Studies show that individuals engaging in a mindfulness meditation program can experience relief from an array of physical and mental conditions, including everything from pain management to depression and anxiety. In fact, when it comes to pain management, many studies have found that the brain patterns of those who practice regular mediation do not live in fear of that pain returning after it’s gone, while those who don’t practice hang on to the memory of the pain for much longer.
We can take this knowledge and apply it to our daily lives as well: meditation gives us time in the moment and expands our ability to remain mindful, so when issues come up, we can deal them as they are and not as they could potentially be. Such as, we find a lump in our neck and spend the next week until the test results come back worrying about worse case scenarios. With regular meditation, we simply feel that lump and don’t think about what it might mean until the doctor tells us that we need to do so.
In addition, mediation has been scientifically shown to increase happiness and self-awareness, lower blood pressure and cortisol levels (which is what produces stress), decrease inflammation in the body, improves sleep, controls anxiety and disorders like OCD, panic attacks, and phobias, decreases depression, helps lengthen attention time, fights addictions, and reduces age-related memory loss. It can even help us become kinder, nicer people.
One of the best things about mediation is how accessible it is. There are so many different forms of mediation that you can basically do it anywhere at any time. Can’t close your eyes? That’s fine, focus on deep breathing for a few minutes. Only have a couple of minutes to spare? Great, imagine a calming scene and place yourself in it. Not in the mood to focus your mind on anything, but want to calm down? Perfect – find a guided practice and simply listen along.
While we all know that meditation is an invaluable resource for stress-reduction and can ease health conditions, many people still avoid the practice because they believe it’s too hard to master. And they’re right – meditation is a simple process, but not an easy one. You will get monkey mind: your mind will wander, you will think about other things, invent fantasies, get lost in the past or future – that is part of learning to meditate.
The key is to not get upset with yourself – everyone does it and you’re not any different. In fact, that whole monkey mind bit is part of the practice – your mind is supposed to wander. The healing is in the return, not in never having traveled in the first place. When your mind wanders, you simply acknowledge that it’s doing so, accept the thoughts, and then come back to your breath. The easiest way to be happy and content is to be easier on yourself and just keep trying.