What are the benefits of meditation?

As we experience stress, our bodies automatically react in ways that prepare us to fight or run. While this physical response is helpful in cases of serious danger, a lengthy state of such stress or aggressiveness can cause physical damage to every area of the body. Meditation affects the body in exactly the opposite ways that stress does. It calms the body, aids in self-repair and prevents new damage from the physical effects of stress. This modality of developing wellness is excellent because it's free and always available.

Meditation reverses your stress reactions, thereby protecting you from the effects of repeated agitation. When performing meditation, the body's heart rate and breathing decrease, blood pressure normalizes, oxygen is used more efficiently and the body perspires less. Adrenal glands produce smaller amounts of hydrocortisone, the mind ages at a reduced rate and immune system functionality improves. Meditation also helps clear the mind and increase creativity. Those who meditate regularly find it easier to end harmful habits like smoking, alcohol abuse and drug usage. While the research into meditation is still progressing, great strides are being made in understanding it's positive effects on every aspect of a person's health.

How does meditation work?

Try to dedicate at least 5–20 minutes to meditation. Lengthier sessions bring greater benefits, but starting off slowly may help you commit to practicing long-term. Begin by sitting in a relaxed position and clearing your mind. Focus on a sound, your own breathing or nothing at all. Silence and privacy will help during your first practice sessions. Many practitioners attach a spiritual component to it, but it can also be a secular exercise.

Meditation does require practice and some people may find it difficult to perform successfully in the beginning. It also requires patience and may be difficult for those with busy schedules. However, the time and effort it takes to learn and practice is well worth it in terms of the benefits it provides.

How does it compare to other therapeutic modalities?

Meditation has no potential side effects. It is similar to journaling in that people with physical limitations may find it easier to practice than physical exercise, and no special equipment is needed. Again, it takes discipline and commitment, so you may find it more difficult to maintain as a habit. Consider enlisting the help of a teacher or class for added motivation.

July 2017
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