Maybe it’s the strain of caring for toddlers, aging parents, or a sick spouse. Maybe it’s trying to balance work and family. Maybe it’s worrying about funding your retirement. All you know is that you are stressed out and need help. Sounds like it’s time to add meditation to your toolkit.
Meditation is not as exotic or difficult as many people believe. In truth, it is a simple mental exercise which, when performed regularly, substantially reduces stress, increases concentration, and produces many health benefits. You meditate now and probably don’t even know it. When you play golf, weed your garden, cook, pursue hobbies… anything that takes your mind off the cares of the world and puts you in a state of “flow”. You can increase (and stabilize) the benefits through conscious practice.
“We are not going to teach you to contemplate your navel or to chant secret syllables. You are not conquering demons or harnessing invisible energies. There are no colored belts given for your performance, and you don’t have to shave your head … Sounds fairly encouraging, wouldn’t you say?”
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana in Mindfulness in Plain English, 2002.
Benefits of Meditation
There are several “good habits” that every human being should develop. We should all follow a regimen of exercise; we should all regulate our diets; and we should all control and still our minds through meditation. Why don’t we do these things?
I know why we don’t all exercise. Sweat. Pain. Fatigue.
I know why we don’t all diet. Cookies. Pasta. Cupcakes.
Meditation does not make you sweat. It does not make you tired. It does not require giving up anything you want. So, what’s the problem? I think part of it is that we can measure our success in diet and exercise. We don’t realize that we can measure our success in meditation as well. We are not measuring weight or strength – we are measuring well-being. Meditation can help you:
- Reduce stress at the office or at home
- Deal with individual stressors as they occur
- Lose the “jitters” before a test or other stressful situation
- Fall peacefully asleep
Researchers have confirmed the fact that the consistent practice of meditation has healing properties both physical and mental. Scientific studies have shown that meditation can benefit people with the following conditions:
- Sleep Disorders: the practice of meditation is associated with improved sleep (Winbush, Gross, and Kreitzer, 2007)
- Anxiety: effective method of reducing anxiety in patients diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (Evans, et al., 2008)
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: significant improvements in psychological distress and well-being (Pradhan and colleagues 2007)
- Chronic Pain: significant reduction in psychological and physiological symptoms ((Bonadonna, 2003)
- Diabetes: significant improvement in glycemic control and reduction of stress-related symptoms (Rosenzweig, 2007)
- Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder: shown to reduce depressive symptoms associated with these disorders (Williams et al., 2008)
How To Get Started
Have I convinced you yet? Want to tap into the power of meditation? There are many different types of practice. Like diets, any of them can be helpful if used properly. Also like diets, you will probably not stick with a meditation practice if it doesn’t satisfy your personal needs and desires. Here’s a simple exercise designed to get you started.