7 Life-Changing Health Benefits Of Meditation

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7 Health Benefits Of Meditation
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We all know someone who meditates. They’re often encouraging you to start meditating too, right? As annoying as it is, they’re correct.

There is a wealth of research showing the benefits of meditation. These benefits include: greater happiness, an improved sense of well-being, better emotional control, more compassion for and better relationships with others, less depression and anxiety, improved focus, and even less inflammation in the body.

When you imagine yourself in the perfect meditation space, you're never going to find that in this lifetime. Although we would all prefer the perfect meditation space, the imperfect conditions work just as well. In fact, one might argue that the real-world situations in which you often have to practice, present you with the same challenges you face in real life.

Your imperfect and often absurdly stressful life is the very reasons you have to meditate.

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Carving a little time out daily — it can be as little as three minutes (try the three-minute breathing space) — to meditate can help pave the way for an ongoing practice that will lead you toward improved health and well-being.

Here are 7 feel-good benefits of meditation that will encourage you to start practicing.

1. You improve your attention span and focus.

The noise of the weed-whacker, a slightly uncomfortable body today, and your phone constantly vibrating can all become “noise” that distracts you from your meditative focus. The focus might be your breath, a mantra or the sounds around you.

Each distraction gives you an opportunity to work on shifting your attention back to your intended focus. One of the benefits of meditation is this very practice of tuning into your intended focus, thus tuning the noise out.

It’s a skill you can apply in the rest of your life when you need to. There are even studies that have found meditation to improve your ability to maintain attention, reverse brain patterns related to worrying, and focus on tasks longer.

2. Meditation helps regulate anxiety and stress.

Each time you meditate, you choose to focus your attention on a specific object; you're practicing the ability to refocus your thoughts. Anxiety is triggered by getting stuck on unpleasant or worrying thoughts.

As you practice meditating, you find you can note your unpleasant thoughts, and then move onto neutral or pleasant thoughts, experiences, or return your focus to the breath.

Similarly, in your daily experience, you can turn your thoughts away from something that is anxiety-provoking, the way you do in your meditation practice. You can turn your thoughts away from distractions, toward your breath, and you can turn your thoughts away from worry, toward your breath.

Meditation has been proven to reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and lower anxiety levels over time. This also applies to workplace anxiety, particularly in high-stress environments.

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3. Meditation teaches you to be more present in the moment.

People who spend more time in the “now” tend to be happier than those who spend a lot of time in the past or the future. It makes sense, since the past is often about regrets, while the future is often about worry or anxious anticipation. The present just is.

When you focus on your breath, you’re present, because your breath is always in the present. Shifting the balance of your time to the present moment is likely to help you experience the world as it really is, instead of the haphazard way in which we often construct it based on our expectations and beliefs.

In fact, meditation aids with mindfulness. Studies have found that meditation boosts mindfulness with repeated practice over time.

4. Meditation creates self-acceptance by taking time out for yourself.

Every time you sit to meditate, you're deciding that you're important enough to warrant this time out from the other responsibilities of your life.

Putting yourself first each day reminds you that you are worthy. Those few moments when you sit quietly by yourself, with no judgments, with simple joy in being present, is one of the reasons to meditate.

Another benefit is that being accepting of yourself will help you be more accepting of others. This is incredibly beneficial, as research shows that self-acceptance leads to improved emotional well being.

5. You become a more compassionate person.

Meditation is a compassionate process itself. Each time your mind wanders, you gently and kindly remind yourself to come back to your focus. With practice, this patient attention can extend into your day and to others.

Practicing a loving-kindness meditation also cultivates these qualities. This simple practice cultivates loving-kindness toward yourself, others you love, neutral others, and others you find difficult. It helps you let go of anger, another benefit of meditation.

Multiple studies on this benefit found that meditation increases a person's compassion toward others and themselves. Metta meditation, in particular, helped individuals practicing develop positive feelings, which grow over time.

6. Practicing meditation improves self-awareness

Noticing your breath, the sounds around you, and what's going on in your body and your mind helps you bring this awareness to the rest of your life. You become more aware of yourself and others, and more open to experiences.

Meditation can help you connect with others. You can notice things about people you might otherwise miss. You can notice things about yourself you might otherwise miss.

Not only does meditation connect you to others, but it's been shown to help you develop an understanding of yourself. This includes realizing and changing your negative thoughts, developing more constructive thinking patterns, and decreasing feelings of loneliness.

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7. You gain better control of your emotions.

Equanimity, or the ability to view events calmly without undue emotion, increases with a meditation practice. You're cultivating equanimity and composure in the face of adversity each time you sit with yourself in a non-judgmental way.

As you accept who you are today, how you feel today and how your body is today, it may not always feel wonderful, but it’s the real deal. It’s easy to say, “It is what it is,” but it’s better to learn to really accept that truth.

Over time, meditation helps you accept adversity in your life, particularly when it comes to controlling your emotions. In fact, studies have found that meditation not only aids in impulse control, but helps individuals with addictive behaviors or cravings.

You don't have to sit for an hour to meditate. Even a few minutes of meditation is valuable.

You don't need any fancy equipment, just a chair or a cushion or two from your couch. You don't even need a teacher with all the apps and online instruction available.

There’s no right or wrong to it, so you can leave your inner critic behind, and just sit in silence (or as close to it as your world allows). There’s no one to please, no one to do something for, and nothing else you have to do for just those few moments.

Surely you can allow yourself this gift of health and wellness.

If you must, you can think of it as doing your significant other, your co-workers and the rest of the world a favor. Everyone wants a less anxious, more focused, calm, caring person around. That’s why everyone is telling you to meditate.

RELATED: What Is Buddhism? + 6 Meditations To Find Your Inner Zen

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Judith Tutin, PhD, ACC, is a licensed psychologist and certified life coach. Connect with her on her website.

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