Meditation is the habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts.
The popularity of meditation is increasing as more people discover its many health benefits.
You can use it to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Many people think of it as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration.
People also use the practice to develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns and even increased pain tolerance.
Take a moment. Breathe. Focus your mind. Slow down and read each word. Become aware of yourself reading this sentence, this paragraph. You, sitting there, focusing on each word, one by one. Become aware of each sound as it echoes in your mind, the one you’re hearing right now, and this one, and again and again and again. The voice in your mind reading this to you, is that you? If so, then who is doing the listening?
Numerous studies using MRI and EEG have shown that a regular meditation practice can rewire the neural patterns in the brain and even increase grey matter. Below are some practical benefits psychologists and doctors have found to regular meditation:
- Increases Self-Awareness
Psychologists have noted that patients who practice meditation develop greater awareness of their actions and emotions. Some therapists prescribe meditation to their patients to assist them in their practice.
- Increases Focus and Discipline
Practitioners of meditation are able to retain focus on specific tasks and are less likely to deviate from those tasks. Meditation increases one’s ability in what psychologists call “self-regulation.”
- Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Mindfulness techniques have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress5 and have long been prescribed to patients who suffer anxiety disorders and panic attacks as a way to calm their nerves with relatively good success rates.
- Makes you Physically Healthier
People who meditate on average sleep better, have lower heart rates, have lower blood pressure, and get sick less often.
- Increases Emotional Stability
For people who are prone to outbursts of anger or sadness, meditation helps people regulate and control their emotions.
- Increases Memory and Helps You Think More Clearly
Meditating trains you to remove all of the unnecessary garbage from your thought-patterns. This then frees up your mind to retain what is useful and important more efficiently.
- Gets You In Touch With Your Intuition
Often referred to as your “gut reaction,” your “instinct,” or your “intuition,” meditating gets you in touch with your unconscious decision-making processes. Daniel Kahneman refers to it as your “first brain.” Malcolm Gladwell refers to it as “blink.” Whatever it is, that instant, gut reaction that you have about some things, is often right. Meditation will increase that. This goes hand-in-hand with self-awareness.
- Increases Your Ability to Empathize with Others
Brain scans show that meditation activates the positive, happy, empathetic aspects of the brain. People who practice meditation regularly report an ability to empathize and care about the emotions of others and bond with them more easily.
- Lowers a Need for External Validation
Meditating trains yourself to become more aware of what thoughts and emotions dictate your behaviour, primarily where you’re trying to receive your love and validation that may not be working. It forces you to become more aware of your needy and neurotic behaviours and put an end to them.