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The actual benefits of meditation based on personal experience
Meditation is a word you’ve probably heard a lot and a thing advised by a lot of people. But, is meditation overrated? Or, does it have actual benefits?
I’m aware that there have been tons of studies that showed the science-backed real benefits of meditation practice. But, in this post, I’d focus on the actual benefits of meditation based on personal experience, things I’ve been experiencing since I adopted a meditative lifestyle.
No, meditation is NOT overrated. The benefits are REAL!
Let me share with you a bit of my meditative journey so that you get the idea of how I come to this conclusion.
I attended my first vipassana retreat back in 2009 and have been practicing daily ever since. I also attended several more retreats over the years.
I consider myself not a disciplined guy, not by a long shot. But, with all of my flaws, I’ve been trying to build consistency and regularity in my practice. Meaning, I’ve been trying to be mindful throughout the day, in everything I do.
So, in my practice, meditation doesn’t only mean when you’re sitting on a cushion in that lotus posture. You can also meditate while you’re walking, standing, lying down, or while you’re doing your daily activity.
As long as you’re maintaining mindfulness with the right attitude, you’re meditating.
To be honest, at first, I was barely experiencing anything. If any, it was so subtle that I wasn’t sure enough to tell that it was indeed an effect.
But, as time progresses, the effects are becoming more and more undeniably obvious.
I can humbly share with you, these are what I’ve been experiencing:
- Less and less anger
- Less and less reactive
- Less and less complaining
- Less and less stress
- Less and less greedy
- Less and less anxious
- Less and less sadness
- Less and less unhappy
- More and more patient
- Better focus and concentration
- More thorough and careful
- Less often losing my center and restoring my balance is becoming quicker and more effortless
- Becoming easier to accept things as they are
- Easier and better quality sleep
- Improved health and physical fitness
I can go on and on but I think you get my point. I feel mentally more stable, less prone to mood swings, and other negative emotions.
Surprisingly, meditation has made me more mindful of my thoughts. It enables me to take advantage of my pessimistic thoughts and beware of my optimistic thoughts.
All the things that are getting less are still there, but noticeably, they’re getting less. And, the things that are improving are still not perfect. They’re just getting better.
As you can see, the benefits I’ve been experiencing are nothing extraordinary, nothing psychic, at all.
My experience with meditation is not so much about getting “things” but more about losing “things.”
And, so far, those benefits have been giving me more than enough reasons to keep on practicing so much so that I can’t imagine a life without meditation. Because since then, I see life differently; it becomes energizing, enjoyable, optimistic, and full of possibilities.
Now, I’m not saying that I’ve reached “my destination,” far from it. I’d say it’s a work in progress and, I’m enjoying every moment of my journey as I have no targets whatsoever.
The important point I’ve learned so far is that meditation needs to be practiced in a continuous regular manner. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You cannot force results. Therefore, patience is key and, have no targets in mind.
Although in some cases, I notice the benefits are immediate for some people like decreasing tensions and stress levels in minutes, becoming calmer persons after only a couple of weeks, as you can see, the benefits I am experiencing are gradual. They took months to be noticeable.
On a couple of occasions, my friends would notice these changes in me first. For me, this fact is an added confirmation of the actual benefits of meditation.
Nowadays, more and more people are practicing meditation for many practical reasons.
The actual benefits of meditation based on science
Numerous scientific studies on the benefits of meditation have been conducted to date. Not just because of curiosity, but also because of the promising findings.
As a result, people are becoming more and more aware of its undeniably beneficial effects.
If you feel the need for scientific references, here are some of them:
Mindfulness meditation alleviates pain, anxiety, and depression to a similar degree as antidepressant drug therapy.
Mindfulness practice at school reduces the likelihood of depression-related symptoms in adolescents.
Mindfulness meditation training program can effectively reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic and can help maintain these reductions in patients with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or panic disorder with agoraphobia.
A study of mindfulness meditation program conducted at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness found increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. Participants also reported reductions in stress that were correlated with decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress.
Meditation can improve sleep quality, significantly reduce depression, anxiety disorder including panic attacks, and improve mental health.
More studies on the efficacy of mindfulness meditation in helping people cope with Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction may have a beneficial effect on anxiety symptoms in GAD and may also improve stress reactivity and coping as measured in a laboratory stress challenge.
Source (1), Source (2).
Existing research on Mindfulness-Based Intervention, which includes meditation, supports the theory that cultivation of greater attention, awareness, and acceptance through meditation practices is associated with lower levels of psychological distress, including decreased symptoms of depression, anxiety, worry, and anger.
Meditation can reduce alcohol and substance abuse.
Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness, brain regions associated with attention, sensory, and cognitive processing which include the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula. Meditation also might offset age-related cortical thinning.
Meditation increases your mental strength, resilience, and emotional intelligence.
In his book, “Wise Mind, Open Mind,” a licensed psychotherapist, Ronald A. Alexander, Ph.D. reveals that the process of controlling the mind, through meditation, increases mental strength, resilience, and emotional intelligence.
Source: Ronald A. Alexander, Ph.D.
Meditation might slow the age-related loss of gray matter in the brain.
Meditation increases your capacity to endure pains.
Researchers at the University of Montreal exposed 13 Zen Masters and 13 comparable non-practitioners to equal degrees of painful heat while measuring their brain activity in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner.
The Zen meditators reported pain levels below what their neurological output from the fMRI indicated. They were aware of the pain, but the sensation wasn’t processed in the part of their brain responsible for appraisal, reasoning, or memory formation. In other words, their brain was receiving pain signals, but they weren’t translating them to actual feelings of pain.
Source (1), Source (2).
Meditation makes you more aware of your unconscious brain activity.
A team at the University of Sussex, Brighton, UK, revealed that people who meditate had a longer pause between unconscious impulses and actual actions, and, are also less hypnotizable.
Mindfulness meditation increases creativity.
Several studies found that mindfulness meditation has positive impacts on creativity and divergent thinking and reduces cognitive rigidity. In other words, meditation increases cognitive flexibility.
Source (1), Source (2), Source (3).
Meditation improves emotion stability, compassion, and rapid memory recall.
A study by UCLA suggested that mindfulness meditation slows the progression of HIV. Researchers at UCLA reported that the practice of mindfulness meditation stopped the decline of CD4 T cells in HIV-positive patients suffering from stress, slowing the progression of the disease.
Loving-kindness meditation improves positive social emotions and social connectedness. A study published in the American Psychological Association stated that “even just a few minutes of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of social connection and positivity toward novel individuals on both explicit and implicit levels.”
Furthermore, another study also found that positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. In turn, those result in increased life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms.
As you might have probably noticed, the actual benefits of meditation cover both mental and physical aspects which are tightly related. In other words, fix the mind, and the body will follow.
There are many more scientific studies on the benefits of meditation have been conducted. You can find many more if you do some research. The above are only a few of them.
And, the promising findings will result in more studies being conducted.
The point is, the benefits of meditation are REAL. They are science-backed.
Since meditation has actual and real benefits, you can have them too!
Meditation is certainly not the easiest thing to do on earth, but it’s not some rocket science either.
Most meditation techniques are quite simple and straightforward.
The question is why quite a lot of people still think that meditation is nonsense and a waste of time?
Studies have shown that even a brief properly-done meditation session has measurable positive results.
The answer lies in the consistency and regularity of the practice. Meaning, you need to habituate it, make it part of your lifestyle.
Speaking of meditation styles and techniques, there are tons on offer out there, based on different traditions. Many of them are valid. The differences are for accommodating different needs due to people’s diversity in personalities, characters, cultural backgrounds, upbringing, etc.
You’ll need to experiment a bit to find the right meditation approach that suits you the best.
If there are vipassana retreats conducted in or near your area, I’d advise you to attend one.
They are usually ten days in duration. So, you’ll need to free up your schedule.
If that’s not convenient for you, consider taking a meditation online course. It will certainly help you to have the regularity and consistency needed to build a practicing habit that facilitates transformation.
This is the one I highly recommend.
It includes many styles and techniques based on many different traditions with step-by-step guides. So, you’ll have plenty of rooms to experiment to find the one that suits you the best.
And, the teacher is an accomplished meditation master that will guide you through each step and answer your questions.
Using a suitable approach and following a set schedule will help a lot in building consistency and regularity.
Adopting a meditative lifestyle has transformed my life. I’m sure it will transform yours as well.
And, since meditation is a lifetime journey, let’s enjoy every moment of it.
My best wishes.
- Easy Hacks to Maintain Mindfulness, Stay Focused, and Avoid Mind-Wandering During Meditation
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Featured photo designed by javi_indy / Freepik
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