Could meditation practice benefit your life? The practice of meditation is so much more than “just sitting around,” and what many don’t realize is that a simple 15-minute meditation every day can do a world of good for your health, mentally and physically. Even taking 5 minutes to meditate can have an impact.
St. Francis de Sales once said, “Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed.”
Meditation has been growing steadily in popularity over the last several years, but there are still plenty of people who dismiss the simple practice of mindfulness as nothing more than a waste of time. After all, with all of us leading such busy lifestyles, who has time to waste on, well, doing nothing but sitting around?
What is Meditation Practice at Work?
Many have an opinion on the definition of meditation, and there are certainly plenty of definitions that might confuse the idea. However, according to FreeMeditation.com, “in reality, meditation is a state of awareness. It is not an act of doing — it is a state of awareness.”
Meditation, while it may look simple, should be a little more involved than just sitting with your eyes closed for 15 minutes. Meditation is a “state of profound, deep peace that occurs when the mind is calm and silent, yet completely alert” (Source).
The Idea of Thoughtless Awareness
Something important happens during thoughtless awareness — the stress-producing part of your mind is whisked away, and it happens without negative effects on your alertness, or on the effectiveness of your meditation practice.
As you sit and breathe, thoughts are still going to flood your mind. However, rather than engaging with them like you normally would, simply acknowledge them and let them float by. This is thoughtless awareness.
Dr. Ramesh Manocha, an educator and researcher in the Meditation Research Program at the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney Australia, calls this authentic meditation. He states that this “enables one to focus on the present moment rather than dwell on the unchangeable past or undetermined future,” and that “this is said to be therapeutic both psychologically and physically.”
That idea is what sets meditation apart from other activities like sleeping and relaxing. Meditation isn’t about focus, concentration, visualization, or trying to escape your thoughts. It’s all about the act of letting go and giving yourself to your inner silence for a while.
What Exactly is Living in the Moment?
It’s pretty simple, actually. It’s easiest to think of living in the moment as a state of child-like innocence. You’re simply balanced, stress-free (if only for a few moments), and enjoying the now, rather than focused on stress, your job, and the numerous other things that may be screaming for your attention. Living in the moment “harnesses the abilities to be happy, spontaneous, and completely unpretentious” (Source).
Regular Meditation Practice & Your Health
Over the years, meditation has been found to support optimal health and wellness, both physically and mentally. According to the Meditation Loft, “in over 1500 separate studies since the early 1930s, meditation has been clearly shown to offer a wide variety of health benefits” (Source).
- “Meditation decreases oxygen consumption, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, and increases the intensity of alpha, theta, and delta brain waves—the opposite of the physiological changes that occur during stress.” (Dr. Herbert Benson, Harvard Medical School & Author of The Relaxation Response)
- “75% of long-term insomniacs who have been trained in relaxation and meditation can fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed.” (Dr. Gregg Jacobs, Psychologist at Harvard)
- “In a recent study, 77% of individuals with high levels of stress were able to lower their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, simply by training themselves to stay calm.” (Health, October 1994)
- “Relaxation therapies are effective in treating chronic pain, and can markedly ease the pain of low back problems, arthritis, and headaches.” (National Institutes of Health, 1996)
- “Meditators over 6-9 months showed a marked decrease in the thickness of their artery walls, while non-meditators actually showed an increase. This change translates to about an 11% decrease in the risk of heart attack and an 8% to 15% decrease in the risk of stroke.” (Stroke Journal [reported in Psychology Today], 2001)
- “Meditation may slow aging. A study found that people who had been meditating for more than five years were physciologically 12 to 15 years younger than non-meditators.” (International Journal of Neuroscience, 1982)
Regular meditation practice changes your brain. It has an effect on the neural circuits throughout your brain, which then has an effect on your response to certain situations.
According to an article in Huffington Post, “studies show that meditation is associated with movement in a variety of psychological areas, including stress, anxiety, addiction, depression, eating disorders, and cognitive functioning, among others.”
With all of these health benefits, why wouldn’t you want to meditate? Just like with a regular exercise routine, there’s the same excuse from many people—”I don’t have time.”
Making Time for Your Practice
The ideal time for most meditation practice is just 15 minutes twice daily (once in the morning and once at night). However, sometimes sticking to that 15 minutes can be hard. It can be really hard, but there are easy ways to bypass that difficulty.
Rather than focus on 15 full minutes of meditation (especially if you’re new to the practice), start with just two or five minutes instead. Fifteen minutes can seem like a big commitment. When you start with a shorter amount of time, you’re more likely to stick with the practice entirely.
Rather than trying to fit meditation into your daily routine, do the opposite—make meditation your base and build your day around it. Meditate at the same time every day if possible, and make sure you have a quiet place to do so. Silence your phone and let your family and friends know what you are doing so they give you space during those times.
When you start to feel overwhelmed, meditate. Wherever you are, meditate (but please don’t do so while driving or in any other situation where closing your eyes might cause harm to yourself or someone else). You might not think that a few minutes of mindful awareness could help you feel better, but it can—and it’s great for your overall health, too!
Are you a fan of regular meditation? How has it helped improve your life? We’d love to hear from you. Please leave us a comment below.
Featured Image Credit: Moyan Benn via Flickr.com.