Just a few short years ago, meditation was not a common practice. Today, meditation has become wildly popular in the United States. There are books, Youtube channels, and smartphone apps solely dedicated to the study of it, and everyone from toddlers to senior citizens are reaping some pretty great benefits (I’ll get to those in a minute).
Of course, there are still some people who are unsure if meditation is right for them. Some are concerned meditation is a form of religion, and as such, are concerned it clashes with their current faith. But the practice of meditation is not inherently religious anymore than yoga or Tai Chi are.
Perhaps Deepak Chopra explains it best when he says, “Meditation is, first of all, part of every spiritual tradition…in the world. There are breathing meditations in every tradition. There are body-awareness meditations in every tradition. And there are variations of mantra meditation. It has nothing to do with belief or ideology or doctrine. It’s a simple mental technique to go to the source of thought.”
Meditation, or mindful meditation as some call it, is simply the practice of training your mind to be present in the moment. You don’t judge the moment or analyze the moment, you simply be present and aware in the moment. For those of faith, meditating and prayer are two sides of the same coin. Training yourself to be still and listen for the voice of God is the same practice as meditating.
Still need convincing? Modern science has shown through numerous studies that meditation has many real benefits. Here are some of the top ones:
Alleviate Symptoms of Stress
Most of us are living with some amount of stress. Chronic stress leads to a host of health issues, but meditating has been shown to lessen the effects of stress. For instance, meditation has been shown to reduce levels of cortisol. Prolonged and elevated levels of cortisol have been linked to the development of insulin resistance, hypertensions, and suppressed immunity.
Manage Chronic Pain
Mindful meditation, in conjunction with yoga, is shown to decrease pain levels and increase a sense of well-being. This is true for those with chronic pain issues, PTSD, and even cancer patients.
According to a growing body of research, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) may be very beneficial in reducing depressive symptoms and preventing a relapse. This type of therapy is as beneficial to patients as depression medications! MBCT’s popularity is growing, due to its outstanding positive effects, but also for its lack of negative side-effects.
A Better Night’s rest
A lack of sleep can make life feel miserable, and chronic insomnia can lead to a suppressed immune system and other health issues. Research has shown that a meditation practice can help improve the quality of sleep. In adults diagnosed with severe sleep disturbances, many found a significant short-term improvement when they tried practicing mindful meditation.
If you’ve been curious about meditation but were concerned it wouldn’t mix with your particular faith, I encourage you to give it a try. It just might change your life for the better! You can find another article about meditation and faith and their mutual benefits here.