movement, and breathing exercises to help you awaken your body and mind. This part of traditional Chinese medicine has been used for centuries to establish feelings of peace and serenity, especially upon waking.
If you aren’t used to exercising regularly, qi gong is a great way to loosen your muscles and prepare for a gentle workout. It’s perfect for people of all exercise levels, from beginners to elite athletes.
Similar to qi gong, tai chi (TIE-CHEE) involves physical movement, breathing exercises, and other relaxation techniques. As a form of gentle Chinese martial arts, tai chi helps you perform postures and movements in a slow, graceful manner while practicing deep breathing.
This type of medication is ideal for improving balance, flexibility, and strength. You may find yourself working up a sweat while you meditate.
You may not think of yoga when you think of medication, but yoga also helps put your body and mind in a relaxed state. With yoga, you will perform a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind.
As you move through poses that require balance and concentration, you're encouraged to focus less on your busy day and more on the moment. You should pay attention to how each move stretches the body.
There are many different levels of yoga, from gentle beginner stretches to more advanced moves. The video below is designed for beginners of all ages.
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