13 Reasons to Start Meditating Now
There’s no getting away from it — 2017 was an even worse than the year everyone loved to hate, 2016. In order to cope with the stress that this past year brought on, many people are turning to meditation.
Meditation is a great habit to pick up. Even if you do it for a few minutes a day, you’ll soon start seeing tangible benefits in your everyday life. If you’re looking for a good reason to start meditating right now, we’ve laid out a few benefits that it can bring to your life, as well as a few suggestions on how to start today.
1. It helps you be more mindful
Meditation is simply the practice of turning your mind to one single point of reference rather than what happens in our day-to-day lives, where our attention is pulled in a thousand different directions.
By focusing your attention on a single point — such as your breath, a mantra, or on the sensations of your body — you tune out the distractions of the outside world. This focus manifests itself in our lives as mindfulness, the ability to focus on the present moment, rather than being continually distracted by other thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
2. It helps decrease stress
Increased mindfulness in our daily lives can help us slow down and appreciate the world around us. It can also help decrease stress in our lives because we become more adept at dealing with one thing at a time instead of being stressed out by all aspects of our daily lives that we cannot control.
Meditation is the greatest gift that we can give ourselves. It’s a set time every day where we do something that’s just for us. The more we meditate and the more we practice mindfulness, the more we can see stress for what it is — an unnecessary burden.
3. It helps you gain control over your emotions
Have you ever felt out of control, and a slave to your emotions? You’re not alone! It’s tempting to feel an emotion like anger or sadness, and think that it defines who we are.
Many people turn to meditation to help themselves feel more in control of their thoughts and feelings. For example, a popular meditation technique called “noting” can help us label our passing thoughts and feelings, and by doing so, we’re able to put them aside and mindfully turn our attention back to the present moment. This technique can help us realize that our emotions are important, but they don’t define us.
4. Slowing down helps you make intentional decisions
Another way that our emotions can take over our lives is when we let them dominate the decision-making process. Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve made a decision under stress that you would have never made otherwise? Meditation can help this!
By learning how to slow down our breathing, we slow down our heart rate, which helps us press pause on our panicked, racing mind. It’s important to practice this intentional slowing down every day, not just when we’re stressed out. The more we practice, the better we get at it.
5. It will help you slow down your frenetic, fast-paced life
Nowadays, it seems like everyone has a million things on the go at one time. Work, school, friends, hobbies, politics, religion — if you can name it, it probably takes up some of your precious time.
Taking up a meditation practice every day encourages you to take time out of your busy schedule just for yourself, every single day. Eventually, this calm period of your day will start to permeate the rest of your life, as you begin to realize the value of stillness and solitude. Meditation not only gives you the inspiration to simplify your life, it gives you the skills to make it happen.
6. Meditation improves your concentration
There are tons of studies that show that meditation can help improve your concentration if you do it for long enough. Not only does it help you focus on a single task at hand — something that many people find impossible (looking at you, people who eat in front of the TV!). Also, many people also find that it helps with multi-tasking. The increased concentration may be a result of how much energy you have after meditating, or it could just be a result of you training your brain to slow down.
7. It gives you perspective on your own mind
When was the last time that you actually thought about why you did something? We as humans are blessed with consciousness, but precious few of us actually make use of it on a daily basis.
When you enter into a daily practice of meditation, you’ll start becoming more familiar with the inner workings of your own mind, and consequently, more able to notice its patterns, and how it works on a day-to-day basis. Once you’ve gotten to know your mind a bit better, it becomes easier to analyse our emotions, thoughts, and feelings as part of a larger pattern, rather than just looking at them on their own.
8. Meditating improves your memory
One meditation study recently showed that even brief meditation sessions can have a positive impact on our mind. In fact, improvements in executive function and memory were found after just four consecutive days of meditation. If improvements were made after four days, imagine how much you could improve your memory with an ongoing daily meditation practice!
Improving our memory is something that we may not know we need, but it’s becoming more necessary to practice. Especially considering that the introduction of smartphones and computers that remember everything for us has had an adverse effect on our working memory.
9. Meditation can help us manage our physical pain
There is a ton of evidence to show that being mindful about physical pain can help us tolerate it much better. This means focusing on the physical sensations of the pain we’re experiencing, while breathing and controlling our thoughts, instead of focusing on the way the pain is making us feel.
Say you twist your ankle or get a paper cut. If you wanted to try out this mindful approach, breathe deeply and focus on the physical experience of the pain, rather than thinking about how much it hurts and getting frustrated with ourselves for making such a stupid mistake.
10. Meditation can reduce your risk of heart disease
It seems like a reach, but studies have definitively shown that meditation reduces a person’s risk for heart disease and stroke by 48 percent. The study that tested this theory asked 200 high-risk individuals to take either a health and wellness class or a meditation class, and tracked their progress for five years. Afterwards, the group that took the meditation class were at a much lower risk level for heart attacks and strokes, because they were able to lower their blood pressure and stress factors through meditation.
11. Meditation can help improve your interpersonal relationships
A type of meditation called loving-kindness meditation, which is practiced by many Buddhist monks, can help you cultivate empathy and benevolence towards all living beings. People who practice loving-kindness meditation are much better at reading facial expressions than the average person, so even if you feel like you’re a caring and empathetic person already, learning how to read facial expressions in this way can bring you to a deeper level of empathy.
12. You can do it anywhere
One of the main reasons why you should start practicing meditation today — like, right this minute — is because it’s easy and you can do it anywhere. We’ve laid out of a ton of arguments for why you should be doing it, but the most important one is that there’s literally no excuse not to. You can do it anywhere — in bed, at home, in the store, on the beach — and it only takes a few minutes out of your day.
13. It’s never been easier
There are so many options now for meditation classes, online courses, inspirational videos, and even apps that there’s no reason why you can’t go out right now and find a practice that’s right for you. If you try one and don’t like it, just try another one.
Maybe you feel more comfortable meditating as part of an organized class, or maybe you want to avoid the structure of a formal program altogether and sit quietly by yourself every day and breathe. The choice is entirely yours!