Meditation, once considered a spiritual practice reserved for monks and yogis, is gradually achieving mainstream popularity as more people discover its many benefits.
Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated, doesn’t require you to subscribe to any particular spiritual belief, and doesn’t necessitate sitting cross-legged on the floor and chanting mantras. It can be as simple as sitting in a quiet room and focusing on your breath, or counting your steps while walking around your neighborhood. You can also turn everyday activities like washing the dishes or vacuuming the carpet into a meditation.
There are many different forms of meditation, making it easy for everyone to find a style that best suits their lifestyle. At the end of this article, we’ll provide a few simple meditation techniques, including one method that will allow you to meditate deeply without even trying.
But first, let’s talk about the top five reasons you should try meditation.
1. Your health will improve
No matter what your age, meditation is one of the easiest ways to improve your health. Research at the Medical College of Georgia found that meditation lowered blood pressure and reduced the risk of heart disease and stroke. Additional studies have demonstrated meditation can reduce chronic pain, decrease levels of stress and pain in cancer patients, and reduce symptoms in patients with fibromyalgia.
Other studies have indicated meditation may reduce the levels of cortisol, a hormone that in high levels can weaken the immune system and slow down healing. Results from a small study conducted in 1998 with patients suffering from psoriasis lesions indicated meditation can speed up the body’s natural healing process. Some studies have even suggested meditation can help in the prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.
2. You’ll sleep better and dream more vividly
Less than half an hour of meditation per day can quickly translate to deeper, more refreshing sleep. Many meditators report sleeping fewer hours yet waking up feeling much more energized.
The sleep benefits of meditation may also help sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Research has already shown a deficiency of slow-wave sleep is present in most CFS patients. Deep meditation that promotes heightened Theta and Delta activity in the brain can help to compensate for the lost time in the Delta state during sleep.
Regular meditation can also enhance your dream life. The frequency of vivid dreams increases, and most meditators report enhanced dream recall. If you practice lucid dreaming, meditation may give you the edge you need to achieve your first lucid dream.
3. You’ll feel less stressed
Stress reduction is by far the most popular use for meditation. There are countless studies demonstrating the stress-reducing effects in healthy individuals as well as in patients suffering from a variety of illnesses.
Meditation is no longer just for adults either. Researchers at Stanford University and UCLA are exploring the use of meditation and mindfulness techniques with children to reduce stress and anger, and a study conducted by Kaiser Permanente found that meditation also improved mood disorders and depression in teenagers.
In addition to the physical benefits it provides, a daily meditation practice can help you relax not just while you’re meditating but throughout the rest of the day as well. Most meditators also notice they become less reactionary and are more easily and calmly able to handle situations that previously would have caused them stress or tension. An increase in self-awareness that constantly grows in the background of your perception helps to bring a new sense of calm and well-being. This personal insight also allows you to identify negative patterns in your life and integrate a more positive and productive approach, which in turn eliminates many of the underlying causes of stress.
4. Your mental clarity will improve
Meditation has been linked to increases in concentration, heightened awareness and attention to detail, and improvements in your ability to maintain focus for longer periods of time.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School have discovered meditation literally alters the structure of the brain, thickening the regions associated with attention and sensory processing. Other research into meditation and biofeedback techniques has demonstrated increases in the subjects’ ability to remain focused on specific tasks, reductions in reaction time, and improvements in psychomotor response.
A recent study at the University of Wisconsin suggests not only that attention can be improved through meditation training, but also that meditation can cause lasting changes in how people allocate their mental resources. The results of the study showed that neural resources were used more efficiently in subjects who practiced meditation.
5. You’ll boost your creativity
Meditation can trigger heightened Alpha and Theta activity in the brain, states of mind often associated with creativity. Some forms of meditation also promote synchronization of the left and right hemispheres of the brain, another factor that has been identified in electroencephalograph (EEG) readings during moments of inspiration and during participation in creative activities. In a study conducted with 362 students in Taiwan to determine the effects of meditation on creativity, attention, IQ, and anxiety, the greatest improvement was observed in creativity.
Forms of meditation that involve visualization or guided imagery can be extremely useful in increasing creativity by providing the mind with a set of ready-made mental images to work with.
Two Simple Meditation Techniques
Now that you know why you should try meditation, here are two very quick and easy meditation techniques. The great thing about these techniques is that they can be done anywhere.
This technique is designed to relax the body by teaching you how to breathe as deeply as possible. Even a few short minutes of this techique can help you relax tremendously.
Counting the Breath
This technique involves giving each breath — both inhalation and exhalation — a specific count. It is terrific for focusing the mind and increasing relaxation.
How to Meditate Deeply Without Even Trying
If you’re experimenting with meditation for the first time, or if you’ve tried it but can’t seem to reach a deep state of meditation or relaxation, try using the Insight Program, which uses a unique audio technology that works with your brain to automatically guide you into a deeply relaxed, meditative state. The Insight Program is endorsed by many health practitioners and is already used by thousands of people around the world. Nearly all listeners report deep meditation, reduced stress, improved sleep, and a variety of other benefits.