What if someone offered you a free pill that fought depression and anxiety, reduced stress levels, increased happiness, helped you lose weight, prevented the common cold, and helped you to get organized and reach all your career goals?
What if that pill was completely free, and fully accessible to every person on planet earth. That would be pretty awesome, right?
Good news! It exists. Sort of. It’s not a pill. It’s meditation. And it’s not quite free – almost though.
All it costs is 20 minutes of every day, a bit of a tough learning curve, and the possibility of someone calling you a hippie at some point, (you have my permission to punch that person in the face though, so it’s fine.)
Here are the top five reasons you should really give it a try!
Meditation Physically Lowers Stress Levels
I don’t mean that in any sort of figurative way – studies of people who participate in daily meditation actually show lower levels of a stress hormone called cortisol. Just giving yourself that 20 minutes in the morning changes the chemical balance of your brain for the better – you start at a lower stress level, and it is harder to raise it for rest of the day. Plus, the effects are speculated to be cumulative. Over time, your brain actually rewires itself, growing brand new connections – these connections lower something called your “anxiety density”. This lowered “anxiety density” fights against mental illness better than any anti-depressant or anti-anxiety drug on the market, (not to mention the fact that it’s free and has no side effects aside from improved quality of life and the freedom to punch jerks who call you a hippie in the face). Did I mention it also lowers blood pressure?
You’ll be so zen you could have a zen-off with the zennest of zens.
Meditation Protects Against Illness
Get colds a lot? Yeah, people who meditate daily don’t. Research coming out of Wisconsin (which is verifiably the coldest goddamn place ever), found that people who practice daily meditation miss less days of work due to cold symptoms – and when they do catch colds, they last for shorter periods of time and suffer less severe symptoms.
And man, if you think the common cold is the end, you would be very wrong. Daily meditation actually protects you against way more than that – it can help a whole host of other things, from headaches to joint pain to freaking cancer.
Ohio State University’s study of women recovering from breast cancer revealed that it was way less likely to come back if they were on a daily schedule of muscle relaxation and calming of the mind (read as: meditation). Another study out of Ohio State University showed that daily meditation improve the count of protective killer cells in your blood – improving your body’s ability to resist tumors and other potentially serious viruses.
Meditation Helps You Lose Weight
Yep. This too. Meditation fosters a state of living called “mindfulness”, which just means when you meditate in the morning you ground yourself firmly in the present for the rest of the day – and notice what’s around you more. When you’ve going through life in your “mindful” state, you’re more aware of what you’re eating. After meditation, your taste buds become more sensitive, and you’ll find it easier to stop eating after a little, because you need less to feel satisfied.
Another way meditation helps you lose weight, is it increases your exercise tolerance – so if you sneak in a little meditation before you go to the gym, you’ll be able to go for longer without getting as tired out.
Meditation Makes Things Seem “Better”
As I mentioned before, it charges your taste buds and food tastes better. It also makes music sound better. And movies. And books. And art. And the people around you. Your perception of all of those things is improved. It comes back to the whole “mindfulness” thing. When you listen to music, you really listen to music and it will effect you on a deeper emotional level. When you watch movies you pay attention, you visualize books more vividly, you truly listen to the people around you.
And since your cortisol levels are already so low, it’s more difficult for these things to make you stressed or unhappy. So you have these heightened, focused senses, and a lowered ability to become stressed, anxious or depressed. The result is that a lot of things just seem “better”.
This in turn, builds your life satisfaction and confidence, which can help you achieve your goals.
It Makes You “Better”
On top of all the things meditation does for you, it also makes you better at being a person. Studies have shown that people who meditateshow higher compassion towards others, and are more likely to express altruistic behavior. They also have decreased anger and jealousy and are more well liked by their peer group.
I guess if you never get stick, you’re losing weight, you’re never stressed, you’re focused enough to get work done and you’re able more fully enjoy literally everything, you sort of chill out and end up being really nice to everyone.