11 Reasons To Start Meditating Now
Meditation relieves stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, quieting the "fight or flight" response that originates in the amygdala, the part of the limbic system Daniel Goleman, in his book Emotional Intelligence, calls the emotional sentinel of the brain.
Meditation has immediate benefits, including reducing markers for inflammation after just 30 hours of practice and improvements in attention after just two weeks of practice.
Meditation changes the actual structure of your brain: research has shown that people who meditated for 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in the parts of the brain associated with learning and memory, emotional regulation and self-awareness.
Meditation can reveal the nature of your mind by showing you that you are not your thoughts. In Waking Up, Sam Harris writes that "the problem is not thoughts themselves but the state of thinking without being fully aware that we are thinking." Our mental states are impermanent; meditation teaches us to watch these mental states arise and then pass through, breaking our identification with, and thereby freeing us from, any particular one.
Meditation teaches you how to listen to your body by training in awareness. By constantly returning to your breath in response to every stray thought or disturbance, meditators learn how to control attention and master being present.
Meditation teaches you how to breathe: we breathe all day, every day, even when we're sleeping (approximately 20,000 breaths per day, for the duration of our lives), yet we rarely tune into our breath. Attentional breathing, such as the kind practiced in pranayama, reconnects us to our breath and the different parts of our body that control the breath.
Meditation can heal your body and mind: mindfulness interventions such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) have been shown to improve symptoms of chronic pain, depression, anxiety and drug addiction. MBSR also appears to bring about positive psychological outcomes for cancer patients, including a reduction in inflammation and increased telomerase activity (telomerase is the enzyme that slows the age-related shortening of telomeres; the more telomerase the better for health and longevity).
Meditation makes you a better person: by reducing stress, anxiety and reactivity, meditation provides the emotional space to choose how we want to respond -- with kindness, with compassion, with patience, without judgement -- in any given situation.
Meditation is better for you than watching TV: it's easy to get lost in the literally endless stream of on-demand content designed to monopolize your attention. But television isn't going to bring you equanimity or peace of mind and it's not going to make you a better person. Carve out between 15-20 minutes a day for meditation; you just might find after a few weeks that your favorite television programs just aren't so compelling.
Meditation is a good excuse to take a 10, 20 or 30 minute "time-out" from doing stuff or solving problems or fixing things; a time to sit, alone, in quietude, and tune into your breath and your body.
Meditation is less expensive than buying stuff you don't need on Amazon: sometimes you need stuff -- like books on meditation or meditation cushions or guided audio meditations. But just remember: even Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, now the wealthiest person in the world, recommends practicing mindfulness.
Did I miss any good reasons for practicing meditation? Let me know with a comment below. I'd love to hear from you!