Meditation serves as a much-needed pause to the pace of modern life. According to statistical data from the Pew Research Center, approximately 40% of Americans claim to meditate at least once a week, and whilst religious reasons do play a role in this, it is the numerous science-backed benefits that ensure many people include meditation amongst their daily routines.
From 2012 to 2017 – just a 5-year span – the number of people who meditated in the US grew from 4.1% to 14.2% according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What are the reasons for this tripling of uptake? What can meditation do for you?
Improve Sleep – In the US, as much as 50% of the population will suffer from insomnia at some point. In a study conducted by the Sleep Research Society  a correlation was shown between mindfulness-based meditation and staying asleep longer. The reasons for this included 1) an improved ability to prevent the mind from racing away with thoughts that lead to insomnia, and 2) increasing the probability of falling asleep due to the body being in a more relaxed and peaceful state.
Control Pain – Our perception of pain is connected to our state of mind, and as such, it can be controlled to some extent. In a recent study aiming to produce evidence on the efficacy of mindfulness meditation for the treatment of chronic pain in adults, it was found that pain symptoms improved. In another larger study  that included just under 3,500 participants, a correlation was shown between meditation and decreased pain in adults. Whilst those that mediated and those that didn’t both experienced pain, it was those that meditated that showed a greater ability to handle said pain, even experiencing improved symptoms.
Lengthen Attention Span – Our mind is a tool that can be sharpened. When we commit ourselves to exercises that focus our attention, we increase both the strength and endurance of our attention span. Studies have shown that people who regularly practice meditation perform better on visual tasks and that even meditating for a short period each day is enough to experience the benefits.
Enhance Self-Awareness – Meditation helps you build a closer bond with yourself, developing a clearer understanding of who you are and how you relate to those around you. It teaches you to recognize thoughts and behaviors that are harmful and/or contribute to self-doubt. As you develop a deeper awareness of your thoughts and behaviors, you can choose to steer them in a more positive direction. This can be a starting point for making other positive changes in your life.
Promote Emotional Health – Meditation can improve self-image, contributing to a positive outlook, that in turn enhances our emotional health. In a recent study , a correlation was shown between increased mindfulness meditation and improved symptoms of depression. Additionally, studies have shown that people that regularly meditate, experience fewer negative thoughts when viewing negative imagery. It is also believed that cytokine – an inflammatory chemical released when stressed that can indirectly lead to depression – may also be reduced through meditation exercises. 
Control Anxiety – Stress and anxiety often go hand in hand. For this reason, any reduction to stress levels, will likely contribute to decreased feelings of anxiety. A recent study  showed that meditation may reduce anxiety, with the clearest results being recorded from the most anxious participants within the test group. Additionally, research suggests that mindfulness and meditation exercises, inclusive of yoga, may help people to reduce anxiety due to the dual benefits of meditative exercises combined with physical activity.
Meditation has also been shown to help those suffering job-related anxiety. One study found that employees who used a mindfulness meditation practice for an 8-week period, experienced improved feelings of well-being, thus contributing to reduced anxiety in their place of work.
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Meditate for 15 minutes each day for 1 week. Try to do it in the morning to tune your mind in preparation for the day ahead.
“To understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quiet, still.”
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