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Meditation is known to have been practiced for thousands of years – and has probably been practiced for much longer.

Ancient people understood the practical benefits of meditation, and now modern science is able to back it up. But you don’t need to have an intellectual understanding of exactly how meditation works. With a bit of practice, you can know it on a personal and intuitive level.

Meditation can help you develop a mentally clear and emotionally calm state. This ability is first developed while meditating, but naturally grows to stay with you during the day.

This calm state can help you be more present, harbor fewer negative emotions, improve your relationships, and be more effective at whatever you are doing.

Meditation is also used to develop mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of what is currently happening without evaluation or judgement.

This helps you act from a place of higher wisdom, instead of reacting emotionally to what is going on around us.

When I started meditating, I noticed the effects in my life almost immediately. It even affected my dreams.

It helped me to develop a better awareness of myself – my inner states, emotions, thought patterns, and more. This increased awareness of my internal states and processes allowed me to better manage my mood and emotions. I also spend less time in ‘down’ states.

I also developed a better awareness of what is going on around me and of other people. This is likely because I was less consumed with my own state, so I was more able to be present for the people around me.

Here I want to talk about the different benefits that meditation is known to help with.

Mental benefits

Meditation can make you smarter. It has been shown to improve cognition. And this improvement generalizes to other tasks. Improvements to cognition can also create a “cognitive reserve”. This has been shown to decrease or even stop age related cognitive decline [1].

Meditation has also been shown to improve memory through free recall of an event – without an increase in errors [2].

To demonstrate that the benefits of meditation are accessible, a study of non-experienced meditators showed that a practice of just 13 minutes a day over 8 weeks had many benefits. These benefits include enhanced attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation [3].

Emotional benefits

Meditation is known to have a wide range of emotional benefits.

For example, it can help increase resilience to stress [4] – something that can help practically everybody these days.

Meditating regularly can also increase your emotional awareness and help you to better identify what you are feeling [5].

In addition to having a better awareness of what you are feeling, you can also manage your emotions better. Studies show a range of mind/body benefits with the most common being enhanced emotional regulation as well as improvements to attention, and self-awareness [3].

In patients with mental health issues, meditation has shown to be effective at decreasing levels of depression, anxiety, pain, psychological stress, and substance abuse [6] [7].

Physical benefits

In addition to the many mental and emotional benefits, meditation can also have a positive impact on your physical health.

This includes helping prevent cardiovascular disease [8] – one of the main diseases affecting health these days.

Studies show [9], [10], [11] other benefits include decreasing blood pressure and inflammation. Meditation can also help keep you healthy through improved immune function. It can even have a positive effect on your blood sugar levels by improving management of glucose and insulin resistance. It can even help keep you healthier as you age as well as help you live longer by increasing your telomerase activity.

Spiritual benefits

The ultimate goal of meditation isn’t to think better or feel better, or be healthier, more productive, or more effective – even though it helps with all of these.

Ultimately, you want to find your place in the universe – and feel at home here. All the immediate benefits are to help support this higher-level goal.

As we move towards functioning optimally, we gain a better understanding of how we work as individuals and how we fit into the bigger picture of the world.

The more these abilities and understanding improves, the less you need to focus on yourself. This allows you to better help and support the people around you. You are better able to give back to the world and help address the issues humanity is facing today.

Getting started

There are many different kinds of meditation. I want to help you develop a foundation that can be used as part of practically any meditation style. The practice described here is enough to benefit you. You will likely notice changes after practicing for a few weeks (or maybe even sooner).

As you practice other people may start noticing shifts in you as well. They will see you staying calm in situations you used to react to. Or being more present when talking to you. Or just being happier overall.

To start, find a comfortable position. The exact position doesn’t matter too much, though sitting is best. Sitting with your spine erect allows you to relax but stay alert. You can also lie down but there is a danger of falling asleep.

Bring your awareness to your breath. Attempt to keep your attention on the breath.

The mind will wander. This is natural and expected – it is actually an important part of the practice. What you want to pay special attention to is when you realize that your mind has wandered. This is the part of the brain you are training. Appreciate that you have successfully noticed that your mind has wandered and bring it back to the breath.

With practice, the part of your mind that notices when you have become distracted will get stronger. This process takes time and practice. Don’t force it. It is the process that is important here – not the goal.

It is also important that, while focusing on your breath, you keep your peripheral awareness open. You want to focus on your breath but still be aware of what is going on in your body such as subtle sensations, aches, pains, or pleasant feelings. Whatever you are feeling, just observe. Accept and let the sensations be. Know that they are only temporary and will go away when you get up after your meditation session.

Start small – say 5 minutes at a time. Work your way up to what is comfortable and practical for you. A daily 15-minute practice can be beneficial. For people who are more serious, 45 minutes to an hour will provide an excellent foundation.

Key Takeaways

Meditation can help us on the physical, mental, and emotional levels.

When practiced consistently, it can also help you be a better person for yourself and the people around you.

Get started today:

Start a daily practice with the technique described above at a time of day that is convenient to you.

If you want to deepen your meditation practice, click here. You will learn more intermediate and advanced meditation techniques.

Works Cited

[1] P. Malinowski and L. Shalamanova, “Meditation and Cognitive Ageing: the Role of Mindfulness Meditation in Building Cognitive Reserve,” Springer, 12 April 2017. [Online]. Available: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41465-017-0022-7.

[2] G. F. Wagstaff, J. Brunas-Wagstaff, J. Cole, L. Knapton, J. Winterbottom, V. Crean and J. Wheatcroft, “Facilitating memory with hypnosis, focused meditation, and eye closure,” PubMed, October 2004. [Online]. Available: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15590510/.

[3] J. C. Basso, A. McHale, V. Ende, D. J. Oberlin and W. A. Suzuki, “Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators,” ScienceDirect, 1 January 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S016643281830322X.

[4] J. Galante, G. Dufour, M. Vainre, A. P. Wagner, J. Stochl, A. Benton, N. Lathia, E. Howarth and P. B. Jones, “A mindfulness-based intervention to increase resilience to stress in university students (the Mindful Student Study): a pragmatic randomised controlled trial,” National Institute of Health, 3 February 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5813792/.

[5] N. Jadhav, R. Manthalkar and Y. Joshi, “Effect of meditation on emotional response: An EEG-based study,” ScienceDirect, April 2017. [Online]. Available: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1746809417300083.

[6] M. Goyal, S. Singh, E. M. S. Sibinga, N. F. Gould, A. Rowland-Seymour, R. Sharma, Z. Berger, D. Sleicher, D. D. Maron, H. M. Shihab, P. D. Ranasinghe, S. Linn, S. Saha, E. B. Bass and J. A. Haythornthwaite, “Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” PubMed, March 2014. [Online]. Available: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24395196/.

[7] A. Chiesa and A. Serretti, “A systematic review of neurobiological and clinical features of mindfulness meditations,” PubMed, August 2010. [Online]. Available: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19941676/.

[8] M. K. Koike and R. Cardoso, “Meditation can produce beneficial effects to prevent cardiovascular disease,” ResearchGate, April 2014. [Online]. Available: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264274486_Meditation_can_produce_beneficial_effects_to_prevent_cardiovascular_disease.

[9] J. Fell, N. Axmacher and S. Haupt, “From alpha to gamma: Electrophysiological correlates of meditation-related states of consciousness,” ScienceDirect, August 2010. [Online]. Available: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306987710000903.

[10] E. Luders, A. W. Toga, N. Lepore and C. Gaser, “The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: Larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter,” ScienceDirect, 15 April 2009. [Online]. Available: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1053811909000044.

[11] D. Quach, K. E. J. Mano and K. Alexander, “A Randomized Controlled Trial Examining the Effect of Mindfulness Meditation on Working Memory Capacity in Adolescents,” ScienceDirect, May 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1054139X15003808.