Doctors and psychologists often recommend that you experiment with meditation when you’re struggling to cope with stress. When it comes to stress relief, many people think you should deal with your stress by simply avoiding the things that stress you out. Physical and mental stress can come from just about anywhere. It can come from our jobs, our finances, even our friends and family. So it may not be something that you can avoid by learning how to meditate. You can significantly reduce your stress without having to make any of these major changes to your lifestyle. But how can sitting in silence for 10 or 15 minutes have such a huge impact on your life? When we’re stressed about repaying student loans or giving a big presentation, our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol, which is responsible for so many of the most common negative side effects associated with stress.
Cortisol can impair your memory, increase your blood pressure and disrupt your sleep. All of which can make you feel fatigued and unmotivated. Cortisol can also lead to depression and chronic anxiety, which can bring your productive lifestyle to a crashing halt. Luckily, a 2013 study found that meditation, specifically mindfulness meditation, effectively deals with stress by decreasing the negative side effects of cortisol production. A second study, which examined over 1200 participants found that regular meditation lowered stress more than almost every single medical or psychological treatment on the market. In both of these studies, the results were consistent for people of all ages and experience levels. So no matter who you are or how much you know about meditation, it can be an incredibly effective way to reduce your stress.
Improve your self-esteem
Self-confidence is something that almost everyone struggles with on a daily basis in a world filled with critics and bullies. It can be really difficult to develop and maintain a lasting positive self-image, but without it, you may be struggling every day just to avoid another period of depression. Now, if this sounds like you, mindfulness meditation can help you build a kind of self-esteem that won’t fall apart. The next time, something doesn’t go your way.
Mindfulness meditation is actually a pretty simple concept to practice mindfulness. All you need to do is bring your complete attention to the present moment, by focusing exclusively on where you are and who you are. Mindfulness can help you stay calm, relaxed, and aware. It can also reduce your anxiety while allowing you to think clearly and rationally. The ultimate goal of mindfulness meditation is to get you in touch with your senses and emotions, giving you a deeper understanding of yourself. A 2005 study showed that this deeper understanding often results in the development of self-esteem. In this study, researchers had a group of individuals diagnosed with breast cancer practice mindfulness meditation for 12 weeks at the start of the study, each participant was tested and showed very low levels of self-esteem. After 12 weeks of meditation, the entire group showed dramatic improvement despite their chronic illness, while mindfulness meditation does help build self-esteem. It’s even more effective at stopping your self-esteem from decreasing. When you experience failure or social rejection, you might start having cyclical negative thoughts, which can quickly destroy all of the self-esteem that you built up. These harmful thoughts discourage you from doing the things that make you happy. It’s incredibly important to address these issues before they get out of control. Meditation is a great way to do just that because it offers you the opportunity to bring your attention to the negative thoughts or habits and find ways to correct them.
Mindfulness meditation also has been used as a form of therapy for individuals struggling with depression. Not only does it reduce the production of chemicals in our brains associated with depression, but also fosters a more stable, emotional mindset by decreasing the presence of unhealthy behaviors. The practice of brooding is common amongst individuals with depression, allowing for negative emotions like sadness, anger, and self-criticism to stick around for way too long. A study by the University of Exeter looked for this kind of behavior in two groups of people who were recovering from depression, the first group used only depression medication. While the second group practiced mindfulness meditation, at least once every day, the researchers found that about half of the medication group ended up relapsing because of unhealthy behaviors, which prevented the medication from doing its job. On the other hand, those who practiced meditation were significantly less likely to relapse because they were less likely to engage in any of these depressive behaviors.
So if you’re hoping to improve your emotional health, mindfulness meditation can be a safe and effective way to cut depression off at the source.
The hardest thing about meditation is keeping your mind from wandering. You’re so used to constantly thinking about your work and all your responsibilities, that it can be hard to focus on something simple like your breath or the moment, but by practicing this kind of concentration, you’re actually increasing your attention span so that you’ll be clear-headed and productive when you refocus your mind on work. But how much can meditation really affect your attention? In 2007, a study answered this question by testing the concentrative skills of people before and after an eight-week course on mindfulness meditation, the researchers found that meditation dramatically improved their speed and performance. Despite having never meditated before the eight-week course, a number of other studies have shown the same overwhelmingly positive results suggesting that daily meditation can heighten your focus and increase your productivity.
How long does it take you to fall asleep at night? The number can vary, but generally, it should take between 10 and 20 minutes for your body to relax, shut down and go to bed. So what does it mean if it takes you an hour or more to fall asleep? Well, it could mean you’re just going to bed too early, but difficulty falling asleep can also be a sign of insomnia. Insomnia can last anywhere from a few days to a few years. Most people would think to resolve the issue with sleeping pills, that these can have a number of nasty side effects, including addiction and fatigue. So psychologists have begun recommending meditation as a healthy and safe alternative by meditating before bed, you give your body and your mind the time to reduce stress and physically wind down.
According to a 2015 study, this short period of relaxation can significantly improve the quality of your sleep. Even for chronic insomniacs, it can help you fall asleep sooner, stay asleep longer, and stop you from randomly waking up in the middle of the night because you’re getting a better night’s sleep. You’ll also notice improvements in memory, concentration, and problem-solving, which require your brain to be sharp and well-rested.
The amount of pain that you feel is often based on your own perception. In other words, if you can learn to control your state of mind, you can often reduce the amount of pain you’re feeling at any given time. Daily mindfulness meditation is an effective way to hone that controlled mentality, which will allow you to cope with and lessen the amount of pain that you’re feeling. I know it almost sounds superhuman, but a 2011 study found that individuals who meditate every day seem to experience less pain than everyone else.
They discovered this by looking at the activity of their brain while in pain, finding that people reacted significantly less to painful stimuli in comparison to people who had never meditated before. Another study tested pain tolerance in over 3000 participants who were struggling with chronic pain, they found that those participants who practice daily meditation were far better at coping with their pain, whether you struggle with a chronic illness or just want to lessen the amount of pain that you feel the next time you get hurt, daily meditation can potentially decrease your perception of pain.
Meditation can have a huge effect on the parts of our brain, that store, and recover memories. The best example of this was shown by a study in 2013, in which a group of researchers examined the brains of people who had never meditated versus people who meditated every day, while they found that the brains of long-time meditators were more developed in a number of different areas. The regions associated with memory where some of the most prominent regions were thicker or intricate and more active than their counterparts, which the researchers attributed to daily meditation. This means they not only have an easier time recalling events from their long-term memory but can also store information much more efficiently. These skills are extremely helpful, no matter who you are. So start practicing meditation to make sure you never forget your keys, your phone, or other important details of your life.