Meditation is a habitual process of training your brain to focus and redirect thoughts, a way to connect with your Inner Knowing/Source Energy/God/the Universe, a method to build concentration and increase self-awareness, and today's self-care tip.
It may sound super woo-woo at first but the health benefits are steeped in scientific fact, making it a practice that both cynics and mystics alike can confidently enjoy.
While the list of benefits is long, here are my top five favorites:
1. Meditation Reduces Stress
There are lots of studies out there (like this one and this one and this one and this one) that show how the practice of meditation decreases the harmful effects of the stress hormone cortisol, while improving symptoms of stress-related conditions like PTSD, irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia.
2. Meditation Mitigates Anxiety
Studies also indicate that meditation helps you reduce anxiety, as well as symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as phobias, social anxiety, paranoid thoughts, obsessive-compulsive behaviors and panic attacks.
3. Mediation Supports Emotional Health
Does it show measurable changes in brain activity in areas related to positive thinking and optimism? Yes.
Does it create decreased signs of depression in adults? Yes.
Does it reduce depression by decreasing inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, which are released in response to stress and can affect your mood? Yes.
4. Meditation Increases Your Ability to be Compassionate and Kind
There are many forms of meditation, and some, like loving-kindness meditation, have been shown to increase positivity, empathy and compassionate behavior toward others. And as with any kind of skill, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Additionally, research shows that the positive feelings people develop through loving-kindness meditation can improve social anxiety, reduce marriage conflict and help anger management.
5. Meditation Improves Your Sleep and Helps You Handle Pain
Okay, that's really two benefits but I couldn't decide which to round out my list with as they are both worthy of mention.
We've already talked about how important getting enough sleep is, and studies show meditation can be extremely useful for falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer, which ultimately makes you healthier and happier.
Equally as important to your livelihood is how much physical pain you experience on a regular basis. Meditation has been shown to diminish the perception of pain in the brain, which could help treat chronic pain when used as a supplement to medical care and/or physical therapy.
Self-Care September Day 22: Meditate
There are many different forms of meditation, most of which don’t require specialized equipment or space, and you can choose the type that is most aligned with what you want to get out of it.
Six popular types of meditation practice are:
You can read more about each type here and decide which one calls to you today or you can simply find a quiet place to sit with your eyes closed for a few minutes with your hands in your lap - palms down to ground, palms up to receive - and breathe (in through your nose, out through your mouth.) Let your thoughts come and go. Let it be easy.
If a guided meditation sounds like it would be helpful, you can find a bunch of them on YouTube or any number of meditation apps - Insight Timer is my personal favorite.
I love you and I'll see you soon!