For thousands of years  people have been meditating but what is meditation and its benefits?

Benefits of Meditation

1. Reduces stress
Stress reduction is one of the most common reasons people try meditation.

One review concluded that meditation lives up to its reputation for stress reduction.
(Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis

In an 8-week study, a meditation style called “mindfulness meditation” reduced the inflammation response caused by stress.
(A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation.

Meditation may also improve symptoms of stress-related conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fibromyalgia.
(Irritable Bowel Syndrome: The effect of FODMAPs and meditation on pain management.
Meditation for posttraumatic stress: Systematic review and meta-analysis.
(Evidence-Based Non-Pharmacological Therapies for Fibromyalgia


2. Controls anxiety
Meditation can reduce stress levels, which translates to less anxiety.

A meta-analysis including nearly 1,300 adults found that meditation may decrease anxiety. Notably, this effect was strongest in those with the highest levels of anxiety.
(Effects of the transcendental meditation technique on trait anxiety: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.

This study found that 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation helped reduce anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder, along with increasing positive self-statements and improving stress reactivity and coping.
Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Effects on Anxiety and Stress Reactivity.

More research suggests that a variety of mindfulness and meditation exercises may reduce anxiety levels.
(Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Anxiety and Depression.

Employees who used a mindfulness meditation app for 8 weeks experienced improved feelings of well-being and decreased distress and job strain, compared with those in a control group.
(Mindfulness on-the-go: Effects of a mindfulness meditation app on work stress and well-being.


3. Promotes emotional health
Some forms of meditation can lead to improved self-image and a more positive outlook on life.

For example, one review of treatments given to more than 3,500 adults found that mindfulness meditation improved symptoms of depression.
(Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

A review of 18 studies showed that people receiving meditation therapies experienced reduced symptoms of depression, compared with those in a control group.
(Critical Analysis of the Efficacy of Meditation Therapies for Acute and Subacute Phase Treatment of Depressive Disorders: A Systematic Review

This study found that people who completed a meditation exercise experienced less negative thoughts in response to viewing negative images, compared with those in a control group.
(Does mindfulness attenuate thoughts emphasizing negativity, but not positivity?

4. Enhances self-awareness
Some forms of meditation may help you develop a stronger understanding of yourself, helping you grow into your best self.

For example, self-inquiry meditation explicitly aims to help you develop a greater understanding of yourself and how you relate to those around you.

Other forms teach you to recognize thoughts that may be harmful or self-defeating. The idea is that as you gain greater awareness of your thought habits, you can steer them toward more constructive patterns.
(Reconstructing and deconstructing the self: cognitive mechanisms in meditation practice.
(Affect and Motivation Are Critical in Constructive Meditation.
(Role of yoga and meditation in the context of dysfunctional self: a hypothetico-integrative approach.

153 adults who used a mindfulness meditation app for 2 weeks experienced reduced feelings of loneliness and increased social contact compared with those in a control group (Mindfulness training reduces loneliness and increases social contact in a randomized controlled trial.

5. Lengthens attention span
Focused-attention meditation is like weight lifting for your attention span. It helps increase the strength and endurance of your attention.

For example, one study found that people who listened to a meditation tape experienced improved attention and accuracy while completing a task, compared with those in a control group.
(Brief Mindfulness Meditation Improves Attention in Novices: Evidence From ERPs and Moderation by Neuroticism. )

A similar study showed that people who regularly practiced meditation performed better on a visual task and had a greater attention span than those without any meditation experience.
(Meditation Effects on the Control of Involuntary Contingent Reorienting Revealed With Electroencephalographic and Behavioral Evidence.

Moreover, one review concluded that meditation may even reverse patterns in the brain that contribute to mind-wandering, worrying, and poor attention.
(On mind wandering, attention, brain networks, and meditation.

Even meditating for a short period each day may benefit you. One study found that meditating for just 13 minutes daily enhanced attention and memory after 8 weeks.
Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators.

6. May reduce age-related memory loss
Improvements in attention and clarity of thinking may help keep your mind young.

Kirtan Kriya is a method of meditation that combines a mantra or chant with repetitive motion of the fingers to focus your thoughts. Studies in people with age-related memory loss have shown it improves performance on neuropsychological tests.  (Stress, Meditation, and Alzheimer's Disease Prevention: Where The Evidence Stands.

A review found preliminary evidence that multiple meditation styles can increase attention, memory, and mental quickness in older volunteers.
(The potential effects of meditation on age-related cognitive decline: a systematic review.

7. Can generate kindness
Some types of meditation may particularly increase positive feelings and actions toward yourself and others.

Metta, a type of meditation also known as loving-kindness meditation, begins with developing kind thoughts and feelings toward yourself.

Through practice, people learn to extend this kindness and forgiveness externally, first to friends, then acquaintances, and ultimately enemies.
A meta-analysis of 22 studies on this form of meditation demonstrated its ability to increase peoples’ compassion toward themselves and others.
(Effect of kindness-based meditation on health and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

One study in 100 adults randomly assigned to a program that included loving-kindness meditation found that these benefits were dose-dependent.
The more time people spent in weekly metta meditation practice, the more positive feelings they experienced.
(Enhancing compassion: A randomized controlled trial of a compassion cultivation training program.

Another study in 50 college students showed that practicing metta meditation 3 times per week improved positive emotions, interpersonal interactions, and understanding of others after 4 weeks.(The interventional effects of loving-kindness meditation on positive emotions and interpersonal interactions.

These benefits also appear to accumulate over time with the practice of loving-kindness meditation

8. May help fight addictions
The mental discipline you can develop through meditation may help you break dependencies by increasing your self-control and awareness of triggers for addictive behaviors.
(Mindfulness-based treatment of addiction: current state of the field and envisioning the next wave of research.

Research has shown that meditation may help people learn to redirect their attention, manage their emotions and impulses, and increase their understanding of the causes behind their addictive behaviours.
(A translational neuroscience perspective on mindfulness meditation as a prevention strategy .
(Mindfulness meditation practice and executive functioning: Breaking down the benefit.

A review of 14 studies found mindfulness meditation helped participants reduce emotional and binge eating.
(Mindfulness meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss: a systematic review.

9. Improves sleep
People who meditated stayed asleep longer and had improved insomnia severity, compared with those who had an unmedicated control condition.
(A Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Insomnia.

Becoming skilled in meditation may help you control or redirect thoughts that can lead to insomnia.
Body scan meditation is ideal since it helps you focus on relaxing different body parts and by the end you'll be feeling loose, limp and totally at ease.

10. Helps control pain
Your perception of pain is connected to your state of mind, and it can be elevated in stressful conditions.

Some research suggests that incorporating meditation into your routine could be beneficial for controlling pain.

For example, one review of 38 studies concluded that mindfulness meditation could reduce pain, improve quality of life, and decrease symptoms of depression in people with chronic pain.
(Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.

A large meta-analysis of studies enrolling nearly 3,500 participants concluded that meditation was associated with decreased pain.
(Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Meditators and non-meditators experienced the same causes of pain, but meditators showed a greater ability to cope with pain and a reduced sensation of pain.

11. Can decrease blood pressure
Meditation can also improve physical health by reducing strain on the heart.

Over time, high blood pressure makes the heart work harder to pump blood, which can lead to poor heart function.
High blood pressure also contributes to atherosclerosis, or a narrowing of the arteries, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.

A meta-analysis of 12 studies enrolling nearly 1000 participants found that meditation helped reduce blood pressure.
This was more effective among older volunteers and those who had higher blood pressure prior to the study.
(Investigating the effect of transcendental meditation on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

One review concluded that several types of meditation produced similar improvements in blood pressure.
(Meditation can produce beneficial effects to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Meditation appears to control blood pressure by relaxing the nerve signals that coordinate heart function, blood vessel tension, and the “fight-or-flight” response that increases alertness in stressful situations.
(Meditation: Should a cardiologist care?

12: Build Resilience.
Richard Davidson, the Harvard neuroscientist does a meditation for resilience and suggests that to actively build resilience we need to develop in four key areas through focused meditations and aligned action:

  1. Awareness – he describes this as attention to our own bodies and the tension within. Mindful breathing and body scan meditations can help to develop this awareness and related ability to be grounded in our bodies. Calmness and clarity emerge from this aspect of shaping our minds.
  2. Connection – having and nurturing harmonious and supportive relationships that provide an effective buffer for us when we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Meditations that can help build social connection are the loving kindness and gratitude meditations. Positivity, expressions of appreciation and empathy can nurture these relationships.
  3. Insight – an in-depth knowledge of our personal narrative/self-story that generates negative self-evaluation and false beliefs that contribute to a lack of resilience and depression. We have to recognize these self-beliefs as merely thoughts, not reality. Meditations such as the R.A.I.N. meditation, S.B.N.R.R. process and reflections on resentment can help us shift this narrative from negative thoughts generating self-defeating emotions to a positive narrative that is enabling and builds resilience in the face of setbacks or adversity.
  4. Purpose – clarity about life purpose, and alignment of words and actions with this purpose, enable us to surf the waves of daily life and to manage the vicissitudes that inevitably disturb our equilibrium.

There are two major styles of meditation:

Focused-attention meditation. This style concentrates attention on a single object, thought, sound, or visualization. It emphasizes ridding your mind of distractions.
Meditation may focus on breathing, a mantra, or calming sound.
Open-monitoring meditation. This style encourages broadened awareness of all aspects of your environment, train of thought, and sense of self. It may include becoming aware of suppressed thoughts, feelings, or impulses.

To discover which type you might prefer, there are free meditations to listen to at UCLA.

How to Meditate for Beginners

This video by the late Thich Nhat Hanh has over 100k views and the comments show much appreciation so consider this video in learning how to meditate.
The main challenge of meditation is trying to stay in the present moment. The past and the future can easily consume our thoughts and take away what is to be experienced in the present. Meditation helps you to practice bringing your mind back to the now and this can be done by focusing on the breathing while in a quiet, peaceful place, free from distractions. , 

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