What if I told you there was one thing you could do every day that would completely change your life and it only required 15 minutes of your time, would you do it?
I’m assuming most people would answer yes to this question; however, what if I told you that “one thing” is mindfulness meditation.
I’m guessing you may be more reluctant to adopt this new habit. I say this because less than 14% of Americans meditate consistently despite its incredible benefits. The good news is that this number tripled since 2012 when 5% of Americans reported practicing meditation.
Why is meditation underutilized?
Meditation is so simple in theory yet so difficult for most people to implement because it can be incredibly challenging to quiet our minds and commit to practicing meditation regularly and consistently.
For instance, sitting quietly for an extended period is usually very uncomfortable for most of us. We often give up on the practice before experiencing its incredible results. We fail to realize that meditation gets much easier over time.
It requires patience and consistency to train the mind to slow down. After practicing meditation consistently for just a few minutes a day, you will begin noticing your brain quieting more effortlessly.
You will feel a quieting of the mind emerge, and that peaceful state will accompany you throughout your day.
What are the benefits of meditation?
Meditation has been practiced for over 5,000 years and is widely recommended due to its benefits for physical and mental health. You will be hardpressed to find someone who has consistently practiced meditation that hasn’t experienced incredible results.
Meditation has proven psychological and physical health benefits, zero side effects, and only requires a short amount of time to practice each day, yet it is widely underutilized.
Unfortunately, despite overwhelming rates of stress, anxiety, depression, and overall unhappiness, Americans are not implementing this incredible practice into their daily routines.
Some of the science-based benefits of meditation include:
- Reduces stress
- Alleviates feelings of anxiety
- Improves emotional health
- Enhances self-awareness
- Improves focus
- Improves sleep
- Decreases blood pressure
- Increases positivity and overall happiness
Meditation reduces stress and anxiety
Through the practice of quieting our minds, we create space between our thoughts. This space results in greater focus, clarity, and ease as we move about our day.
As a result, we feel much calmer and happier. Fewer things ruffle our feathers, resulting in less stress and anxiety.
Through conscious awareness of our thoughts, we have more control over the mind and its perception of the world.
This shift in attention is incredibly powerful at increasing feelings of positivity and overall happiness in our lives.
How does meditation impact the brain?
Studies show mindfulness meditation changes both the structure and activity of the brain.
An eight-week study at Harvard suggests that consistent meditation increased the size of the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and reduced cell volume in the amygdala, the area of the brain that contributes to fear, anxiety, and stress.
Another study conducted at Yale University found that meditation decreases activity in the Default Mode Network of the brain.
Why is this important?
This is important because the Default Mode Network (DMN) is the part of the brain that contributes to mind wandering, also referred to as “monkey brain.”
Decreased activity in the Default Mode Network reduces feelings of stress and anxiety because this part of the brain is responsible for our tendency to worry and over-analyze.
This over-thinking often results in unhappiness because, as our minds wander, we lose touch with the present moment, leaving us feeling disconnected and out of control.
Meditators have better control over their minds. They are more equipped to reel in their thoughts even when their minds do begin to wander.
This ability to control the mind leads to greater clarity, better focus, and less stress and anxiety.
The impact of meditation on brain composition and function is remarkable and reveals both short and long term benefits for our physical and mental health.
What to expect as a beginner meditator?
Meditation can be intimidating. I remember having a challenging time integrating the practice into my daily life as a novice.
Think of the brain as a muscle. You wouldn’t expect to have massive biceps after just a few days at the gym.
Strengthening the mind is similar to training the body’s muscles because it requires time, patience, and consistency. I suggest choosing a particular time of day, preferably early mornings, to carve out ten to fifteen minutes of solitude for meditation.
Meditation is simply the practice of being alone with one’s thoughts in an effort to quiet the constant chatter of the mind. There is nothing fancy or complicated about the method.
You don’t have to wear a long robe and shave your head to reap mindfulness meditation benefits. You can find many guided meditations on YouTube and various other places.
As a beginner, start with only five to ten minutes of meditation at a time. Understand that your mind will wander, and your job is to reel it back in by focusing on the breath.
While meditation is certainly a practice that requires time and patience, the benefits are most definitely worth the effort. Commit to a meditation practice for one week and notice the incredible benefits you receive.