Meditation is known to improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being, proving it highly effective. It is a topic under much scientific scrutiny, and research often provides insights into new and different benefits of meditation to the human body and mind. The wide variety of meditation techniques also offer other benefits.
One essential purpose of meditation is training the brain to retain focus. The ability to process and ignore distracting thoughts is beneficial to those with conditions such as ADD, anxiety and depression. While you may assume that a skill like this would require lots of experience, studies have shown that just a week of practice can significantly improve cognitive abilities. It has also been shown to improve working memory, even under pressure.
Meditation is effective in helping us work on the problems we face in life. Despite the impression many get of meditation as an activity of avoidance, it is highly beneficial for dealing with stress. It can help us realise that often the circumstances that make us feel bad are beyond our control.
Meditation has even been seen to cause the brain to grow. This may sound strange or unbelievable, but meditation has been proven to reverse the thinning of the frontal cortex, which usually comes with age. This means we will have a better capacity for language and cognition for a longer part of our lives. It also thickens parts of the brain associated with attention and memory, which can improve cognitive performance.
Studies have found that meditation improves immune response. One study indicated that meditators given the flu shot had more antibodies in their blood. Benefits such as these were still present in the body months after regular practice of meditation had concluded. Furthermore, the ability of meditation to prevent stress may be the reason it aids in improving the symptoms of many medical conditions, from heart ailments to cancer and asthma, as well as for those who suffer from chronic pain. Studies have shown that meditation can reduce direct experiences of physical pain by up to fifty per cent and suggest that meditation can be used to increase the efficacy of traditional medical treatment when used alongside it.
Those who practice meditation often find that it provides them with a greater sense of energy. If you find yourself getting too tired or in need of a nap, meditation may be an appropriate alternative to provide you with extra energy and focus. Meditation can also improve your alertness.
The ability to lose yourself in meditation is an excellent skill for those who struggle to disconnect from the world and feel heavy pressures from the world around them. The harmonious state of flow experienced in meditation is one of the positive qualities of meditation that can improve joyfulness. I like to use the term ‘in the zone’ to explain the feeling of deep meditation. Hopefully, it is a sensation you have experienced previously in your life; it is often felt when you are doing something you enjoy, or when you feel prepared for a project, or play a competitive sport. This is what it feels like to enjoy the flow of meditation.
Another critical benefit of meditation is the ability to cultivate compassion. Through meditation, we can work to build better, stronger relationships. Loving-kindness meditation is a form of meditation that allows us to make compassion for all sentient beings. It is critical that we have compassion for ourselves and others to gain self-acceptance and so that we can forgive ourselves and others. When we stop to acknowledge why a person has acted in a certain way, we can gain empathy and understand what has motivated them to hurt us. This is beneficial for all involved.
Some spiritual traditions suggest that meditation can progress in stages with practice, providing gradually deepening insights into your being. Other traditions speak of enlightenment: a somewhat elusive concept but the idea of understanding the universe’s mysteries is something awe-inspiring to consider when using meditation. The sense of freedom that one may experience upon achieving enlightenment is something we can only imagine. Whether you believe in the concept of enlightenment or not, it can be an exciting incentive for meditating. If it raises questions you are not comfortable with, then consulting a spiritual guru may be something that would help you on your meditation journey.