The health and spiritual benefits of meditation are so many and so varied, there’s bound to be something helpful here for everyone. Maybe stress is eating away at your peace of mind, leaving you feeling as tightly wound as a spring. Or you’re feeling confused and unfocused about where you are and where you want to be in life? Or are you searching for something to up your spiritual game? If any of that sounds vaguely like you, then you’ve come to the right place to find out how to help yourself in any or all of those areas.
Our physical health is really the basic starting point of everything that follows in our lives. So I thought I’d take a look at how the benefits of meditation equate with your day to day sense of wellness. In both in the short term and long. So let’s get started!
There are six types of meditation. The aims of each type are different, but in some instances, maybe many, they share common health benefits. Keep in mind, that the greater the span of months that you include it in your routine, the greater the effect of the benefits of meditation.
15 WAYS THAT YOU RECEIVE THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION!
- Reduces stress and studies suggest that the ability to regulate emotions is permanent.
- Improves your concentration. I once read someone commenting that “it’s like weight lifting for your attention span. So the more you do it, the stronger your ‘concentrating muscle’ becomes”. I thought that was a pretty good word picture when I read it. And like everything else, the more you exercise this ‘muscle’, the easier it kicks into action automatically and the more capable it becomes as well.
- Improves your creativity…..because you’ve learned to focus and to ignore distractions.
- Encourages a healthier lifestyle. You’ll be more likely to eat choose healthier foods, give up some bad habits, etc.
- Helps us learn to slow down mentally which makes changes in our bodies at the molecular level.
- Increases our brains desire and ability to look for good things in life. Studies have shown that in meditation, there’s more activity on the left prefrontal cortex of your brain and that’s where the feel good feelings come from. In contrast, the right side which is where the reactions from negative emotions occur, sees a slowing and reduction in it’s activity. This benefit could be included in a discussion on the spiritual benefits of meditation couldn’t it?
- Studies have shown that your ability to remember things is improved. And it’s even been shown to help some people with dementia as they struggle to hold onto their memories longer. In addition, it should be mentioned that it can help people who are caring for a family member with dementia, as they deal with the stress that comes in that kind of life situation.
….8 More Benefits of Meditation For You!
- Helps you learn to lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure can contribute to heart disease and strokes but it was found in a study of 996 volunteers, that when they meditated by simply focusing on a silent mantra, that their blood pressure dropped by five points. Furthermore, in my experience, the peacefulness of heart (lowered blood pressure?) after your practise is something that you take with you into the rest of your day. Thus a long term benefit of meditation as well as immediate!
- Slows aging! I should have opened with that shouldn’t I? Because that’s exactly what we’re all looking for! A way to slow this whole process of getting old! Just like blueberries, pecans and dark chocolate are antioxidants, one of the benefits of meditation is it’s antioxidant effect Who knew eh!
- There’s a bunch of things that cause free radicals in our bodies. Things like fried foods, alcohol, smoking, pesticides, etc. And while we may love some of those things (like the fried foods, the barbecue, or the drink after work) those free radicals that result, are busy doing some serious damage to our cells, our cell membranes and our DNA . This in turn impacts our health in unseen ways to begin with. But eventually that damage begins to show up in the growing crop of wrinkles, hardened arteries and eventually illnesses. One of the benefits of meditation is that it reduces inflammation that is the result of stress. Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol which causes inflammation and is the basis of not only all kinds of diseases but accelerates aging. When you meditate and learn to guide your own reactions to the stresses of life, you condition your body to not release cortisol. Without cortisol, there’s a reduction in inflammation and thus, less likelihood of disease.
- Appears to improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep because it boosts the level of melatonin (the ‘sleep hormone’) which your body makes.
- Increases the amount of brain matter even though you’re aging! A common feature of aging is that we lose grey matter. Just a fact of life so to speak! But using magnetic resonance imaging, researchers were able to see that long time meditators had thicker brain tissue. There was more of it. So instead of loosing important brain cells, you can actually add to them! How cool is that!
- Lowers your cholesterol.
- Blesses you with an improvement in mood or anxiety disorders!
- Decrease in hospitalization costs and lost work income due to improvements in so many aspects of health.
5 WAYS THAT SPIRITUALITY IS IMPACTED BY THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
As I wrote that heading, I was thinking of the potential impact it might have to people of any of the recognized faith’s, as well as those who have differing belief systems or even espouse none. So I’m going to let you know my take on this. I think we are all spiritual beings in the sense that there is an energy that we cannot see that ’causes’ life and thought to happen in these physical bodies of ours. Some people chose to personalize that energy, give the credit to Creator and others don’t. But we all have that life force or energy (or you wouldn’t be reading this or doing much of anything for that matter!) There is this visible, physical aspect of us, as well as a spiritual side to each of us.
And I think the life that we each decide to lead is our expression of that spiritual aspect of ourselves. As such, meditation is an opportunity for the believer and the non-believer to connect with either your Deity or Higher Power or to get in touch with a better understanding of your own emotions and actions. The goal in either case is the same, to live a happier, more authentic life. I guess you could say that meditation is simply the act of taking time to focus on that which is the most important to you.
THE SPIRITUAL BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
One of the benefits of meditation is that it helps us clarify our understanding of who we are. We understand more how we are all connected and how we all benefit from working or living in harmony.
It encourages a greater self awareness. We get so tied up in the chaos of day to day living and tend to become a little insular and focused on self. Meditating gives us an opportunity to ‘know’ ourselves and to recognize the really small part that we play on a big planet and in a huge universe. At the same time, we tend to develop a better concept of how important each one of us is, to the smooth running of society. You are significant, I am significant…All for One and One for All kind of thinking!
It’s an opportunity to connect with the Source of our humanity, our strength, our love.
We can experience growth in our desire to be kind. We find it easier to accept others.
It trains or conditions our brains to look for the good news stories in life. Studies have shown that when you meditate, the left side of your brain is more active. The beauty of that is that the left side is the home of your ‘feel good centre’. This is where your happy emotions come from. So ‘meditation = happy’! As we’re all pleasure seekers, if you strengthen that side of the brain, you’ll be more inclined to look for more of what makes you feel good. You can see how the benefits of meditation could see you becoming an enabler of your own happiness?
SIX MAIN TYPES OF MEDITATION:
I Googled ‘types of meditation’ and the search brought up anywhere from 5 to 23 different types. While the actual practises of some of these types, may differ, they do share many common benefits of meditation. The secret is to find which suits you personally and then make a habit of implementing one of them every day. Give yourself permission too, to try a number of them. What you enjoy today may not work tomorrow. Like everything else in life, variety is the spice of life! Well, maybe that’s true unless……. you’re like me and your routines are immutable! Yep, love my routines I do!
Now if you choose a Spiritual focus, you’ll be following in ancient and well worn footsteps of other cultures. Practises of centuries old Buddhism or Hinduism, but also relevant even to some Western Christian traditions as well. This type of meditation is often characterized by it’s elements of prayer and self reflection. And while the religious person may be seeking a closer unity with a Higher Deity, the Buddhists goal (for example) is to become the best person you can be.
Mindfulness meditation has become very popular in our Western cultures. Having few prerequisites beyond a quiet place to focus and a comfortable sitting position, the basic method is to focus on your breathing and have that as your starting point. Furthermore, when you notice that your thoughts have strayed, just letting that thought pass by while you begin listening again and noticing the sounds and movements of your breathe, in and then out, in and then out.
As you become more comfortable with this practise you’ll go to it automatically. Standing in the checkout line at the supermarket, waiting for your doctor, steeling yourself to deal with a difficult situation. When you feel stress piling on, that moment to focus on your breathe. Take a couple of deep, slow breathes and regroup mentally. In a matter of moments, you’ll feel a now familiar calm returning to your mind and body.
While I’ve been a yoga practitioner for years now, I’ve never really thought about it as a form of meditation. Having said that, the benefits of meditation in combination with the body discipline of yoga are pretty clear. Any physical practise like yoga, or Tai Chi or Quigong are going to require a certain comfort with those practises in order to get the best effects. I would think that when you’ve gotten past the need for active thinking about what your next movement is going to be, the more possible it is to let go of the process, in order to allow your mind to experience the flow of the movement and synchronicity of mind and body. Therein is the meditation.
Actually every ‘method’ of meditation is ‘focused’. The real principal here is that whatever you are doing, you’re giving it your full attention. In our modern world with a thousand distractions and what feels like an endless list of responsibilities, we’ve convinced ourselves that we can not only be fully functional multi-taskers, but that we get more and ‘better’ done, by engaging in it.
Making use of focused meditation in your daily life means, when you eat, you eat. You savour the taste, the texture, the process. When you read a book, the tv is off and you see the words, feel the words, understand the words. When you wash the dishes, you do only that and experience everything about it, from the heat of the water, the texture of the suds, to the satisfaction of seeing the counter cleared and cleaned and ready for the next day. Each activity has the potential for you to experience the benefits of meditation in these reflective moments.
This kind of meditation will make use of mental images of ‘your happy place’. A beautiful lake, some place you love to go, maybe a peaceful woodland or an isolated beach. Some who want to take this kind of practise a little deeper, often enlist the guidance of teachers. Guides who may help them make use of symbolic mandela’s or guided imagery. Emblems that have the potential to take our focus off our own chaotic, busy thoughts.
Mantra’s are often ‘given’ by a teacher or a guru. But you can also chose a word or sound that has personal meaning to you. It’s not so much the word itself that has power, but the rhythm and repetition of it in the quietness that gives you a focus for your attention. Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism, each make use of this tradition. The words used are different, one isn’t better than the other. But the result is ostensibly the same. Focusing the mind. Leading to opening up to a greater awareness of one’s place in the grand scheme of things. Not to mention, a sense of peace in the here and now.
You know, the older I get, the more I appreciate the many Mysteries of the Universe. This is one of them. Just think, people of a thousand years or more ago, were engaging in a practise, that today science is discovering is sooo good for us in so many ways! It’s really quite amazing isn’t it? How did they know? Anyway, I hope you enjoyed learning about this stuff. And if you have any comments or thoughts on any of it, I’d sure love to hear from you. Or hey, if you’ve recently decided to try meditation, I’d love to hear about that especially!
Love to you all and have a great day, wherever you are!
As always, I remind you that while I’ve spent the last 20 years focusing on and learning to ‘grow’ my own health, I’m not a medical doctor. What I’m sharing here is based on my own experiences and the things that I’ve learned from the real experts! Those are the researchers and doctors who’ve seen the actual patients, worked in the labs and write the medical reports that are sprinkled throughout these posts.
My goal is to motivate and help you find your best way to live a healthier and more peaceful life. I and Ageless at Sixty cannot be held liable for any resulting injury or adverse change in health status.
I also advise that any changes that might affect your health status be checked with your accredited physician. This would include changes to your exercise routines and any medications you might be taking or other supplements.
As well, this blog and each post may contain affiliate links. That means that if you buy something through them, I’ll receive a commission, at no extra cost to you.