5 Reasons Why You Should Meditate Daily
Meditation has been around for thousands of years and comes in different forms from cultures around the world. Meditation seems to be one of those buzzwords at the moment everyone is talking about but do we really need to meditate daily?
A lot of the rich and famous also claim meditation to help them get through their day and help them achieve their goals.
Jennifer Aniston told The Telegraph:
â€œItâ€™s not one thing you can put a finger on. Itâ€™s like a kick start for your day, it just centers you and your stress levels are just down, you find yourself interacting in the world easier and better, in a calmer way. Thereâ€™s a peaceful joy that comes over you. I donâ€™t know how or why, itâ€™s no rhyme or reason.â€
Full confessions, while I know it’s good for me I am bad at meditating every day! I am bad at holding myself accountable when starting new habits in general. But I’m not alone.
We all have different personality types and different reasons as to why we find this difficult. In an attempt to tackle this and start making our dreams a reality we talked about how to hold yourself accountable using Gretchen Rubins’ four tendencies.
Following on from this I thought it would be helpful to apply some of my love of list-making and questioning things, and research 5 reasons why you should meditate daily. Hopefully, this will help push you and me in the right direction and start meditating daily.
At the end of last year, I was really good at meditating every day and I noticed the benefits of building. I became calmer, more level-headed, I slept better and I just felt happier in general.
Here are 5 reasons why you should meditate every day
1. Meditation reduces stress & anxiety
One small study (Kabat-Zinn et al., 1992) put people suffering from anxiety and panic attacks through an 8-week mindfulness meditation program. The course included weekly 2-hour classes and a 7.5-hour silent meditation retreat towards the end of the program.
20 out of 22 of the participants had a significant decline in panic attacks and anxiety by the end of the program. A follow-up three years later (Miller et al., 1995) found that the patients who kept up their meditation practice continued to benefit.
Another study (Carlson et al., 2001) found that cancer patients who participated in a 7- week mindfulness program successfully managed to lower their stress levels and maintain more stable moods. This program had people meditate at home daily and attend a weekly group session.
Not surprisingly at the start of the study educated females were found to have higher symptoms of stress scores than other groups. The cool part is that they found everyone benefited from the program. Age, gender, educational background, stage of cancer, and the type of diagnosis.
Why is stress bad?
If reducing stress was the only reason to meditate that would be good enough for me. Stress can have all sorts of strange and unpleasant effects on our bodies. Some of the side effects of stress include high blood pressure, muscle tightness, depression, digestive issues, poor sleep, anxiety, weight gain, and lower concentration.
2. Meditation increases self-awareness
Self-awareness is something we need to practice. I don’t know anyone who finds this completely natural. When we increase our self-awareness we get to understand our bodies more, our true wants, needs, and dreams. We can better understand when something is wrong and how to fix it. It can take years. I’m certainly not there yet.
One study (Farb et al., 2007) scanned people’s brains and compared those that trained in mindfulness and those that weren’t. They found that the people trained in mindfulness showed changes in the way their brains were connected and used.
The patterns of brain activity indicated that there are two ways people can be aware of themselves, in the present moment and over time. People can also learn these two types of self-awareness through mindfulness meditation practices in as little as 8 weeks.
3. Meditation improves concentration
As someone with a fairly short attention span, this is something I have been working on. The Headspace app has a specific series dedicated to this.
The proof: When researchers (Brefczynski-Lewis et al., 2007) compared the brains of expert mediators and novices using functional MRI machines they found the experts had less brain activation in the areas of the brain in charge of discursive or distracting thoughts and emotions and more activation in areas related to attention and response inhibition.
Two groups of experts were studied. Some with over 19,000 hours experience and some with over 44, 000 hours of experience. The more the person had meditated the better they were at concentrating.
4. Meditation slows aging
Meditation has been found to keep your brain young (Luders et al., 2007). As we age our brains start to deteriorate, yikes! But the brains of meditators at age 50 were found to be 7.5 years younger! If the other reasons weren’t enough to encourage you to start meditating then this one should catch you.
I have recently come back to Canada where my Grandparents live to visit family and my grandma who has dementia. It is such a sad disease. She is going down so quickly. She can recognize people but she can’t remember what she does from one minute to the next. Both her sisters had the same thing so it has long been a fear of mine to go the same way.
As we get older we get wiser but unfortunately, at some point, we can also tip back the other way. Screw wrinkles, our brains do all the hard work. Plus meditators tend to also look after themselves more physically so you will get the bonus of looking younger as well.
5. Meditation makes you happier
Mediators look happier! The more people meditate the happier they look (Choi et al., 2011). But that doesn’t mean you really are happier? Maybe.
Our body language says a lot to other people. Happier people smile more and display open body language such as standing tall, having open arms and legs. The closed body language of less happy people can be identified by having arms or legs crossed, hands clasped, etc. People see people with open body language as more approachable and confident.
Our minds also follow our bodies. Even when we don’t feel happy we can trick our brains into feeling happier when we force a smile. Try it now. Fake it until you make it!
Frowning can also make you feel angrier too.
Italian researchers (Marzoli et al., 2013) found that people who frowned due to being in the sun without glasses felt angrier than people that were wearing sunglasses or not looking directly into the sun.
So there we go, meditation will help you be happier. At the end of the day isn’t this something we all want? To be a little bit happier.
Well, I think that has convinced me to meditate daily again. Now to get back into the habit. Especially since I have spent the majority of this week in airports due to delayed and canceled flights. Airports and dealing with travel insurance companies don’t make for the most enjoyable getaway. But spirits must stay higher. Everything works out in the end. Right?
Have I missed any important reasons? Why do you enjoy meditating? How do you find it benefits you?
Kabat-Zinn, J., Massion, A. O., Kristeller, J., Peterson, L., Fletcher, K. E., Pbert, L., Lenderking, W. R., and Santorelli, S. F. 1992. Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in the treatment of anxiety disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149(7), 936-943. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1609875
Miller, J., Fletcher, K. and Kabat-Zinn, J. 1995. Three-year follow-up and clinical implications of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention in the treatment of anxiety disorders. General Hospital Psychiatry, 17(3), 192-200. https://doi.org/10.1016/0163-8343(95)00025-M
Carlson, L. E., Ursuliak, Z., Goodey, E., Angen, M. and Speca, M. 2001. The effects of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction program on mood and symptoms of stress in cancer outpatients: 6-month follow-up. Supportive Care in Cancer, 9(2), 112-123. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s005200000206
Farb, N. A, Segal, Z. V., Mayberg, H., Bean, J., McKeon, D., Fatima, Z. and Anderson A. 2007. Attending to the present: mindfulness meditation reveals distinct neural modes of self-reference. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2(4), 313-322. https://academic.oup.com/scan/article/2/4/313/1676557
Brefczynski-Lewis, J. A., Lutz, A., Schaefer,H. S., Levinson, D. B., Davidson, R. J. 2007. Neural correlates of attentional expertise in long-term meditation practitioners. PNAS, 104(27), 11483-11488. http://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/104/27/11483.full.pdf
Luders, E., Cherbuin, N., and Gaser C. 2016. Estimating brain age using high-resolution pattern recognition: Younger brains in long-term meditation practitioners. NeuroImage, 123(1), 508-513. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811916300404
Choi, Y., Karremans, J. C., and Barendregt, H. 2011. The happy face of mindfulness: Mindfulness meditation is associated with perceptions of happiness as rated by outside observers. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 7(1), 30-35. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2011.626788
Marzoli, D., Custodero, M., Pagliara, A. and Tommasi, L. 2013. Sun-induced frowning fosters aggressive feelings. Cognition and Emotion, 27(8), 1513-1521. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2013.801338