10 reasons why you should meditate for a healthier, happier life

The benefits of meditation can be experienced on a physical, mental and social level.

According to findings reported in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, practising just 11 minutes of meditation and mindfulness every day can help heavy drinkers cut down on their intake. As per the authors of the study, mindfulness heightens the ‘moment-to-moment’ awareness and allows the mind to just observe the sensations that a craving creates, without evaluating or reacting to it.

Practitioners of meditation have been extolling its benefit for ages. Meditation helps maintain a balanced mind and body and requires zero investment of money or effort – all you need to have is some time in your hand, a quiet place and the motivation to meditate. Which is why it is being touted as one of the best practices for leading a healthy life.  If that does not inspire you enough to meditate, take a look at how regular meditation can benefit you:

Improves brain function: According to a study conducted by researcher Kimberley Luu and associate professor Peter Hall, of the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, practising just 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation, or Hatha Yoga, every day, can boost the brain’s executive functions which involve working memory, mental flexibility, and inhibitory control. Regular meditators have also been found to have a thicker cortex, which is the area in the brain associated with functions such as memory and decision making.

Meditation has also been found to increase concentration levels. During a research where meditators were tested on a task which required speed and concentration, it was found that performance levels were greater after 40 minutes of meditation than after a 40-minute nap.

Balances your left and right brain: Our brain is divided lengthwise into two hemispheres – the right and the left, both of which control different activities. While the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body, which is responsible for speech, logic, reasoning, time, linear and rhythm; the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body, which is responsible for emotions, melody, tone, and creativity. Most people use one side of the brain more than the other, and this creates a sort of imbalance. With the left side of the brain associated with logic and the right with creativity, using both sides in tandem can help better problem-solving skills and boost creativity. Meditation helps to synchronise both sides of the brain and create a balance.

Reduces stress: Mindfulness meditation is known to reduce levels of cortisol, the hormone released during stress. Regular meditation helps control emotions and enables the practitioner to better deal with stressful situations, and enables relaxation.

Increases self-awareness: Most of the times, we are so caught up in the rat race, that we do not bother to sit back and try to understand our selves. Meditation, thus, gives us those moments to recognise who we are and understand the emotions we go through, thereby helping us control them better.

Improves relationships: Meditation is known to boost our mood, make us a happier and calmer person, and thus improve our relationship with others around us. Those who practise regular meditation are also known to be better listeners. This is because meditation helps increase focusing and attention powers, all important aspects of being a good listener.

Promotes better sleep quality: A number of things hinder us from sleeping well – stress, late working hours, excessive gadget use, or just the way our lifestyle is. Studies prove that spending some time meditating before going to sleep helps calm you down, slows down the heartbeat, hence creating a feeling of sedation, and thus allows you sleep better.

Boosts libido: Most adults witness decreased libido as time passes, primarily due to stress. Meditation soothes the mind, and thus brings better energy levels, less stress, and better relationships – all these also help boost your libido, and allows you to connect better with your partner – in both a physical and mental way.

Strengthens the immune system: Our thoughts, moods, and emotions, play a huge role in how our immune system works – the more positive our minds and environment are, the better the immune system works. A study conducted on a group of subjects showed that after eight hours of meditation, there were significant levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes in the meditators.  It is also known to boost antibodies naturally. According to a study, 48 biotech workers who meditated regularly showed higher levels of antibodies than those who did not.

Improves cardiovascular health: Stress is known to cause a number of cardiovascular diseases. When you control stress with meditation, you reduce your risk of heart diseases. As per a study in the US News and World Report, meditation helps bring relaxation, which in turn increases nitric oxide, which causes blood vessels to open up, thereby decreasing blood pressure.

Helps you lead a healthy lifestyle: With reduced stress, better sleep and better relationships, comes a healthier lifestyle. Mediation allows you to focus on the positive aspects of life and helps you remove unwanted clutter and addictions from your life. Those who meditate regularly have been known to eat well, sleep well, smoke and drink less, and generally be happier.