Have you ever tried meditation? I know, it always seems like new-age mumbo-jumbo. And even when you sit down and really try it, it’s hard to see the effects right away. After all, isn’t it just… sitting still and doing nothing? You’re not about to reach nirvana or a flow with the universe anytime soon with that nonsense. So what’s the point?
Well, as a former disbeliever in meditation’s power, let me have 5 minutes of your time. Maybe I can convince you to see meditation a little differently…
Embrace the Benefits
Okay, first of all, I don’t really need to go into too much detail here, but it’s important that you understand that there are a few benefits of meditation that are backed up by reliable scientific studies. It’s not just health nut mumbo jumbo. In fact, that’s why some hospitals use it for pain control, and addiction recovery centers regularly use it to help with recovery. So here are some reliable effects of regular meditation:
No, not like how a jedi can do mind control. Think of it more as how Mr. Miyagi can do mind control. Meditation gives you better cognitive function. Most of us think that we’re just slaves to our own thoughts, emotions, and impulses. However, that’s usually because we don’t know how to effectively exercise our mental powers. With exercise (by which I mean meditation) you can start to stretch your mental muscles. This means that you can control the path of your thoughts, your impulses, and even those nasty little voices in your head that tend to get you down. Who wouldn’t like to be able to make those guys fall in line, amiright?
Along with these benefits comes increased cognitive function. Certain studies have found that meditation can actually increase the brain’s grey matter. It boosts your memory and your attention span, helping you focus at work and become a better problem-solver.
Rates of anxiety and stress are higher than ever before. And while many of us opt to relieve that stress by binging a show on Netflix, or eating our feelings, those coping techniques are ultimately much less productive than something healthy like meditation. Meditation helps us to slow down our body’s adrenal response, cutting the harmful effects of stress on our body.
Physical Body Benefits
If you have a hard time trusting recommendations about how meditation can help your mental processes, look no farther than the physical evidence of meditation’s benefits. Meditation, especially when it’s a habitual and daily practice, serves to reduce inflammation at a cellular level (reducing your risk of inflammatory diseases like Alzheimer’s, heart disease, arthritis, and even gum disease.) Meditation can also boost your immune system, empowering the natural processes in your body to counter disease.
Making Meditation Work for You
Alright, so you understand that meditation is good for you. But you’ve tried it before, and never seen those promised results. It can be harder and harder to practice meditation when you can’t see any results in your daily life, especially if the practice of sitting still and doing nothing drives your restless legs crazy.
Here are some ideas to utilize the best parts of meditation, even if you’re not in the lotus position breathing out “ohm” for an hour each day:
- Prayer: Did you know that meditation originated as a form of prayer? It’s an attempt to align oneself with the divine without and within. So, if your usual method of prayer is more like kneeling and whispering, that’s okay! You can still get the meditation benefits listed above with purposeful and concentrated prayer. Just make sure that you’re spending at least as much time listening as talking.
- Motorcycle Maintenance: A best-seller came out a while ago called “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” This doesn’t mean you have to be of a mechanical mind to meditate. The true idea is that meditation benefits can come through actions as well as inaction. You can lead your mind into a meditative state, or flow, while keeping your hands busy. Consider doing puzzles to rest your brain, or getting into those crazy adult coloring books. Gardening, or scrubbing the bathroom, can be a form of meditation, as long as it’s a task that you enjoy, it gives your mind plenty of room, and it avoids screens as much as possible.
- Download guided meditations on your phone. Starting out, it’s really hard to keep your mind focused during meditation. Using professional guided meditations can help you stay inside of yourself, and have purpose-based meditations.
- Meditative observation is a great option for people who don’t like to have their eyes closed that whole time. During meditative observation, your thoughts are drawn outside of yourself through observation of a natural process around you. You might watch a candle flame, observe flowing water, or just stare up at the fluttering leaves in a tree.