Daily meditation is a simple and inexpensive way to improve health and well-being. While it has ancient cultural and religious roots going back to as early as 5,000 BCE, meditation as a practice grew globally because of its proven health benefits. Researchers started looking into the health benefits of meditation in the 1960s. Today, this practice can be found in almost all religions and in psychotherapy.
What is Meditation?
Meditation, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, is a set of techniques that has these four elements: a focus of attention, an open attitude, a specific comfortable posture, and a quiet location that allows you to focus. It has been found to be helpful for high blood pressure, pain, and psychological disorders.
The two main types of meditation are concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation. With concentrative meditation, you focus your attention on a specific object like your breathing, a word or a statement, the sound of the clock, or any other object around you. This type of meditation refocuses your attention and prevents your thoughts from drifting randomly.
Mindfulness meditation brings your focus to the present moment. It increases awareness of your bodily sensations, thoughts, and feelings without making judgements or interpretations. Mindfulness meditation diverts your attention from negative or random thoughts and brings them back to the present moment, often with your breathing as an anchor to relieve mental and physical stress.
Benefits of Daily Meditation
1. Stress reduction.
Meditation is a stress management tool as it lowers the body’s stress response. In times of stress, people who meditate daily have been found to react less with negative thoughts or emotions. Because it brings the attention back to the present, those who meditate are less likely to worry about the negative outcomes or experiences.
2. Lessen chronic pain.
People who are suffering from chronic pain may also benefit from meditation as it changes the structure of the brain and makes you less sensitive to pain. A study published in The American Journal of Medicine finds that meditating has an analgesic effect.
Mindfulness can decrease chronic pain by as much as 90%. It has been found to calm down brain patterns related to pain and you develop emotional flexibility and resilience. Those who meditate learn to cope with pain and accept it as it is.
3. Improve sleep.
Meditating daily before going to bed helps with insomnia. Meditation helps you let go of distracting thoughts and rest your mind. Stressful thoughts tend to creep up at night when there are less distractions and these keep you awake. Reducing stimulating or worrying thoughts through daily meditation helps slow down your rate and breathing rate, creating the ideal condition for falling and staying asleep.
4. Lower blood pressure.
Meditation helps lower blood pressure by reducing the flight-or-fight response. Stress can cause blood pressure to elevate, as it releases hormones that cause the blood vessels to narrow and your heart to beat faster. When you relax as a result of meditation, the blood vessels widen and this keeps blood pressure under control. Daily meditation, preferably 20 minutes twice a day, also stimulates the production of telomerase, an enzyme that has been linked to reduced blood pressure.
5. Improve focus and attention.
Daily meditation improves focus and learning concentration. It also increases your attention span and your ability to remember. Practicing mindfulness through meditation has been found to increase gray matter in the brain. This gray matter has the brain cells that are responsible for learning and memory processes and emotional regulation.
How to Get Started with Daily Meditation
1. Designate 5 to 10 minutes each day for meditation. Choose an area that’s free from distractions.
2. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
3. Pay attention to your breathing. Inhale and hold it in for 10 seconds, then exhale for another 10 seconds. Repeat this step at least five times.
4. Pay attention to any part of the body that feels tense. Release the tension and relax.
5. Refocus on your breathing anytime a random thought comes up.
Daily meditation is a simple and quick way to relax and improve well-being. You don’t need special skills or equipment and you can do it anywhere. Consider meditating to find inner peace and balance for your overall health.