For such a simple practice, meditation can be super intimidating. How on earth are you supposed to wrangle your thoughts into submission if they're whizzing by at 100 mph?
We're not going to lie: Meditation can feel a bit like herding cats at first — as soon as you get one thought under control, another takes off. It takes some practice to quiet your mind, but if you're willing to put in the work, the payoff could be huge!
You'll find there's no shortage of health benefits of meditation, sometimes starting from your first practice. And while some of them are just plain cool, many of them will help improve your overall well-being. So get ready for stress-free days and the best sleep you've had in ages; here's what you need to know about the advantages of meditating.
Mental benefits of meditation
Stress, anxiety, worries. A lot of us feel these clouds hanging over our heads on a regular basis. Fortunately, meditation can help you manage them more effectively!
When you regularly get into a zen frame of mind, meditation can result in some of the following (fantastic) perks:
Helps you see things from another perspective. Meditation — and mindfulness meditation in particular — can actually change the way your brain responds to stress, minimizing its impact on your body. So, if you get jittery, nauseous or achy when you're stressed, meditation can help curb these side effects.
Prevents anxious thoughts from ruining your day.
If anxiety is turning normal interactions into exhausting feats of social prowess, meditation might be able to lend a hand! It could help you recognize your common worries and control anxious thoughts. "Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, 'Oh, there's that thought again. I've been here before. But it's just that — a thought, and not a part of my core self,'" Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, explained to Harvard Medical School.
Improves your focus and memory. Everyone has days when it feels impossible to focus on the task at hand. However, meditation can help you flip the script on those times that seem destined for daydreaming. Studies have linked meditation to improved memory and concentration!
Beyond helping you cope with these issues, meditation can help you maintain a clear, healthy mindset in your day-to-day life — and who doesn't want that?
Physical benefits of meditation
As you've probably experienced in your life, mental and physical health are closely linked. When you're in a bad place mentally, you may end up feeling under the weather. Fortunately, the reverse of this is also true — when you're in a good headspace, it makes sense that you'd feel better physically.
However, beyond this general feeling of wellness, there are several noteworthy physical benefits of regular meditation:
Reduces the intensity of pain. Believe it or not, research has found a connection between meditation and pain relief. According to one study, a group that practiced mindfulness meditation for four days experienced a 27 percent reduction in pain intensity. That's powerful stuff!
Lowers your blood pressure. Meditation has also been shown to help people's bodies produce an enzyme that can lower blood pressure — researchers found that folks who practiced transcendental meditation twice a day had lower blood pressure after several weeks. The same type of meditation has also been shown to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Helps you sleep better. Mindfulness meditation can be extremely effective if you have trouble falling asleep. In fact, Harvard Medical School explained that studies have found meditation to be more helpful than a sleep education class at reducing insomnia.
As you can see, the health benefits of meditation are nothing to scoff at; there are real, tangible rewards when you learn to calm your thoughts! Sure, it might not be an easy thing to get the hang of — but once you do, we're willing to bet that it'll be so worth it.
To get started, try setting aside a few minutes each day to sit in a quiet, comfortable place and practice clearing your mind. You can also download a helpful app that offers access to a library of guided meditation sessions.
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