Everyone wants to be happy. Full stop. ‘Nuff said…And yet, the “rub” is that most of us don’t have any clue how to get from here to there, so we trade in trivialities (aka “distractions”) that we’ve tricked ourselves into believing are the essential steppingstones across the river: money, success, power, sex, drugs, self-help guides, gurus, ad nauseum, ad nauseum. Ah, sweet confusion. It is the stuff we obsess and possess that allow the possible to remain impossible.
It’s all right here! (emphatically fingering his chest)
Now, this is not some soapbox rant imploring the masses to deny that the pursuits and desires of life aren’t valid or to argue that we must repudiate all earthly pleasures and take on the ways of ascetic monks; but rather, a sorta long-winded introduction to a practice, a simple teeny-tiny habit that is guaranteed to broaden our perspectives and cleanse the palate so that we can enter a state of deeper appreciation for life. However it may be.
With that said, it is undeniable that meditation is capable of having many positive effects on both our mind and body. Below we will explore some of them.
Meditation and Its Effects on the Mind
1.) Stress relief. Meditation is extremely helpful with relieving stress. By taking a few moments to step out of our daily lives and be fully present in the moment, we slow down and focus our minds. It can also be scientifically proven. Studies show that it lowers cortisol levels. Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone.”
2.) It reduces anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression often go hand and hand, and meditation is capable of kicking both their asses. Similar to how it lowers stress, its calming effects release chemicals in our brains that make us feel better.
3.) It helps with insomnia. This is again related to the reduction of stress and the positive emotions that meditation effects in people. It is also tied to the physical benefits of meditation which we will discuss later.
4.) It helps you get in touch with yourself. This is probably one of the more obvious reasons people meditate. By slowing down your mind and surrendering your control to a basic form of existence, you allow yourself to more easily feel the emotions you’ve been suppressing throughout the day and feel them more deeply than usual. This allows for a sort of catharsis that most of us are gravely in need of.
5.) It increases feelings of compassion. By getting in touch with yourself, it is much easier to get in touch with others. People are usually projecting what they feel onto others without realizing it. When you meditate, you become more balanced and secure, and can then communicate those feelings to the outside world. Hell, it makes you better at feeling love.
Meditation and Its Effects on the Body
1.) It improves the health of your heart. It has been shown that meditation can reduce thickness in arterial walls and bring down blood pressure. This is probably related to its ability to slow down your heart rate and reduce stress and anxiety. A healthy mind is a healthy body, after all.
2.) It relaxes your muscles. The relaxation meditation causes affects the body just as much as the mind. It can relax your muscles, which in turn can positively affect other physical problems such as arthritis. Its ability to make you happier can also positively affect the random aches and pains that depression causes.
3.) It strengthens your immune system. The strength of your immune system is largely affected by your emotions. If your emotions are more balanced and stable, and you have less anxiety and depression, you will be generally healthier. You also will not engage in bad habits as often if you are feeling better emotionally.
4.) It can help you lose weight. By being less stressed, you will be less driven to overeat and to eat unhealthy foods. You will also be able to focus and stick to your goals better. The calmer you are able to remain throughout the day, the easier it will be to control cravings that lead to negative consequences.
5.) It can slow the progression of diseases as serious as cancer. Recent research suggests that meditating can help telomeres (protein caps on the end of chromosomes) to stay the same length. When telomeres shorten, as they were shown to do in cancer patients who did not meditate, the disease progresses much faster. Longer telomeres, it seems, protect us from disease. The positive emotions meditation causes will also help with one’s outlook, which in turn benefits the prognosis of any disease.
Meditation is truly a holistic healing process for the body, and one over which you have complete control. It allows you to get in touch with your most basic existence; the simple fact that you are and that no matter what the current circumstances are, that’s o.k. The worst case scenario is that it doesn’t have much of a lasting effect, but you have a few moments of necessary quiet time. The best case scenario is that you are reminded of the power of yourself and existence, and that things, for better or worse, are pretty much o.k. You are alive, you can breathe, and you can do anything once you are ready to do it.