We’ve all heard that daily meditation practice can improve our lives in many ways. But how exactly does meditation impact us? Before we answer that, we need to understand how meditation works.

Meditation is often thought of as “silencing the mind”. While some do strive for this style of meditation, it is not the only way to meditate. Meditation is the practice of focusing your attention inward and engaging in reflection. When we do this, we learn to tune out our ever-racing mind and tune in to our thoughts and feelings. As we observe ourselves (in a non-judgmental way) we develop a stronger connection to ourselves and others. Anyone can meditate, its just about finding the right tools for you. Here are some ways meditation helps improve our lives.

Improved Sleep – It is reported that roughly 237 million people globally struggle with insomnia. Typically, this is due to a busy mind (or “monkey-mind”). When we introduce a daily meditation habit, we are teaching our brain to relax and release any worrying thoughts. Through the repetition of a daily meditation practice we can redirect our focus away from these worrying thoughts, and focus on other things like relaxing the muscles in our body (body scan), or picturing a quiet scene (ie. imagery of a beach, or walking in the park). This practice reduces the cortisol (the stress hormone) levels in the body and help prepare the body for a restful sleep.

Stress Reduction – A popular reason people try meditation is in an effort to reduce stress levels. Throughout the day people experience various stimuli that invoke the body’s stress response (fight, flight, freeze). While there is definitely a benefit to this stress response (it prepares us for potential threats and improves our awareness), we can’t live in a constant state of stress. Without proper stress management, this can lead to burn-out. When we meditate, we trigger the body’s relaxation response. Here, we let the mind know it is safe for the “walls to come down” and for the body to repair itself from being in a state of stress. Meditation becomes a trigger- when we are taking slow, deep breaths, and relaxing the muscles, we are making our physical body calm down. When our physical body is relaxed, it sends signals to our brain confirming that we are safe and do not need to worry.

Gain New Perspectives – As we practice meditation, we are trying to improve our self-awareness. This means going into a judgement-free mindset so we can look at our whole self, including our shadow self. If we are looking for clarity on something, or to understand ourselves (or others) further, we need to be open to other perspectives. Whether this is the act of “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes” or simply taking a step back to see the bigger picture, changing our perspectives holds a number of benefits!

Lowers Heart Rate & Blood Pressure, & Strengthens Immune System – If you are part of the estimated one billion people worldwide who are affected by Hypertension (high blood pressure), meditation is here to help! When combined with a healthy and balanced lifestyle, meditation has been proven to reduce blood pressure and lower heart rate by stimulating the “relax” response within our bodies. Many studies have been conducted to also show that meditation provided a boost in the interferon pathways that help regulate our immune system.

Regulates Mood – Meditation can be thought of as a superpower in some ways, as it gives us the ability to have better control over regulating our emotions. Often, when we are stressed or on high alert, we act rashly by not always thinking before we act. There are times we feel a response is needed right away and we react in a spontaneous manner. Meditation, specifically mindful meditation, reminds us to step back and observe the whole situation; to respond instead of react. A daily meditation practice trains the brain to notice and observe, without judgement, so that we can understand the situation and think more clearly. Here, we learn to sit with “unpleasant” emotions like stress, anger, or fear, without letting those emotions control us.

It is clear that there are a number of benefits to starting, and maintaining, a daily meditation practice. If you’re looking for more help building or improving your meditation practice, visit my website for more information and support.