I started meditating soon after 9/11. I was living in Manhattan, an already chaotic place, at an extremely chaotic time. I realized I had no control over my external environment. But the one place I did have a say over was my mind, through meditation. When I started meditating, I did not realize it would also make me healthier, happier, and more successful. Having witnessed the benefits, I devoted my research at Stanford to studying the impact of meditation. I saw people from diverse backgrounds from college students to combat veterans benefit. In the last 10 years, hundreds of studies have been released. Here are 20 scientifically-validated reasons you might want to start meditating today:
It Boosts Your HEALTH
2 – Decreases Pain (see here)
It Boosts Your HAPPINESS
It Boosts Your SOCIAL LIFE
Think meditation is a solitary activity? It may be, but it actually increases your sense of connection to others:
10 – Makes you feel less lonely (see here)
It Boosts Your Self-Control
11 – Improves your ability to regulate your emotions (see here)
It Changes Your BRAIN (for the better)
13 – Increases grey matter (see here)
15 – Increases cortical thickness in areas related to paying attention (see here)
It Improves Your Productivity
17 – Improves your ability to multitask (see here)
19 – Improves your ability to be creative and think outside the box (see research here)
20. It Makes You WISE
Meditation gives you perspective. By observing your mind, you realize you don’t have to be a slave to it. You realize it throws tantrums, gets grumpy, jealous, happy and sad but that it doesn’t have to control you. Meditation is quite simply mental hygiene: clear out the junk, tune your talents, and get in touch with yourself. Think about it, you shower every day and clean your body, but have you ever done that with the mind? As a consequence, you’ll feel more clear and see thing with greater perspective. “The quality of our life depends on the quality of our mind,” writes Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. We can’t control what happens on the outside but we do have a say over the quality of our mind. No matter what’s going on, if your mind is ok, everything is ok. Right now.
It Keeps You Real
Once you get to know your mind, you start to own your stuff and become more authentic, maybe even humble. You realize the stories and soap operas your mind puts you through and you gain some perspective on them. You realize most of us are caught up in a mind-drama and become more compassionate towards others.
And…the more you meditate, the more you seem to benefit, research studies such as this one suggest.
Myths about Meditation
Having an empty mind—nope, in fact, when you start meditating, you’ll find its quite the opposite
Sitting in lotus position—nope, you can sit on the couch (just don’t lie down, you’ll fall asleep)
Chanting in a language I don’t understand—nope, not unless that floats your boat
Buddhist, Hindu or religious—nope, not unless you make it so
“I can’t meditate” because
I can’t clear my mind—no worries, while you’re sitting there you’ll experience the noisy chaos of a wound-up mind that’s unwinding: tons of thoughts, feelings and emotions. Don’t worry about how you feel during, notice how you feel after and throughout the rest of the day
I can’t sit still—that’s ok, just sit comfortably, fidget if you need to
I get anxious—that’s also normal, learn some breathing practices to calm yourself down, exercise or do yoga before meditating
I hate sitting still—that’s fine, then go for a walk without your earphones, phone etc; or start with yoga; or do breathing exercises…give yourself time to just “be” without constantly “doing” something
I tried and I hated it—there’s not just one kind of meditation, there’s a whole menu out there, look for the shoe that fits: mindfulness, compassion, mantra, Vipassana, Art of Living breathing practices, yoga nidra, yoga, insight, loving-kindness, tai chi etc.
I don’t have time – if you have time to read an article about meditation all the way through, you have time to meditate. Think of all those minutes you waste every day on the internet or otherwise, you can definitely fit in 20 minutes here or there to give your life a boost! Gandhi is quoted as saying “I’m so busy today, that… I’m going to meditate 2 hours instead of 1.”
For a quick summary, check out my infographic on the Benefits of Meditation.
Emma Seppala, Ph.D. is the Associate Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford Medical School. Dr. Seppala completed her undergraduate degree at Yale University and Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University. Her doctoral research focused on interventions to increase compassionate behavior and social connectedness. She completed her post-doctoral research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with Dr. Richard Davidson where she evaluated the effects of yoga- and meditation-based interventions for combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder. Her research fields of expertise include compassion, emotion regulation, happiness, and mind-body interventions.