A decade ago, you would be hard-pressed to find many people who knew anything about meditation, let alone practiced it. But today, meditation has become wildly popular in the United States. Books, Youtube channels, and smartphone apps are dedicated to the study of it, and everyone from college students to senior citizens are reaping some pretty great benefits (I’ll get to those in a minute).
Of course, there are still some people who are unsure if meditation is right for them. Some are concerned meditation is a form of religion, and as such won’t “jive” with their current faith. But the practice of meditation is not inherently religious anymore than yoga or Tai Chi are.
Perhaps Deepak Chopra explains it best when he says, “Meditation is, first of all, part of every spiritual tradition…in the world. There are breathing meditations in every tradition. There are body-awareness meditations in every tradition. And there are variations of mantra meditation. It has nothing to do with belief or ideology or doctrine. It’s a simple mental technique to go to the source of thought.”
Meditation, or mindful meditation as some call it, is simply the practice of training your mind to be present in the moment. You don’t judge the moment or analyze the moment, you simply be present and aware in the moment.
While that concept seems like hogwash to some, modern science has shown through numerous studies that meditation has many real benefits. Here are some of the top ones:
Alleviate Symptoms of Stress
Most of us are living with some amount of stress. Chronic stress can lead to a host of health issues. But meditation has been shown to lessen the effects of stress. For instance, meditation has been shown to reduce the levels of cortisol. Prolonged and elevated levels of cortisol have been linked to the development of insulin resistance, hypertensions, and suppressed immunity.
Manage Chronic Pain
Mindful meditation, in conjunction with yoga, has been shown to decrease pain levels and increase a sense of well-being.
According to a growing body of research, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) may be very beneficial in reducing depressive symptoms and preventing a relapse.
A Better Night’s rest
A lack of sleep can make life feel miserable. And chronic insomnia can lead to a suppressed immune system and other health issues. Research has shown that a meditation practice can help improve the quality of sleep.
If you’ve been curious about meditation but were concerned it wouldn’t mix with your particular faith, I encourage you to give it a try. It just might change your life for the better!