20 Incredible Benefits of Meditation
Meditation has been studied more and more over the past century and many incredible benefits have been reported from its physical and mental benefits to enhanced empathy and compassion. Meditation truly holds the keys to our transformation.
What is meditation?
Meditation can mean many different things. Just like Yoga means something else at the local gym than in an ashram in India, the same goes with meditation. Some understand it as mindfulness practises that help us become more aware of our conscious mind, and others believe it to be the transformation of our perception of the reality.
Meditation as we know it today comes from Buddhist origin. The practise has transformed over time and the ideas of conscious awareness were separated from the spiritual practice once it was brought to the west and now it's goal is mostly stress release and happiness instead of releasing oneself from the cycle of incarnations.
Some people see this transformation as a negative and some simply see it as tradition adapting to modern time and its needs. I think it's important to understand the history and tradition, but I don't see value in judging the modernisation of the practise either.
Many traditions understand meditation as Dhyana, an end result of the Dharana (Concentration) practise as described by Patanjali. Some tantric traditions perceive meditation as changing of the unconscious mind by various means, and not focusing in the conscious.
95% of all our behaviour is unconscious and therefore I agree that changing the subconscious will make more significant changes in our life, but I also argue that some people benefit from a bit more gradual change by focusing on the conscious mind first.
Many of the techniques focused on conscious mind are valuable and excellent way to get started with meditation and then later deepen the experience by immersing oneself with more spiritual and traditional practise.
Even though meditation can mean so many different things, something that all meditation traditions and techniques have in common is that they all reprogram our mind and transform the way we see and experience reality.
This can mean anything between less stress and agitation through mindfulness and merging oneself with the higher consciousness. It's a vast range and we don't need to argue what meditation is authentic because there is not just one way. Any way that works and feels right for you is authentic.
Taking charge of your mind is the most valuable thing you can do to yourself and finding that source of your happiness does come from within will transform your whole life.
What are the benefits of meditating?
There are over 3,000 studies about meditation and the results are astounding. Most of the studies are focused on physical and mental benefits, but some are more extraordinary.
The study that proved Reversed Biological Ageing was exceptionally interesting in my opinion. We have these things called telomeres in our bodies which basically work like an hourglass that determines how much we have left on this planet. Telomeres are these little tips on the ends of the chromosomes that keep our DNA from falling apart. Our telomeres shorten over time as we age, and when they do, we get more susceptible for disease. Once our telomeres are gone - we are gone.
It has been proven that our lifestyle has significant effects on the length of the telomeres. Poor diet, poor sleep, substance addictions, and sedentary lifestyle can severely shorten the length of there telomeres and a plant-based-diet, exercising, and now meditation have been proven to lengthen the telomeres and literally buying us more (healthy) time in this world.
Already this is significant enough for anyone to start their practise, but that's not all. There are dozens of other benefits that come along and many of them haven't even been proven or studied yet.
Some effects, such as increased compassion, can be a result of specific techniques (such as loving-kindness meditation). However any kind of authentic meditation will include most of these benefits, in one degree or another.
20 Proven Benefits of Meditation
4. Less anxiety
5. Decrease in stress hormones
6. Better mood
It's a pretty impressive list, isn't it? Most of the benefits are quite straight forward and easy to understand, but some of you might have started to wonder about the gamma brainwaves and what do they mean, so I'll explain a bit further.
What are Brainwaves?
All of our thoughts, emotions and behaviours start with the communication between neurons within our brains. Brainwaves are produced by synchronised electrical pulses from masses of neurons communicating with each other. Our thoughts are energy vibrating in a frequency.
Scientists have discovered that humans have four main mental states— two while we sleep and two while we are awake. There are 5 kinds of brain waves that have been measured that have different frequencies. We are in this interesting point in time that we are able to scientifically prove that advanced meditators are able to access a whole new level of brain capacity.
By explaining the differences I am trying to make the point that it's important for our brain to experience a variety of the frequencies, and to peak your interest about the high frequencies that are associated with higher consciousness. Maybe there is a whole realm for you yet to be experienced!
Delta Waves (1 to 3 Hz)
Delta waves have the greatest wave amplitude in which your brain is pulsing slowly, are typically seen in deep but dreamless sleep. These waves are common in babies and small children. The older we get the fewer of these brainwaves we produce. Possibly due to the fact that our sleep and ability to relax decreases over the years.
Theta Waves (3.5 to 8 Hz)
Theta waves occur mostly when we are dreaming, but it has also been connected to experiencing very deep emotions, creativity and imagination.
Alpha Waves (8 to 13 Hz)
The two main waking states are alpha and beta. The alpha state is relaxed, aware, and attentive, such as when you close your eyes and meditate. This is the state that you are fully alert and focused, yet calm. Alpha waves arise in those in-between, twilight times when we’re calm but not asleep.
Beta Waves (12 to 33 Hz)
Beta is the stimulated, busy state in which most of us live our lives.
Activities like driving, taking an exam, and making decisions are situations where Beta Waves are active. Beta state is important for us to be able to take care of daily tasks, but we need to learn to give ourselves a break from this state, because constant staying in this state without rest can lead to harmful anxiety and stress.
Gamma Waves (25 to 100 Hz)
Gamma brainwaves are the fastest measurable brainwaves, and have been equated to ‘heightened perception, when there is simultaneous processing of information from different parts of the brain.' Gamma brainwaves have been observed to be much stronger and more regularly observed in very long-term meditators including Buddhist Monks. High peaks of Gamma waves have been measures during states of happiness.
So there you have it — and these are just benefits that have researched so the chances are that the list is actually much longer. Why not give it a try? The more you commit to a regular practice, the more you will reap the benefits. The best way to get started is to find out what technique works best for you and not give up!