Benefits of meditation in modern life
The modern world is busy and chaotic. When days are fast paced, filled with work stress, family responsibilities and trying to maintain a healthy, happy life - it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
Taking the time to relax and destress might feel impossible but research suggests that spending even a couple of moments meditating every day can greatly improve not only mental health but physical health too.
What are the science based benefits of meditation?
Mindfulness meditation has been found in numerous scientific studies to reduce the inflammatory response created by stress. This means by spending a couple of moments focusing on mindfulness, your body can become better at coping with stress. In turn, it can also reduce stress induced conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia.
Overall, meditation seems to help people control their anxiety and keep it at bay. By regularly meditating and practising positive affirmations, an 8 week US study found a reduction in anxiety symptoms in study participants struggling with generalised anxiety disorder. It can also support work related anxiety!
Another important benefit of meditation is the lengthening of attention span. With the increase of social media, it’s no surprise many individuals struggle with staying engaged for long periods of time. Research suggests by focusing on meditation, you are able to improve your attention and accuracy skills and decrease mind-wandering when working on tasks.
Memory is another real benefit to meditation - in particular practising for a short time every day can reduce age-related memory loss as it keeps the mind sharp and builds focus.
Some people have even reported a decrease in insomnia symptoms when focusing on meditation! There are many free sleep meditations that can be incredibly helpful for those who struggle to calm their bodies and minds when night time comes around.
One of the most intriguing benefits to incorporating meditation into your daily routine, is the improvement to blood pressure and overall heart health. Stress not only puts your mind in bother but it also can literally stress your heart as it works harder to stabilise your heartbeat and oxygen levels.
All of these incredible benefits come down to the fact that stress hormones can have devastating effects on the body and mind. From chronic illness, mental illness to poor heart health and inflammation - stress is a quiet killer! So by taking time to de-stress and focusing on the now, you can limit the damage and create a healthy relationship with life stresses.
What are some easy ways to start meditating?
Meditation and mindfulness don’t have to be difficult or take long. You support your body through taking quiet time for yourself in various simple ways.
There are countless free meditation resources such as ‘Headspace’ an app that offers short guided meditations that take anywhere from a couple minutes. You can also find guided meditations for free on YouTube.
Guided meditations are a great starting point for beginners. They step you through the process, breath work and are very helpful for anyone who finds their mind wanders easily. Many guided meditations will ask you to visualise scenes or tune in with your body and can be a simple way to practise without putting pressure on yourself to clear your thoughts by yourself.
However, if you’re looking to take time by yourself you can find a comfortable place to sit or lie down and focus on slowing your breath. It may be useful to play calming music or white noise to listen to and help you relax.
Mornings are a great time to take time for yourself but if your mornings are busy, try meditating before bed. This is a great way to promote healthy and restorative sleep as meditation helps to relax the body and slow the heart rate which aids sleep. You can find guided sleep related meditations online for free or you can just focus on your breath and quieting your thoughts before falling asleep.
If meditation sounds too difficult and you struggle to clear your head, sometimes it's useful to focus more on mindfulness. This could be through writing a short journal entry, drawing a picture, practising yoga, reading a chapter of a soothing book or taking some deep breaths in the bath.
It’s important to remember that mindfulness and meditation looks and feels different for everyone. There's no wrong way to practise and if it feels relaxing and calming to you then that is what really matters! No matter how you meditate, taking a short amount of time to quiet your mind and be with yourself is incredibly beneficial and very healing.
- Matthew Thorpe. 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation. Headline. 2020.
- David Whitaker. 5 Ways That One Minute of Meditation Could Change Your Life. Huffpost. 2017.
- The many benefits of meditation. Headspace.
- Elizabeth Ginexi, Ph.D., Erin Burke Quinlan, Ph.D., and David Shurtleff, Ph.D. Meditation and Mindfulness: What You Need To Know. NCCIH. Reviewed 2022.
- Alice G. Walton. 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain. Forbes. 2015.
- Melissa A. Rosenkranz, Richard J. Davidson, Donal G. MacCoon, John F. Sheridan, Ned H. Kalin, Antoine Lutz. A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation. Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity. Volume 27. 2013.
- Norris CJ, Creem D, Hendler R, Kober H. Brief Mindfulness Meditation Improves Attention in Novices: Evidence From ERPs and Moderation by Neuroticism. Front Hum Neurosci. 2018.
- Tsai SY, Jaiswal S, Chang CF, Liang WK, Muggleton NG, Juan CH. Meditation Effects on the Control of Involuntary Contingent Reorienting Revealed With Electroencephalographic and Behavioural Evidence. Front Integr Neurosci. 2018.
- Khalsa DS. Stress, Meditation, and Alzheimer's Disease Prevention: Where The Evidence Stands. J Alzheimers Dis. 2015
- Jason C. Ong, PhD, Rachel Manber, PhD, Zindel Segal, PhD, Yinglin Xia, PhD, Shauna Shapiro, PhD, James K. Wyatt, PhD. A Randomised Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Insomnia. Sleep, Volume 37, Issue. 2014.