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Meditation is becoming increasingly popular as people from all stages of life discover the many varied benefits of consistent meditation practice. Aimed at sharpening your mind’s focus and enjoying the present, meditation can be good for your mind, body, and soul. Through practice, you’ll learn how to gently guide your mind away from distracting thoughts, and instead focus on positive and productive ones. If meditation is on your list of wellness programs to incorporate this year (or if you’re not quite sure whether to take the leap), read on for some of the surprising benefits that you’ll find with a consistent meditation practice.
Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Because meditation requires you to focus on a particular thought or sensation, continued practice will help you learn to gently guide your focus away from stressful or anxiety-producing thoughts and onto something more calming. Similarly, the rhythmic breathing that often accompanies meditation can help control your hormone levels, especially stress hormones like cortisol. When your mind doesn’t feel hyper-alerted to outside stressful stimuli, your cortisol levels remain more stable. Healthy meditation practice will give you the tools to weather more difficult days and periods in your life.
Help Lengthen Your Attention Span
You work to strengthen your muscles, so why not your brain as well? Meditation can be a form of exercise for your mind, especially for your focus and attention span. During meditation, the act of redirecting and refocusing your thoughts on a particular mantra helps to engrain that pattern in your brain. As you become more adept at your meditation practice, you’ll find that you’re better able to stay focused on difficult work in other areas of your life.
May Combat Memory Loss
While you’re training your brain to stay focused more easily, you may also be combating age-related memory loss. The patterns of meditation, including the way you direct your thoughts and how you learn to respond to stimuli, may help strengthen your brain’s memory functions. Plus, having a daily routine that includes mind and body work helps improve functioning as we age. If you’ve been practicing meditation for a while, you’ll also be more aware of the changes in your mental strength and clarity – noticing these changes early can help you make a plan to best support your wellbeing as you age.
Many adults suffer from lack of sleep or some kind of insomnia, and wandering thoughts are often to blame. Through meditation, you can learn to gently redirect your mind onto more calming and peaceful topics, including learning to make your mind “go blank” in anticipation of sleep. A calm state before bed will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Many people find that guided meditation is most useful before bed – prompts provided externally require less effort to “stay on track” than monitoring your meditation entirely.
Accessible Anywhere, Any Duration
One often overlooked benefit of meditation is that it can be used anytime, anywhere, for any duration. The skills you learn through meditation will allow you to implement its practices in various situations – a flexibility that many wellness programs don’t allow. You’ll feel grounded in new situations or stressful episodes if you know that your meditation practice won’t be interrupted.
Easy to Start
The best thing about meditation? It’s easy to start! Unlike wellness programs that require equipment, apps, trainers, or a lot of time, meditation is something you can begin on your own at home today. Mindfulness meditation is a common practice that focuses on a single phrase (a mantra) or physical sensation (breathing, for example). By becoming hyper-aware of a specific focus, you’re opening your mind to be more present in all things. To get started, set a reasonable goal for yourself, perhaps 5 minutes of meditation every morning or night. As you practice, you’ll be able to increase both the frequency and the duration of your sessions. If you’d like a guided meditation that will help prompt you during a session, try the free app Insight Timer. With thousands of guided meditation options for all kinds of goals (reduce anxiety, help with sleep, etc.) and a timer option for silent meditation, this app is great for everyone – it also includes a Beginner Kit if you’d like a program developed just for novices.
Give meditation a try today, and begin reaping all of the benefits to your body as well as your mind!
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