7 Really Good Reasons to Start a Mindfulness Meditation PracticeBy Jennfier Abbasi
Meditation used to feel like something reserved for yoga addicts, but growing research is showing benefits for the mind and body that every one of us could use.
Meditation Helps You Sleep Sounder
Researchers at the University of Minnesota looked at seven studies on mindfulness meditation and sleep, concluding that the practice helps some people get better rest. Mediation might help people break the cycle of obsessing about not being able to get to sleep, which makes it harder to your zzz’s, says Nicole Winbush, who co-authored the study. Reducing stress hormones like cortisol, which can interfere with sleep, may also help.
Meditation Eases Pain
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to help ease chronic discomfort like neck and back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia and recurring headaches. It teaches you to open your senses to your breathing, the sound of the wind rustling or the feel of the sun on your skin, says Jeffrey Greeson, a clinical health psychologist at Duke University. “If some attention’s going toward other things, the pain’s not going to bother you as much,” Greeson says.
Meditation Improves Your Ability to Focus
“Mindfulness training improves your ability to maintain attention and regulate emotional distractions,” says Fadel Zeidan, a cognitive neuroscientist at Wake Forest School of Medicine. In one study he conducted, people who did 20-minute meditation sessions for just four days did significantly better on timed cognitive tests than a control group. The meditators were better able to ignore the timer and simply focus on the task, he explains.
Meditation Reduces Anxiety and Stress
Recent studies are proving that meditation can actually lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies. And in a new study by Zeidan, levels of everyday anxiety decreased by a whopping 39 percent after just four 20-minute mindfulness meditation classes. How? Being more aware of our immediate experiences through meditation may keep us from stewing over the past or worrying about the future.
Meditation Makes You Feel Less Moody
Many of us automatically interpret things in a negative way and assume the worst about ourselves and others. This can cause depression, which meditation has been shown to alleviate . “One of the reasons why meditation is effective for mood and depression is because it helps us not believe these automatic thoughts that we have,” says Greeson. “It involves focusing on what’s possible, not what’s impossible.”
Meditation Improves Your Sex Life
Your sex life could get a boost with mindfulness meditation, which enhances the connections and size of an area of the brain called the insula that’s important for awareness. Strengthening the insula may be what helps some women pay better attention to arousal after meditation training—and even have better orgasms—says Marsha Lucas, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist in Washington, D.C.
Meditation Helps You Heal Faster and Live Longer
In a study last year, people who took eight weeks of mindfulness meditation training had far fewer cases of colds and flu and less severe infections compared to a group of non-meditators. Daniel Muller, a doctor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who worked on this study, says meditation may help to restore the body’s homeostatic balance. It may even help us live longer by keeping our DNA from degrading over time, according to recent research at the University of California, San Francisco.
Start meditating—or take your practice to the next level—with guided audio meditations from leading mindfulness experts on Happify.
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