Last month, we spent a lot of time talking about trauma— its effects, methods of moving through it, and methods of talking about it. So for this month, we’d like to take a different, more pleasant approach: self-care. We’re going to spend this month talking about various ways to care for yourself and improve your mental health.
This week, that topic is meditation. Meditation can be seen as something “new-age”, or something that requires a lot of effort, practice, or understanding. But that’s not true. Meditation is thousands of years old, and it is actually something simple. Anyone can do it, and anyone can benefit from it.
And the benefits of meditation are more than you may think. Many, many studies have shown that practicing meditation has a plethora of benefits for both your physical and mental health.
What is meditation?
Contrary to popular belief, meditation is quite simple: it is the act of sitting down and clearing your mind. You can use this time to focus on a specific issue, explore internal feelings, or just have time to relax.
The reason meditation is seen as something complicated or “new age” may come from its roots— a very long time ago, meditation was originally used as a way to enhance spiritual practices and/or reach enlightenment. And some still use it that way. But it can be used for any reason, in whatever way you would like.
Meditation often gets confused with mindfulness. Mindfulness is, usually, a result of some sort of practice that is geared towards being more mindful of yourself and your own needs. This can be just one of the many benefits that come from practicing meditation.
Solo vs. guided meditation: which is better?
Neither. Solo and guided meditation both have their own positives and downsides. Which one you decide to do— or both— depends on your own needs and desires.
For people who are new to meditating and feel overwhelmed, guided meditation can really help to get you going. Someone else can give you guidance so that you can just focus on relaxing, and don’t have to do all the legwork yourself.
But the benefits of guided meditation aren’t just for newcomers— even meditation experts can benefit from it. It simply means you have someone else there to guide you through the process, and perhaps to help you out if you can’t relax or clear your mind.
And solo meditation is the direct opposite: it lets you be in total control, and have time to be with yourself, without distractions or interruptions. If you know what you want to get out of meditation, doing it solo offers you the most control possible.
If you’re looking to try out guided meditation, there are many ways you can do so. Therapists, psychologists, and life coaches all might be able to help you out. There are people out there devoted specifically to guiding others in meditation. And you could even get help from friends, coworkers, teachers, or family members.
So now that you know all that, let’s talk about some of the benefits of meditation that you could find.
1. Decreased stress levels
This is one of the top reasons that many people choose to meditate, and one of the most cited benefits. And it’s true: meditation can help reduce your stress levels.
Whether it’s stress from work, relationships, friends, family, even your pets, meditation can help you alleviate it. It gives you a space to acknowledge your stress, and to either feel it and let it go, or find out where that stress is coming from to help lessen it. Meditation, whether daily, weekly, or just every now and then, can really help you reduce your stress levels.
2. Physical health improvements
Although it’s often used to help with mental health or such issues, there are also some physical health benefits of meditation. So you can improve your body and your mind with one simple practice.
First, high stress levels can cause negative effects on your body, like fatigue, headaches, and more. But since meditation helps to lower your stress levels, it can also help you deal with or prevent some of these issues.
And the same applies if you suffer from a stress-induced condition, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome or migraines, meditation can also help treat those issues. And it has even been shown to help with things like chronic pain, at least to some extent.
3. Improved sleep
As if all the other physical health benefits weren’t enough, meditation can also help improve your sleep. This is especially true when it is done before bedtime. It allows you to relax and calm your brain, which in turn helps you sleep better.
This can mean falling asleep easier, sleeping for longer, not waking up during the night, not being troubled by nightmares or night terrors, and actually waking up feeling rested. So if you have any struggles with sleeping, perhaps trying out meditation might help you.
4. Decreased anxiety
Much like it can help lower stress levels, meditation can also help manage anxiety. By giving yourself a space to simply work through your thoughts, you can isolate the things that are making you anxious. Then, you can think them through, and perhaps figure out why they are making you anxious and what you can do about it.
And even without that, simply refreshing your mind and lowering stress levels can do a lot to help with anxiety. This is why many people struggling with anxiety find meditation to be so helpful.
5. Better awareness of self
One of the benefits of meditation is increased mindfulness— which is kind of an open-ended phrase. Mindfulness can mean many things, but basically, it means being more mindful of yourself, the world around you, and how you relate to it.
And one of the most important parts of this is being more mindful of yourself. Many of us have parts of ourselves that we don’t understand, or that we try to ignore. And this is completely natural. But if we take the time to learn more about those parts and understand them better, we can deepen our understanding of ourselves, which can be very helpful.
This helps provide you with a better sense of who you are, so you can feel more prepared to handle whatever life throws at you. And it may make problem-solving easier: the better you know yourself, the easier it is to know what is best for you, and how to work towards that in a healthy way.
These are just some of the benefits of meditation. There are certainly many, many more out there, and what you get out of it is dependent on what you want to get out of it. So if any of these benefits sound appealing to you, or you want to try it out for a different reason, then consider giving meditation a try.
Do you love doing meditation? Do you have questions about it, or thoughts to share? Let us know by leaving a comment below or by tagging us on social media (@llctherapeutic on Twitter and @therapeutichealingjourney on Instagram). We’d love to hear from you!