Meditation can be defined as a set of techniques that encourage your mind to reach a heightened state of awareness and focused attention. Many who practice meditation often also refer to it as “mindfulness.”

Meditation has been practiced across different cultures and religions for thousands of years. While traditional forms of meditation were more focused on spirituality, modern meditation has developed as a tool for people to cope with stress, anxiety, depression.

There are a number of psychological benefits of meditation, like increasing your self-awareness, reducing your negative emotions, and expanding your imagination and creativity. Your overall emotional health benefits from practicing mindfulness.

The effects meditation can have on your mental health make this practice worthwhile on its own, but meditation benefits your physical health, too! It has been shown to help improve heart health and pain management and strengthen immune systems. Studies have also found that it can help you sleep more soundly.

Explore the benefits of meditation, the types of meditation you can try out, and a few ways you can incorporate this into your daily routine. Even if it’s for just a few minutes a day, your whole body will appreciate it.

Health Benefits of Meditation

The effects of meditation on the body can lead to a stronger balance of your entire body. Lower blood pressure, improved heart rate, and an increase in brain waves can all stem from taking a few moments to practice mindfulness. 

1. Meditation Benefits Your Sleep

Around 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems. When you lose sleep your overall quality of life can suffer, whether that’s work performance, relationships, feelings of positivity, or your health. 

Studies have found that meditation can reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. It can increase your melatonin levels, which helps you get more restful sleep.

No single thing is responsible for sleep disturbance, but a common symptom is racing thoughts. It can be hard to shut your brain off sometimes and let yourself relax. Meditation can help you redirect your thoughts, release tension in your body, and get your body ready to rest. 

2. Meditation Can Help You Manage Pain

Studies show meditation effectively manages pain through the release of endorphins. 

Another study showed that meditation was more effective than drugs in alleviating chronic back pain. Meditation practice can also help manage anxiety or worrisome thoughts about chronic pain. If you focus on relaxing your body, noticing your breath and body sensations, you can better control your pain and negative thoughts. 

No matter the level of pain you experience, the physical benefits of meditation are valuable. Even if you use it alongside medicines or other treatments, it can offer added relief and ease any stress you’re feeling.

3. Meditation Benefits Your Heart Health

Frustration, irritability, and anxiety are no picnic. But those pesky feelings of stress impact your body more intensely. Stress can elevate your blood pressure, which then accelerates your heart rate. If this happens regularly, you could be putting yourself at higher risk for heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke.

You may also recognize this as your “fight-or-flight” response. But when you meditate, it activates your body’s “rest-and-digest” function, which counteracts the release of cortisol. 

By taking a mindful moment and allowing yourself to breathe deeply, you’re letting your brain know it’s time to slow down. You can refocus your attention and feel a sense of calm as you process and tackle what’s in front of you.

4. Meditation Can Help Improve Your Immune System

The brain is intimately connected to every part of your body — think about the “butterflies” you get when you’re excited or the “pit” you get in your stomach when you’re nervous. Just as your brain ultimately controls this, it also can control your immune system. 

When you run yourself down, physically or mentally, your body experiences inflammation. Chronic stress breaks down your body’s natural immune response by reducing the number of cells that eliminate bacteria and viruses in your body. This makes it hard for your immune system to fight off illness.

By training your immune system through meditation you can decrease your stress levels and increase activity in the areas of your brain that act as your immune system’s command center.

Types of Meditation to Try 

Practicing mindfulness and meditation can look different for everyone. Maybe your focus is quieting your mind or maybe you want to incorporate movement into your meditation. As you explore the different types of meditation, see what feels best for you.  

1. Concentration Meditation

This type of meditation teaches you how to focus your mind. Your attention is placed on a single focus, without interruption. This can be a memory, a hope, or even a color — the idea is to think and reflect on one single thing.

2. Mindfulness Meditation

To practice mindfulness is to bring awareness to what you’re experiencing. This can be through your senses or through your emotions. The 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique is an effective mindfulness activity to do and can be done anywhere. 

3. Walking Meditation

You turn your focus to your body and mind with walking meditation. Simply take a walk and breathe in time with your footsteps. Go deeper with this practice by finding a green area and doing a “forest bathing” — bringing awareness to your natural surroundings as well as your place among them.

How to Find Time to Meditate 

Now that you have an idea of how to meditate, you may consider when you can practice it. Start small by finding a few moments each day and see where it takes you.

1. Meditate on Your Commute

Driving to and from work can be stressful, especially when you get stuck in traffic. When you’re stressed, you can begin to breathe more rapidly, but you can control this. Start to take full, deep breaths and release them slowly — by changing the pace of your breath you’ll find yourself in a more calm and relaxed state.

2. Meditate Instead of Going on Social Media

The average internet user spends about 2 ½ hours on social media each day. Rather than aimlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, take a few minutes to practice your mindfulness. Rather than training your brain that it needs constant stimulus, you’re calming it and practicing its ability to focus. 

3. Meditate Before You Go to Bed

Get yourself ready for some deep sleep by meditating before bedtime. Find a quiet area (it can also just be your bed), sit or lie down, and begin to breathe in and out slowly. Spend 3-5 minutes on this, focusing only on your breathing — if a thought pops up, let it go and refocus on your breath. 

Reach Your Health Goals This Year

If you start to implement a meditation practice into your everyday life, you’ll start to notice your well-being improving. Your perspective may shift on stressful situations, and you might find yourself feeling more relaxed and happy.

Another great way to reduce your stress levels and feel more grounded is a daily workout regimen. Even if you just get outside for a walk for 30 minutes a day, you can improve your cardiovascular health and manage any stresses you’re feeling while lifting your mood. 

And did you know that listening to music when you exercise can improve your performance? Think of it as its own form of meditation — you’re focusing on the music while you work out and getting more into the movements you’re making. It’s no wonder there are endless workout playlists out there.

Discover how music can help you reach new workout goals this year >

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