You might think that meditation is only important to some people, that it’s not for you. But I think I can make a good case for the universal value of meditation. If you would like to be calmer, more confident, happier, or more in touch with yourself and your surroundings, you might agree with me by the end.
Meditation is more than simply calming the mind for a little rest and recuperation (though who doesn’t frequently need and deserve that?). Meditation can teach you profound resilience to negative thoughts and feelings. It can teach you to find more joy within yourself and your life. It can also give us the gift of improved sleep and physical wellbeing. Not to mention that feeling of connection and vibrancy, which is nice.
This is not all hot air. I’ve learned from personal experience, despite past scepticism, how valuable meditation could be to anyone. If you don’t want to take my word for it, there are also countless studies evidencing this. Whether you’re a sceptic or a fan looking to reaffirm, here are 5 reminders of how valuable/important meditation is.
- What is meditation?
- Reasons why meditation is so important
- Closing words
A significant part of your happiness is a result of your personal outlook. Being aware of your own emotions and mindset is a vital step towards happiness. This is covered in-depth in the section Internal Happiness in the biggest guide on how to be happy available online.
What is meditation?
Meditation is the practice of training your focus and awareness of the present. That might be of your breath, your thoughts, your senses or your bodily movements. These are things we might do sometimes anyway, but practicing them actively teaches us to do so intentionally and mindfully. The benefits of this are numerous. You can:
- Distance yourself from your thoughts and feelings, when they might otherwise overwhelm and consume.
- Create space to live in the present and relax, as opposed to worrying over future or past problems.
- Build a deeper connection with yourself and your values, improving self-esteem and decision making.
- Drift to sleep more easily at night.
- Set yourself up with more vibrancy and resilience for the day.
Meditation can simply be focusing on your breath or physical sensations. Yoga is a type of meditation. These things ground us, bring us to the here and now and away from overthinking (the cause of a lot of mental distress).
But meditation can also bring that awareness and focus back on to the mind itself. When you do this with the same level of calm, control and interested separation, you can become much more self-aware, experiencing negative thoughts and feelings much less acutely and often. When you don’t over engage with thoughts and feelings, which can otherwise be a default inclination, you don’t feed and perpetuate them. This is why it can be beneficial for so many reasons, not just for mental health.
This type of mindful fortitude and resilience can teach you to withstand pain, emotional upheaval and all manner of other negative stressors. The upshot of this is a far greater lease of life, with less turmoil, more balance and more joy.
Reasons why meditation is so important
If you’re not convinced yet, here are 5 reasons why meditation is important. I assure you that these reasons will make you more open-minded about the benefits of meditation.
1. Meditation can improve your physiology
Many stress reducing practices have been shown to also improve physical problems. Particularly with stress, for example, reducing it often reduces blood pressure and chances of things like heart disease.
It’s no new knowledge that the mind and body are inextricably linked. When agitated by imagined concerns – what will happen in the future, what has happened in the past – you may find your heart racing, your brows sweating or stomach-churning. It’s not hard to conceive, then, that prolonged mental distress may affect us long term.
Meditation is a great way to calm nerves and reduce blood pressure. This study showed that it reduced the level of grey matter atrophy in long term meditators. This atrophy is the deterioration of brain matter which causes functional impairments and neurodegenerative diseases.
2. Meditation is a growing treatment for mental health issues
Anything that helps you to relax could be good for your mental health at times. The practice of meditation though has profound and lasting effects.
When you learn to control your focus and awareness of thoughts, and separate yourself from them, it’s easy to feel like you could conquer any mental health issues that come your way.
Meditation and mindfulness are fast becoming among the top treatments for various mental health disorders. It’s not hard to see why. It’s effective, safe and free. Something that can’t be said for talking therapies and medication.
Meditation has been found to be an effective treatment for sufferers of major depressive disorder (MDD) with an inadequate response to antidepressants. Antidepressants and psychotherapy are frontline treatments for MDD, but supposedly only 50-60% of patients respond well to the initial course.
Though study into meditation as a treatment for suicide prevention is in its early days, the potential is promising. Meditation is becoming ever more explored and regarded by the scientific community as a means for treating various mental health issues, and indeed in the army as preventative measure for suicide. It has exhibited positive results in the reduction of suicidal symptoms.
In war veterans, breathing-based meditation has been found to be a viable intervention for addressing PTSD. One study found that implementing breathing-based meditation resulted in reduced symptoms. Participants reported that re-experiencing traumatic events while in the meditative state had a reduced impact. This is posited to be due to the decoupling of memory and fear response. Meditation allows awareness of the mind’s thoughts and memories, without reliving them and then experiencing a strong emotional response.
It is important to note, however, that these meditation types can be varied. The basic form of meditation, sitting still with your eyes closed, can be extremely enlightening in some circumstances but extremely difficult and counterproductive in others.
For instance, sufferers of high anxiety, PTSD or ADHD might find this form of meditation exacerbates negative symptoms. It would be better for people who find this traditional mediation practice difficult to explore instead guided meditations, engaged breathing exercises or mindful exercises and activities (which could involve walking or yoga). These meditation forms can be much more suitable to some.
I myself have found meditation deeply soothing and affirming most of the time, but counterintuitive and counterproductive during some instances of high stress.
3. Meditation can help you understand yourself and build confidence
Due to meditation’s introspective awareness, the practice also teaches us how to monitor ourselves. Many thought processes and emotions often sail us by without acknowledgement. When we stop to experience and observe them, we can learn our truths and build our understanding of them.
For instance, you might give an answer to something without really pausing to consider your emotional response. I myself am guilty of this. A friend might ask something of me and my knee-jerk reaction is to say yes.
It’s hard to be confident, assertive and to get what you want and need, when not considering yourself for even a moment. In a way, mediation helps to slow down and pull apart threads of thought and emotion. When you do this you recognize underlying feelings and needs that might otherwise be squashed by day-to-day activity and unconscious tides of thought.
Becoming more in tune with everything going on inside enables you to make better judgements and decisions based on your genuine needs and desires. In effect, it enables you to make better choices for yourself and to more confidently pursue what you need and want.
4. Meditation can help you find joy
Through the process of becoming more in tune with yourself, you can also discover the constantly changing and layered emotions and feelings within. Even when feeling a total absence of joy, you can find it through meditation by exploring a deeper level where joy still resides.
Greater resilience and reduced inclination for negative spirals automatically allows more room for joy. But meditation can also help you to mine beneath the clouds of sadness and stress and find unexpected pools of joy and love. You might find more tolerance and compassion for others in your life as well.
Meditation is not about shunning negative emotions and thoughts but through accepting and moving past them, more quickly arriving back to the positive ones that are still there.
Negativity feeds well of itself, and can quickly seem like it is the only feeling present. Through meditation and the deeper understanding of thought impermanence, you can easily discover just how false this is.
5. Meditation can help you relax but also bring you more energy
Many people meditate before bed.
In sleep your conscious mind switches off and you rest physically as a result. Meditation is almost like a halfway house between conscious thought and unconscious sleep. While practicing simple awareness but moving away from active, conscious thought, you can allow the mind to wonder more freely as it does in sleep. Broken jumbles of background and subconscious thought allow us to disengage our problem-solving mind that can otherwise go into overdrive and keep as awake.
For some (like me) lying in bed in darkness can allow maximum energy to go into thinking. If you move away from this and observe thoughts instead, they drift in and out and you can almost count them like sheep.
In the morning, many people find that meditation is most beneficial, for similar reasons. In the morning, your mind has not had time to collect a day’s worth of thoughts that you would otherwise have to ease out of. Instead of jolting out of bed and into your phone and future worries, it can be a good wake-up-routine to instead ease into your waking awareness.
This can ease us into the day in a healthier, less abrupt way. I often find that after a meditation session I feel lighter and with a stronger mental fortitude. Like a good breakfast it can set you up for what’s to come.
Meditation is safe and free. It can swell your confidence, improve your health, sharpen your mind, bring you greater joy and improve your relationship with yourself. Who doesn’t want to be happier, calmer, more confident, and better attuned with themself and their surroundings?
Though it might seem difficult to some, there are ways to practice meditation that don’t require sitting still and quiet. There are many variations to explore, so reaping the benefits discussed should be possible for anyone. It’s a simple matter of finding the practice that works for you. Once you’ve done that, incorporating a practice of mediation can bring much vitality and value to your life. It is an important tool for greater wellbeing and an enhanced livelihood.
Henry CollardMental health writer
Mental health blogger with a passion for learning ways to improve wellbeing. I also love to write fantasy, learn about history and play video games. Which I suppose makes me an all-round nerd.