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Why You Should Be Meditating Daily

Meditation has gained a lot of interest recently, particularly for it's benefits in reduce anxiety and stress. However, there are far more benefits such as improving sleep and boosting cognitive skills. Meditation is simple to do, free, easily accessible and appropriate for all ages.

What is meditation?

Meditation is the process of training your mind to redirect your thoughts and focus on your breath/the present moment. This can be done by closing your eyes, taking deep breaths and quieting your mind. For those that struggle to meditate, listening to a guided meditation audio may help with focus. If you are a beginner to meditating, you may chose to start with 5 minutes every day and work your way up to 30-60 minutes for optimal benefits. There are many different meditative practices you can do such as:

  • Manifestation meditation

  • Breath work

  • Meditation to increase awareness of your self and your surrounding

  • Meditation to manage stress and anxiety

  • Affirmation meditations

  • Meditation to quiet the mind and find peace

  • Meditation to reprogram the mind

Now that we have identified what meditation is, lets take a look at some of the benefits of meditation and why you should practice daily:

1. Helps to manage anxiety

Through breath work and awareness, you can reduce anxiety and stress (Johnson & Barnes, 2014). A recent study discovered that 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation was enough to help reduce anxiety in people with anxiety disorder. Furthermore, 8 weeks of meditation helped increase positive self-talk, stress reaction and coping mechanisms (Hoge et al. 2013).

Another study found that 8 weeks of daily meditation helps to reduce anxiety, depression and pain over a 1 year period (Rod, 2015). Additionally, mindful practises such as yoga performed in combination with meditation increases benefits and helps to reduce general anxiety (Shohani et al. 2018). Meditation and mindful practises also help to manage money, relationship (Hofmann et al. 2010) and job-related anxiety (Bostock et al. 2019).

2. Helps to manage stress and reduce negative effects of stress

Chronic stress is extremely common in our modern day world. Due to our highly stressful jobs, busy lives, money stressors and increase in toxic relationships/divorces, we are seeing an epidemic of chronic stress and resulting pathology. When we are physically or mentally stressed, our cortisol levels rise and inflammatory cytokines start being produced (Liu et al. 2017). Physiologically, this is our bodies protection mechanism to an acute threat, however, when we are chronically stressed, our stress hormones can become imbalanced and we can develop chronic inflammatory conditions (Hannibal & Bishop, 2014).

Chronic stress can lead to a whole host of health problems and symptoms such as poor sleep, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, fatigue, brain fog (Wallensten et al. 2016), irritable bowel syndrome (Cearley et al. 2017), PTSD (Hilton et al. 2017) and fibromyalgia (Aman et al. 2018). A recent study (Rosenkranz et al. 2013) discovered that just 8 weeks of daily mediation practice was enough to reduce inflammation caused by stress!

3. Improves Attention Span

The more you practice meditation and focusing the mind, the easier you will find it to pay attention for longer periods of time. With each practice, you are strengthening your ability to focus on tasks (think of it like going to the gym for your brain!). A recent study (Norris et al. 2018) found that those who meditate daily are more likely to be able to focus on tasks for extended periods of time and carry out tasks with accuracy.

Another study found significant benefit from 13 minutes of daily meditation on increasing attention span and improving memory (Basso et al. 2019). If you feel that you have a poor attention span and ability to focus, start listening to guided meditations for 2-5 minutes per day until you are able to work your way up to longer.

4. Helps fight addiction

According to recent studies, the mental discipline you develop through meditation can help you overcome dependencies by improving your self-awareness and self-control (Garland & Howard, 2018). Furthermore, meditation can improve impulses and awareness of the cause of the addiction (Tang & Leve, 2016).

Making meditation a daily practice instead of reaching for an addictive substance is a great alternative. When you feel cravings come on, take some time for something else that you love to do and mindfulness practice. Mindfulness practises can help you slow down and weigh the consequences of your decision before reaching for a substance (Priddy et al. 2018).

Frequent meditative practice can help to control food cravings and binge eating (Katterman et al. 2014). When we are going through a stressful or emotional period, food cravings often arise. Sugary foods such as sweets, cakes and chocolate boost serotonin, which can temporarily improve our mood and calm us down (Inam et al. 2016). Although they help temporarily, sugary foods are detrimental to our health and should be avoided. Meditation helps to manage stress, thus, reducing the need for sugary foods. Meditation can also help to manage alcoholism by reducing levels of stress and improving awareness (Gryczynksi et al. 2018).

5. Enhances self-awareness and self-kindness

Certain meditative practises, such as affirmation work, can improve self-kindness and compassion. By repeating things that you like/admire about yourself daily, your brain and cells begin to believe it! (Cascio et al. 2016). Through regular practice, this kindness extends beyond ones-self and forgiveness/kindness can be easily achieved, even in the toughest of situations (Galante et al. 2014).

A recent study showed that practising Metta meditation (loving-kindness meditation) 3x per week is enough to improve interpersonal interaction, understanding, self-awareness, kindness and positive emotions (He et al. 2015). Awareness and breath-work focused meditation can improve your self-awareness and compassion and reduce racing thoughts (Behan, 2020).

6. May improve sleep

By relaxing your brain and body, it's easier to quiet an overactive mind and slip into a parasympathetic state (rest and digest) during meditation. If the events of the day have caused your sympathetic nervous system to dominate, your muscles may become tight, breathing shallow and your mind may race. A racing mind and tense muscles can lead to poor quality sleep and difficulty falling asleep. Thus, it is crucial to be in a parasympathetic state before sleep (Fink et al. 2018).

Recent studies have found that frequent meditation can help reduce high cortisol, a stress hormone that works in an opposite manner to melatonin (Turakitwanakan et al. 2013). Cortisol functions to wake us up in the morning, whereas, melatonin helps us to get to sleep at night. When cortisol is high, melatonin is low and vice versa. Therefore, if we are suffering with chronic stress and high cortisol, getting to sleep may become difficult (Azmi et al. 2021). Meditation can help to manage the stress that increases cortisol levels (Sharma, 2015).

Additionally, meditation can improve REM sleep (rapid eye movement) which is a crucial state for our brain to process new learnings and skills from the day (Nagendra et al. 2012). A lack of REM sleep can lead to crankiness, mood swings, poor focus and performance impairment (Alhola & Kantola, 2007).

7. Reduces symptoms of depression and boosts emotional well-being

Regular meditation can help reduce the anxiety and stress that triggers feelings of depression. Meditation trains the brain to stay focused and return to that focus when negative thoughts or emotions arise (Harvard Health, 2021). According to Zhang et al. (2018), people who suffer from recurrent depression tend to have a small hippocampus. A recent study (Holzel et al. 2010) found that individuals who meditated for 30 minutes daily for 8 weeks had an increase in the volume of grey matter in their hippocampus!

Certain practises such as Metta meditation and affirmation work can improve feelings of self-love and compassion, thus reducing the symptoms of depression associated with self-hate (Frick et al. 2020). Additionally, inflammatory cytokines, which are released in response to stress, can affect ones mood and lead to depression. A recent study (Kasala et al. 2014) found that meditation can manage depression by reducing release of inflammatory cytokines.

8. May reduce high blood pressure

Meditation has been shown to increase the amount of nitric oxide in your body (Kemper et al. 2015). Nitric oxide is a compound that dilates blood vessels, makes it easier for blood to flow freely and reduces high blood pressure (Ramanlal & Gupta, 2023). Additionally, meditation relaxes the nerve signals that coordinate heart function, blood vessel function and sympathetic response that increases when we are stressed. The result is reduced blood pressure and increased relaxation (Olex et al. 2013).

Meditation can also help reduce and manage chronic stress, which in turn, reduces blood pressure. Chronic stress can lead to hypertension through repeated blood pressure elevations as well as by stimulation of the nervous system to produce large amounts of vasoconstricting hormones (Kulkarni et al. 1998). Thus, managing stress is an important factor when trying to manage hypertension.

9. Helps manage chronic pain

Scientists say that daily meditation is a crucial part of chronic pain management! In stressful situations, your perception of pain becomes elevated. Meditation can help manage stress and thus reduce chronic pain (Goyal et al. 2014). A recent study (Hilton et al. 2017) proved that daily meditation can reduce pain, improve life quality and decrease depression.

Furthermore, meditation increases our ability to deal with pain. Meditation uses neuronal pathways that allows the brain to become less sensitive to pain and increases the release of pain-relieving opioids (Ziedan & Vago, 2016).

10. Helps recover from traumatic experiences

You may see a theme in this article .. stress management! And it's no different when it comes to trauma. Meditation calms the sympathetic nervous system and reduces stress hormones responsible for our fight or flight response (Woodyard, 2011). After a traumatic event, we become sympathetically dominant and react to even the smallest of triggers. Meditation can help us shift into a parasympathetic state and manage the anxiety and stress associated with an event (Ganguly et al. 2020).

Traumatic experiences cause changes to the hippocampus. The hippocampus is responsible for memory and telling the amygdala whether a threat is real or not. When response is heightened, PTSD and anxiety can occur. Furthermore, recent studies have proven that the size of the hippocampus is reduced in overly reactive individuals with PTSD (Mann & Marwaha, 2023). Luckily, meditation can help improve the volume of grey matter in the hippocampus (Holzel et al. 2010) and help manage our response to trauma (Boyd et al. 2018).

11. Improves cardiovascular health

Meditation supports cardiovascular health in multiple ways, from stress management to blood pressure reduction. Recent research (Arya et al. 2018) discovered the link between meditation and increased HRV. HRV reflects how fast your heart makes changes in the time interval between each heartbeat. A low HRV is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease or heart attack. However, a high HRV is a sign of a healthier heart. 10 minutes of meditation per day has been shown to raise HRV levels and contribute to heart health (Kirk & Axelsen, 2020).

Meditation activates our bodies parasympathetic nervous system, which counteracts stress responses. Chronic stress can lead to cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure (Spruill, 2010). Meditating daily helps manage stress and thus reduce heart rate, blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk (Natarajan, 2022).

12. Helps manage gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome

Meditation and mindfulness practises work on the gut-brain connection and have been shown to be extremely effective at reducing gastrointestinal complaints. Regular meditation can decrease inflammation, improve gut microbiome health, improve gut integrity, reduce stress and regulate neurotransmitters; all of which contributes to a healthy gastrointestinal system (Househam et al. 2017).

Mindfulness-based meditation helps to reduce fear and anxiety related to digestive symptoms. Because the brain and gut communicate, anxiety can exacerbate the symptoms a person is most concerned about (Cangemi et al. 2019). When you frequently meditate and learn to control your fears and anxieties, your digestive system responds and you will experience fewer unwanted symptoms! (Breit et al. 2018).


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