Back in my early twenties, my life was dominated by fear and anxiety.
I was so scared of speaking in public that I chose to drop out of business school rather than give a presentation to my classmates.
I was struggling to make ends meet in a sales job because, despite generating a ton of leads, I fell apart when it was time to close the sale.
My anxiety was the result of years of extreme bullying as a kid. It wasn’t until I attended a retreat in Florida that I discovered how life-changing meditation could be!
Meditation is one of several tools that would ultimately help me leave this trauma behind and take back control of my life.
It’s no exaggeration to say that I left the retreat a new person!
Today, I help thousands of clients to use meditation for healing and empowerment, and the transformations they experience continue to amaze me.
Before we take a look at the benefits, let’s explore what exactly meditation involves.
What is Meditation? (You can hear my Mindfulness Meditation below)
Meditation holds different meanings to all who practice, but a common intention is for the person gains a greater sense of mastery over their mind and their thoughts.
This can be directed towards managing stress or illness, achieving goals, changing bad habits, improving skills, or simply achieving a sense of peace in an otherwise hectic life.
There are countless ways to practice, but modern meditation can be loosely grouped into two styles.
Focused-attention meditation involves concentrating your attention on a single thought, visualization, or sound — think mantras or chanting, for example.
Open-monitoring, on the other hand, encourages the free flow of thoughts, requiring that you simply become aware of them and observe them without judgement.
Of course, I’m a huge believer in the power of meditation, but you don’t have to take my word for it!
I’ve compiled some of the best scientific research (14 to be specific) showing the many incredible benefits of meditation.
Check it out and see how meditation can transform your life, too!
Mental & Physical Health
Stress is quickly becoming one of the most serious public health issues in the developed world.
Left unmanaged, it leads to problems like anxiety, depression, sleep disruption, and eating disturbances.
However, a review of many different studies concluded that meditation is an effective tool for managing stress, anxiety, and depression.1
Stress is thought to contribute to painful chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome.
This is largely due to the inflammatory action of the stress hormone cortisol, but a study found that just eight weeks of mindful meditation lowered stress-related inflammation,2 and another showed a reduction in symptoms for fibromyalgia sufferers.3
A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that meditation was in fact more effective than traditional psychotherapy treatments, especially for those suffering from chronic anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.4
This study and another5 showed that with long-term practice, the positive anxiety-reducing effects of meditation continued indefinitely.
Depression can be a debilitating disease and it’s notoriously difficult to treat, but meditation provides some hope for sufferers.
It’s associated with inflammation in certain areas of the brain, but researchers found that meditation could reduce this inflammation and relieve symptoms significantly.6
This is supported by a large-scale review of multiple studies on the positive impact of meditation on depression.7
Lack of sleep is linked to stress, fatigue, and weight gain, but it can be hard to switch off and get the recommended eight hours a night.
Meditation helps to calm both your body and your mind, and those who practice it before bedtime report falling asleep sooner, sleeping for longer, and enjoying better quality sleep.8
6. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence refers to your ability to understand, manage, and appropriately express your emotions.
If you found yourself particularly irritable and unable to keep from flying off the handle when under stress, for example, it would be said that you had low emotional intelligence.
Meditation teaches you to take a step back and become a passive, non-judgemental observer of your thoughts.
From this perspective, you develop a deeper understanding of your emotions and you’re able to exercise greater control over them.
This was demonstrated in a study in the Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, where subjects showed increased emotional intelligence and fewer feelings of stress after mindful meditation practice.9
What we want is often in direct conflict with what’s best for us, but self-control helps us to make positive choices — resisting the urge to spend money on something we want but can’t afford, for example, or restricting ourselves to one or two drinks at the annual office party.
So how does this relate to meditation?
Well, self-control is regulated by an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex.
The more we exercise self-control, the stronger this area becomes.
Research supports this, showing that meditation can help you to overcome impulsive12 and even addictive behaviors.
A study involving recovering alcoholics found that meditation helped them to manage their cravings,13 while a review of multiple studies showed it was an effective way to control food cravings in those who were vulnerable to emotional eating or bingeing.14
Our emotions and behaviors — both positive and negative — are rooted in the subconscious mind.
Because we’re so focused on our conscious thoughts, we’re often not even aware of our unconscious motivations, let alone in a position to address them!
Meditation helps by quieting the conscious mind and encouraging you to observe the natural flow of your unconscious thoughts.
9 Compassion & Self Esteem
Meditation, particularly a type known as loving-kindness, can make you a more compassionate person, towards both yourself and others.
It begins by focusing kindness, love, forgiveness, and positivity towards yourself, eventually expanding to include family, friends, and others.
Multiple studies show just how effective this practice is,18, 19 and it seems the more you meditate, the more compassionate you become.20, 21 And of course, viewing yourself through a lens of love and kindness, as well as seeing yourself as a more compassionate person, naturally improves your self-esteem.
A positive attitude can help to fight stress and depression, improve your coping skills, boost your social life, and even make you live longer. It makes life infinitely more enjoyable, but cultivating a positive mental attitude doesn’t come easily to everybody.
The good news is that meditation can help!
Anecdotal evidence from countless sources shows that meditators feel happier, more optimistic, and more resilient to stress.
The Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine agrees, with a study showing that meditation significantly increased activity in the areas of the brain associated with positivity and optimism.22
11. Brain Structure
So we know meditation is great for every aspect of your health, but did you know that it can literally re-shape your mind?
These include the areas responsible for learning, memory, emotional regulation, creativity, and concentration.
Let’s look at these in more detail…
Do you find yourself constantly forgetting why you walked into a room?
Do you have to search the house for your keys every single morning?
Perhaps you have a terrible memory for names or faces?
Again, meditation can help!
Harvard researchers found that not only do people who meditate retain more information than their non-meditating peers, but they can also access their memories more quickly.25
13. Creativity & Problem-Solving
A recent Dutch study found that meditating can boost your creativity and help you to think outside the box.28
Those who took part showed what’s known as ‘divergent’ thinking when asked to come up with new ideas.
This is a style of thinking that encourages you to explore many different ideas and solutions, as opposed to focusing on just one.
During meditation, you’re encouraged to concentrate on simply observing your thoughts, re-focusing your attention if your mind begins to wander.
Many people find this difficult at first, but with practice, they find that they can concentrate and maintain their focus for much longer periods of time.
Meditation studies show that this skill extends into day-to-day life.
It seems you don’t need to meditate for long to feel the benefits.
One study found that just 20 minutes of daily meditation led to a group of students performing up to ten times better than their peers on a cognitive skills test.32
Incredibly, these benefits started to show up after as little as four days.
Amazed at just how powerful meditation is?!
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Meditation has the power to improve almost every single aspect of your life.
I’ve experienced it first-hand, and science agrees!
If you’re ready to find out for yourself, I have a special Mindfulness Meditation you may be interested in.
Ask me about it!