- Meditation involves clearing your mind of thoughts and reaching a deep level of peace and calmness.
- It dates back to at least 5,000 BCE and is practiced all over the world.
- Meditation could help reduce anxiety and manage pain, among other benefits.
Meditation is practiced all over the world, and it’s not exactly a recent discovery. Archaeologists have found evidence of meditation in the Indus Valley in the form of wall art, dating back as early as 5,000 to 3,500 BCE. What is meditation, exactly? Why has it been such a popular form of health care for so many years? Let’s look at the benefits of meditation.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a state of mind where you are devoid of thoughts yet aware of what’s happening around you. You must empty your mind. In a meditative state, you will feel peaceful, calm and quiet but alert. Meditation is difficult to describe and even more challenging to achieve. Try it yourself. Empty your head of every single thought and keep it that way. Easier said than done!
Just as important as what meditation is, is what it isn’t. Meditation is not concentration. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. One must attempt not to focus on anything. However, while it might sound like being in a meditative state should equate to a loss of self-control, this is another misconception. You are still in control of your body and mind.
As challenging as meditating is, it’s got countless fans all around the globe. Why?
The Benefits of Meditation
Meditation seems likes a very abstract concept, and it makes sense people might doubt its effectiveness. In fact, some might dismiss it as unscientific or lacking merit. While we might have different responses individually, there is indeed research demonstrating meditation can improve health and wellness.
For instance, one study found that meditation coupled with clinical standard behavioral weight loss programs led to greater weight loss. This was due to improved eating behaviors and dietary restraint — compared to the weight loss programs on their own (1).
Yet another study suggested meditation might be an effective method for managing and reducing anxiety — even better than a brisk walk (2). (However, also important to note is the outcome of the two combined could be even more powerful.)
Other research had older adult caregivers go through an eight-week online mindfulness intervention. They aimed to determine if it might help improve their psychological well-being. Results demonstrated a reduced burden for caregivers, lower perceived stress and anxiety, improved mental well-being and a lower level of loneliness (3).
Furthermore, meditation might even help with pain management. In one study involving adolescents with chronic pain, participants who took part in an eight-week mindfulness group reported improved present moment awareness, pain acceptance and emotional regulation (4).
This data doesn’t exactly prove cause and effect. However, there is a correlation. The benefits of meditation can’t be argued. Many people have experienced positive results from incorporating meditation into their lives.
How to Apply Meditation in Your Life
Know that meditation shouldn’t be considered a replacement for other kinds of health care, including regular check-ups with your doctor. Rather, it’s a complement. You can enjoy the many benefits of meditation anytime, anywhere, free of charge.
First, find someplace quiet and comfortable to sit. Next, close your eyes and relax your body. When you’re first learning how to meditate, it can help to focus on your breathing. Feel your stomach rising and falling. Listen to the sound of your breath. Let all other thoughts go.
This can be your first step to meditate. Ideally, you’ll find that you’re not thinking about anything at all — and yet you’re 100% aware of what’s happening.
If you’re having trouble getting there, guided meditation can be a huge help. Headspace is a great app for this. They have a free membership, and you can start meditating for as little as three minutes at a time. This is a great opportunity to practice. It’s also manageable for beginners who maybe aren’t able to sit still for long periods of time.
Embracing the Quiet
Remember, achieving a truly meditative state can be quite challenging, but if you don’t reach it, that’s okay. If nothing else, you get to spend a few quiet minutes in solitude. Focus on your breathing and returning to a peaceful state of mind. There are benefits to that, in and of itself.
- “Effect of mindfulness meditation on short-term weight loss and eating behaviors in overweight and obese adults: A randomized controlled trial”, Spadar, KC, et al., 2017.
- “Differential Experimental Effects of a Short Bout of Walking, Meditation, or Combination of Walking and Meditation on State Anxiety Among Young Adults”, Edwards, MK, et al., 2017.
- “A Pilot Online Mindfulness Intervention to Decrease Caregiver Burden and Improve Psychological Well-Being”, Tkatch, R, et al., 2017.
- “’I Learned to Let Go of My Pain’. The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Adolescents with Chronic Pain: An Analysis of Participants’ Treatment Experience”, Ruskin, D, et al., 2017.