The ancient practice of meditation—or sitting quietly—is becoming more and more prominent in American culture thanks to a growing interest in yoga and supportive celebrities like Oprah Winfrey. A daily meditation practice has been scientifically proven to be wildly beneficial for our mental health, happiness, and sleep habits, yet many Americans don’t know anything about it, let alone how to begin.
Here are a few basic truths about meditation:
1. It’s Simple to Do: Though it may not be so easy at first, the only thing you’ve got to do is sit still and breathe. As thoughts emerge (and they will) acknowledge them – and then return your attention to your breath. Again and again and again. That’s all it takes!
2. Control Your Monkey Mind: It is rare these days to simply be alone without the distractions of a phone, computer, TV, radio, friend, etc. The practice of quietly sitting without anything to distract you – even if for only 5 minutes a day – will help you learn about the nature of your own mind, and give you the tools with which to ultimately gain control over your thoughts.
3. Relieve Stress, Reduce Anxiety: Sitting quietly for any amount of time per day has incredible health and wellness benefits, with the most prominent being a greater sense of inner calmness and peace. Meditation has been proven to reduce the production of cortisol (i.e. “the stress hormone”) as well as to enormously reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
4. Natural Sleep Remedy: A consistent practice will undoubtedly help you attain a greater sense of calmness, as well as the ability to detach from whatever is causing stress in your life, leading to a more peaceful and restful sleep. Additionally, it will provide you with the tools to tune into your breath and relax your thoughts as you are laying in bed, helping you to fall asleep naturally.
5. Other Incredibly Noteworthy Benefits: Meditation has been proven to decrease blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart attack and stroke, improve memory and brain function, help the body better utilize oxygen, and increase production of the anti-aging hormone (DHE).
With so many potential benefits, there seems to be no real reason not to experiment with meditation: it’s free, it’s easy to try, and it could just change your life. Give it a go and see for yourself!
[Credit: Eisler, Melissa “The History of Meditation.” Chopra Centered Lifestyle.]
[Credit: Corliss, Julie “Mindfulness, meditation helps fight insomnia, improves sleep.” Harvard Health Publications.]