The practice of meditation is prehistoric in origin, dating as far back as 1500 BCE when Taoists and Buddhists used it as a way to understand the sacred and mystical forces of life. Today, meditation has become more mainstream, with meditation centers and clinics popping up all across major cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. However, the best part of this seemingly simple practice is that you don’t have to be a yogini, a monk or esoteric hippie to reap the benefits of meditation. Here are five reasons why embracing the ohm could lead to a healthier life.
It promotes emotional well-being.
The practice of meditation forces you to place yourself in a mental space where you feel calm, peace and emotional balance. When you meditate, you clear away the ‘information overload’ that tends to build up after a long day of texting, tweeting, checking in on Facebook, blogging, taking selfies, reading e-mails, and the like. Because the simple exercise of breathing and focusing prevents stress from getting into your system, you learn how to gain new perspectives on dealing with frustrating situations, increase your self-awareness, learn how to focus on the present, and dramatically reduce negative emotions.
It increases your ability to focus.
If you’re just beginning to meditate, many experts recommend following what’s called a guided meditation. Guided meditation is the use of a voice or soothing music to help you focus and create a safe mind space to meditate in. With guided meditation, your physiology undergoes a change where every cell is filled with more prana, or energy. This energy, felt long after you’ve completed your meditation, increases your brain’s ability to multitask and focus. It also decreases your tendency to get distracted, since guided meditation strengthens the mind’s capacity to pay attention.
Meditation can reduce illness.
Whether you find yourself suffering from an illness of the mind or body, meditation can greatly promote a state of healing. On a physical level, meditation has been used to lower high blood pressure, decrease tension-related pain, such as headaches, insomnia and muscle or joint problems, and improve the immune system, making the body a hostile environment for common colds or even major sicknesses like cancer and heart disease. Mentally, meditation, over time, teaches you how to turn negative brain wave patterns into alpha states, otherwise known as ‘good vibes.’ These vibes can reduce anxiety attacks, depression, and increase serotonin and dopamine production, which improves mood and enforces positive behavior.
It encourages healthy eating habits.
When you feel better, you do better and, chances are, you’ll want things that are better for you. Because meditation increases your self-awareness, you’ll automatically develop the ability to listen what your body is telling you, and respond to it. Meditation has been known to encourage ‘mindful eating,’ which is simply the ability to eat with full attention. You’ll crave healthier foods, like leafy greens and fresh fruits, because you know that’s what your mind and body needs. When you focus on your food, you’re less likely to overindulge and consume things that aren’t truly nourishing.
Meditation can make you happier.
During meditation, brain signaling increases on the left side of your pre-frontal cortex, which is liable for positive emotions, like joy, peace and contentment. The activity on the right side of your brain, responsible for negative emotions, dramatically decreases, which explains that ‘light and airy’ feeling you get after you’ve completed your meditation session. Other benefits also include self-awareness and acceptance, which contributes to overall happiness.
No matter your age, disposition or spiritual association, meditation can help you gain clarity, peace of mind, and even save your life.
Looking to start your journey towards well-being? Here are some great articles to get you on your way:
Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Quieting the Mind
How to Start Meditating
A Basic Buddhism Guide to Meditation