As a practice, meditation has been offering benefits to our physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing for thousands of years. With a strong history rooted deeply in the East, the last few decades have seen a steady increase in the recognition of its far -reaching benefits and, as a result meditation is now also practised widely in the western world.
It is no longer wrapped in mystery, practiced by a few spiritual gurus but is an accessible, mainstream practice supported by a proliferation of medical evidence proclaiming its many benefits as well as thousands of apps, books and articles urging us to take control of our busy lives and rebalance our daily routines so that we can reap the many rewards that a regular meditation practice can bring to our health and wellbeing.
Meditation helps provide an answer to many of the challenges that we as individuals and society as a whole are experiencing – do more and to do it faster so we can have more of what we neither need, nor really want in the hope that it will provide the happiness and stillness that we really crave. Meditation helps deliver this antidote to our hectic lifestyles and best of all it requires little time, is free to do. Below are just a few of the many benefits a regular mediation practice can deliver.
Living in a world surrounded by images of what the perfect life should be it is little wonder that we are seeing record numbers of people suffering from stress. In the UK around 7 million adults qualify for an anxiety order diagnosis and we are also seeing a growing number of children suffering from stress and anxiety. We all benefit from small amounts of stress in our lives but this becomes an issue when it is unrelenting and we feel there is no way out. Stress on the body affects all of our organs, our nervous system, immune system and muscles as well as how we think, feel and even what we believe. Meditation can help to give us back perspective and control, quietening the mind and when our minds are quieter, we can start to prioritise what is important.
This leads onto another benefit for our emotional wellbeing as we start to become more aware, through the practice of meditation, how our thoughts drive a lot of what we do and how we feel. Through a regular meditative practice, we can start to take control of our thoughts and by doing this we create space which allows us to make different choices. No longer reacting automatically in the moment, we can assess what is happening and respond accordingly. Amazingly not even science can explain where a thought comes from and yet they drive most of what we do. Meditation allows us to take that control back by providing distance and perspective before we respond.
Meditation can also help to reduce how much time we spend worrying about what has just happened and what we think is going to happen in the future. Through meditation we can spend more time in the moment focusing on our breath as an example. When we take time out to meditate it helps quieten the mind and so we are able to spend less time worrying about what has not yet happened or accepting what has already been. Not trying to change anything but accepting things just as they are. If you notice yourself attaching to your thoughts you can bring yourself back to the breath. Accepting what is, deciding to change it or letting it go are really the only options we have and if we do one of these things there is little if anything left to worry about.
Remarkably we can also reduce our need for medical care by meditating on a regular basis. As Dr David Hamilton demonstrates in his book “How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body” the results are nothing short of miraculous. Meditation helps create a more positive state of mind, a more positive state of mind helps us to live longer, this was the conclusion of a study which ran over 30 years and involved 447 people. Jon Kabat Zinn, (credited with bringing meditation into the mainstream) works in the US with people for whom the medical world can no longer help, either with medication or through surgical intervention. He has helped hundreds of people deal with their pain through meditation by moving towards and facing their situations rather than trying to avoid what is happening to them. Being in the moment and accepting where they are actually increases their ability to deal with what they are experiencing. Meditation can even improve our body’s ability to heal after we have been injured or undergone surgery. By focusing on the area of the body affected and visualising the area healing, the results have been truly incredible.
There is an explosion of scientifically supported studies as well as many inspirational true stories that support how beneficial a regular meditation practice can have on our health and wellbeing. When we are more content with our lives our stress levels decrease, we become less selfish and listen more carefully to others which allows us to be more patient and tolerant. We become kinder and more compassionate and all of these ways of being have a positive impact to our health and wellbeing. So why not put 10 minutes of your day aside to meditate, it really is good for your health.