The Benefits of Meditation
Meditation is a series of simple tasks, easy to perform, that only need to be repeated until they bear fruit. – Culadasa (a.k.a. John Yates, PhD)
Let’s imagine there’s a new drug on the market that has just been developed with the following benefits:
- Reduces stress and anxiety,
- Improves concentration, working memory and mood
- Supports immune function
- Decreases depression
- Cultivates positive emotions, like empathy,
- Boosts creativity
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Aids in sleep,
- Increases pain tolerance by 40%
- Slows age-related cognitive decline,
- Diminishes inflammation,
- Increases self-control and reduces cravings, such as binge eatingand alcoholism,
- Lowers blood pressure
- And other benefits, including the potential to treat clinical disorders and slow cellular aging
If this were a drug, how much would people pay for it?
But the best part is that it’s free and available to us through meditation. It’s hard to believe that we can capture all of these benefits from such a simple practice. But it’s not as convenient, or as profitable to pharmaceutical companies, as popping a pill.
Beyond these medical benefits, meditation creates a shift in our conscious perception of the world. It allows us to be more in-tuned with our internal worlds, becoming aware of previously unconscious thoughts and emotions that led to automatic behaviors. It’s suddenly a whole lot easier to enjoy the present moment.
To provide an analogy, meditation allows us to look at the mirror (i.e. objectively observing thoughts and mental activity) without looking in the mirror and being caught up in our own internal movie. Or, to use another analogy, we are observing the washing machine from the outside, rather than being inside with the chaotic swirl of clothes.
Essentially what is happening when we meditate is that we are gaining control of our minds. One might think, But I already control my mind. By sitting down and observing our thoughts, it becomes clear that they appear out of nowhere. Our subconscious mind generates thoughts and emotions that come into conscious awareness and then spur us into action or cause anxiety about the past or future. Subconscious thoughts and emotions can lead to self-destructive behaviors. Meditation involves decoupling conscious experience from urges or unintended thoughts. We take control of our minds, overcome the brain’s negativity bias, and what follows is a feeling of serenity and joy.
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For a full list of 76 scientifically-validated benefits of meditation, see: https://liveanddare.com/benefits-of-meditation/.
Online healthcare company Headspace also produces a great research summary as well: https://www.headspace.com/science/meditation-benefits.