Do you meditate regularly? If so, you are taking part in an ancient tradition, one that dates back to 5000 BCE — but you’re also something of a trendsetter. Meditation, yoga, and other practices that rely heavily on mindfulness are having a huge moment in the spotlight. Apps like Headspace, Calm, and Stop, Think, Breathe topped the charts for both Android and iOS in 2018. And the trend shows no signs of slowing down.
If you haven’t yet tried to get in touch with your inner peace through meditation, it’s never too late to start! Read on for seven fantastic reasons to get your “om” on.
It Can Put the Kibosh on “Monkey Mind”
Even if you are not familiar with the term “monkey mind,” chances are that you have experienced it. Ever found your thoughts spiraling out of control, taking unwanted detours from the task at hand? Ever catch yourself ruminating and worrying even after you’ve scolded your own brain from straying off-task? That is monkey mind — and meditation is one of the best ways to prevent it, not just in the moment but on a longer-term basis.
Researchers at Yale discovered that meditation can actually lower activity in the default mode network, the area of the brain responsible for these crazy-making, uncontrollable thoughts.
It’s Effective For Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety can be absolutely debilitating. While some people find that pharmaceutical medications help them manage mental health symptoms well, others dislike the idea of taking pills for the remainder of their lives. Mindfulness, it turns out, is a great alternative.
A 2014 meta-analysis performed at Johns Hopkins University found that mindfulness meditation might offer benefits similar to those of antidepressant medications in combating depressive symptoms.
Several forms of therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy, rely on principles of mindfulness. They have been widely studied and found extremely effective, both alongside and as a substitute for pharmaceutical treatment.
Don’t have depression or anxiety? Well, you surely experience stress from time to time, right? Meditation and mindfulness are good for helping people de-stress not only in the moment but for a long time afterward.
It Can Combat Cravings
How to beat addiction — whether it is to food, cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, sex, or drugs — has been a particularly tricky conundrum for centuries. One of the most promising treatments involves — you guessed it — mindfulness. Mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) is gaining ground as a more effective approach than old-fashioned willpower or “white knuckling” through a craving.
It Can Set Kids Up for Success
Evidence points toward the fact that children’s developing brains might be even more receptive to the many benefits of meditation and mindfulness than their grown-up counterparts’.
Incorporating activities like yoga and meditation into the school day is a fairly low-risk, low-cost, and high-reward venture, as well. Anecdotal evidence that children respond well to these ancient practices abounds. Teachers and parents alike agree that they see a demonstrable difference in their children’s attitudes, ability to calm down after an upset, study habits, and social skills.
In addition, there are also some studies that show how mindfulness can reduce behavioral problems and suspensions, improve attendance, and even boost GPAs and graduation rates.
It Actually Preserves Gray Matter
On the other end of the spectrum, meditation is proving to be just as valuable for the senior population. This is particularly true for those aging Baby Boomers who may have first taken up meditative practices back in the consciousness-centered 1960s. Researchers at UCLA have discovered that people who have been meditating for 20 years or more actually have greater gray matter volume in the brain.
In other words, they have lost fewer brain cells than seniors who don’t meditate. While they still did lose some matter, it was much, much less than scientists expected. Not only that, but the beneficial effects of meditation were seen throughout all regions of the brain.
It Can Help Alzheimer’s and Other Dementia Diseases
Haven’t been sitting cross-legged and chanting since the Nixon Administration? No worries. You (or your parents) can still benefit. A study at Wake Forest University found that older adults who had not yet been diagnosed with full-blown dementia, but who exhibited above-average aging-related memory loss, showed improvement after practicing mindfulness meditation.
Specifically, they demonstrated less atrophy in the hippocampus. That’s the area of the brain that is most dramatically altered in patients with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
It Only Takes A Few Minutes A Day and Is Almost Immediately Effective
One of the best benefits of meditation and mindfulness? You do not have to radically alter your life or make huge sacrifices in order to reap the benefits. The power of these time-honored practices to provide huge rewards sounds like the “too good to be true” claims of snake oil salesmen (or today’s equivalent, some unscrupulous Instagram influencers). In just minutes each day, you too can practice meditation and begin to feel the calming and stress-relieving effects.
Meditating regularly for just a few weeks, in fact, was shown in one study to improve students’ focus and reasoning skills when taking the Graduate Record Exam, or GRE — to the tune of 16 percentile points!
By now, you are probably ready to get started practicing meditation, and reaping its bountiful benefits. It’s not difficult, but if you would like some guidance, check out one of the many smartphone apps, YouTube videos, or websites devoted to the ancient art of meditation.
Another option? Check out Evolve Healing Crystal Courses, which offer additional paths to better emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical health and well-being. You can achieve the life of your dreams. Meditation and mindfulness are just the beginning.
Have you tried meditating? What advantages have you witnessed in your own life? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section!