Wellness from Within: How Meditation Supports Well-Being
How meditation supports well-being: There’s a reason meditation has become so popular in our modernized mainstream society — it can be life-changing. It’s quickly becoming one of the most popular wellness activities that exists.
A 2018 study examined several wellness activities and the rising use of yoga, meditation and chiropractors in adults in the U.S. over the age of 18. In the report, these three activities were found to be the most popular pursuits of “complementary health,” which is defined by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the “use of holistic or unconventional medicine with mainstream Western medicine for health and wellness.”
Between 2012-2017, meditation practice in the U.S. increased by over 10%. Why are more people meditating in Western society than ever before?
For a number of reasons, really. The most prevalent?
If you’re someone who suffers from chronic stress, you’re certainly not alone. A 2015 study found that 33% of adults reported perceived high stress levels. We live in a society where we’re connected 24/7 to a world that never stops.
If your modern, mainstream lifestyle has you stressed out, burnt out, anxious and feeling like you’re bordering on the brink of insanity, Joy Organics knows that meditation could help.
What is Meditation?
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, with the earliest records of this ancient practice found in the Vedas, the most ancient Hindu scriptures, around 1500 B.C. While originally reserved for spiritual seekers and meant to help one understand the deeper, mystical aspects of life, meditation has become a modern practice to help relieve stress and facilitate well-being.
Meditation is a mind/body practice, meaning it focuses on the natural interaction between the mind, body and behavior.
There are several different “types” of meditation that span several cultures, spiritual disciplines, religious practices and traditions. As far as the “best” type of meditation, there isn’t one. Meditation, rather, is an individual practice where one chooses the best type (or types) of meditation that works for them.
While there are quite a few ways to meditate, most have a few simple components in common, including:
- Being in a quiet space with as little distraction as possible.
- Settling into a comfortable position, typically sitting on the floor or a chair or lying down. The key is to find a comfortable position that works for you personally (which could be anywhere).
- Finding a focus of attention, which can include the breath, a chosen word or set of words (known as a mantra) or an object (such as a candle or image).
- Allowing distractions to come and go during meditation without judging what comes up.
Even a little meditation can go a long way. Seriously. Research shows that meditating less than 15 minutes a day has shown to have similar behavioral effects as longer durations. Making a brief, daily commitment to meditate has shown to enhance attention, memory, mood and emotional regulation.
From celebrities and CEOs to soccer moms and spiritual seekers, more people in America are discovering the benefits of meditation than ever before. Considering that the percentage of adults in the U.S. who have at least tried meditation has more than tripled in the past five years, it’s safe to say that for many, meditation is working.
Let’s take a deeper look at how meditation can support well-being, ultimately helping us find the wellness we all desire from deep within.
8 Ways Meditation Supports Well-Being
1. Stress Reduction
Got stress? So does just about everyone else. According to a 2018 Gallup Poll survey, “the world took a negative turn in 2017.” The survey, which looked at people’s daily emotions, showed that negative emotions (such as worry, stress and sadness) increased worldwide over the last decade. Reports of positive emotions also declined.
Stress reduction happens to be one of the main reasons people turn to meditation. In a 2014 review that looked at the effects of meditation on over 3,500 stressed-out individuals, it was discovered that “meditation programs can result in small to moderate reductions of multiple negative dimensions of psychological stress.”
One of the hallmarks of stress in the body is increased cortisol levels, which is responsible for some of the negative effects of stress. For example, increased cytokine production can lead to inflammation. A 2013 study discovered that mindfulness meditation significantly reduced this inflammatory response.
2. Reduced Anxiety
Stress and anxiety go hand in hand. With the effects of meditation on stress relief, it makes sense that it would offer anxiety relief as well.
A 2008 study found that 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation in study participants with anxiety notably reduced their symptoms.
We feel anxious, not because something is necessarily wrong with us, but because we’re fixated on thoughts of the past and future. We become obsessed with what ifs and unwarranted worries that send us into a spiral of anxious thoughts. When you meditate, however, you’re focused on the present moment and give your mind a break from the incessant thoughts that run rampant through the mind.
3. Improved Emotional Wellbeing
Emotional wellbeing is central to living a balanced, healthy and happy life. Regular meditation practice has been shown to improve emotional wellbeing and offer a more positive attitude about life.
Individuals who meditate, compared to those who don’t, have shown considerable changes in brain activity in the regions related to optimism and positive thinking.
In addition to inspiring one to look on the brighter side of life, meditation also helps reduce stress and anxiety, both of which can contribute to improved emotional well-being and a sunnier disposition.
4. Increased Focus and Concentration
Most of us could use a boost in the focus and concentration department. Our modern lifestyles have us in overdrive and focusing on one thing at a time is often much easier said than done.
Research shows that meditation can help increase the ability to focus attention on one task but also maintain attention for longer periods of time. Another study found that human resource workers regularly practicing mindfulness meditation were able to stay focused on a task longer and better remember details than their coworkers who didn’t meditate.
5. Reduced Physical Discomfort
Here’s something. Meditation seems to inspire physical well-being in addition to the positive psychological effects. A 2015 study found that mindfulness meditation can reduce pain more effectively than a placebo. Brain scans of study participants that engaged in mindfulness meditation showed significantly different brain activity regarding pain than participants that did not meditate.
A 2015 study, published in the International Journal of Yoga, found that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MSBR) “was an effective intervention of reducing pain severity and improvement of physical and mental quality of life.”
In a 2011 study, it was discovered that people who meditated had increased brain activity in brain regions associated with controlling pain.
6. Lower Blood Pressure
Individuals who suffer from high blood pressure, which is known to lead to heart disease, stroke and more, could find increased benefit from a regular meditation practice.
In a 2015 study, it was found that participants who engaged in mantra meditation (focusing on a silent word or group of words) had noticeable levels of reduced blood pressure.
It’s suggested that meditation can help reduce blood pressure by relaxing the nerve signals to the brain that are responsible for managing heart function, as well as the flight-or-fight response that can trigger blood pressure to rise.
7. Better Sleep
Trouble sleeping has become such a problem it’s been dubbed an “emerging global epidemic.” According to the CDC, over one-third of Americans sleep less than the recommended seven hours a night. If you can’t sleep, meditation could be exactly what you need to help you get your rest.
One study compared a group of meditators to non-meditators and found that those who meditated fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer than non-meditators. Meditation could also help control those incessant thoughts that keep people up all night.
Not only can regular meditation practice help you get better sleep, but guided sleep meditations (available on meditation apps and YouTube) can also be extremely helpful.
8. Heightened Self-Awareness
It’s said that self-awareness is important so we can have a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us. The psychologists that developed the concept of self-awareness in the early 1970s suggested that “when we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current behavior to our internal standards and values.”
Simply put, we’re better able to observe our inner world and our emotions and thoughts as they come up. When we’re more self-aware, we display more self-control. It allows us not to let our thoughts and emotions get the better of us, ultimately allowing us to be the best versions of ourselves we can possibly be.
A 2014 study, based upon the idea that one’s organized patterns of thought and behavior are vital elements of what they experience, found that, through meditation, a higher level of nonjudgmental awareness can be found and could help in achieving “a better adjusted resilient self.”
Supporting Your Personal Well-Being With Meditation
The benefits of meditation don’t end when your meditation ends. Committing to a regular meditation practice allows you to carry the calm it elicits into your everyday life. It can help you become softer while increasing your strength, learn how to better react to situations out of your control and allow you to slowly release the aspects of yourself that no longer serve you so you can better embrace those which do.
The benefits of a regular meditation practice won’t happen overnight. With continued commitment, however, you will begin to accept where you are on this journey and work through those uncomfortable moments that will undoubtedly arise.
Even 5-10 minutes a day can make all the difference in the world you experience. Wellness isn’t something “out there”. It’s within us all. We just need to tap into the natural state of stillness that is an intrinsic aspect of the mind.