The Challenge: Stress, work, and life challenges can get the best of us.
The Science: Research shows that meditation is linked to a host of benefits, from happiness to health!
The Solution: Meditate to feel calmer, happier, healthier, more productive, and more in charge.
Are you trying to find a New Year’s Resolution that’s really worth it? How about one that will boost your resilience?
This coming New Year will hopefully be full of wonderful surprises, but undoubtedly – like every year – it will also throw some challenges at us. 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. And I realized this would always be the case. No matter what we do, we never have full control over our jobs, partners, health, or environment.
However, there is one place we can have a say over the state of our mind. As a friend once said to me, “When my mind is okay, then everything is okay.” This statement is so simple yet also so profound. When I started meditating, I realized I was calm despite any situations I encountered. What I didn’t realize was that it would also make me healthier, happier, and more successful. Having witnessed the benefits, I devoted my Ph.D. 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 get on the bandwagon come Jan 1 (if not today!)
It Boosts Your HEALTH
2 – Decreases Pain (see here)
It Boosts Your HAPPINESS
5 – Decreases Depression (see here)
It Boosts Your SOCIAL LIFE
Think meditation is a solitary activity? It may be (unless you meditate in a group, which many do!), 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) (Ever flown off the handle or not been able to quiet your mind? Here’s the key)
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 (yup, by doing nothing)
17 – Improves your ability to multitask (see here)
18 – Improves your memory (see here)
19 – Improves your ability to be creative & think outside the box (see research by J. Schooler)
It Makes You WISE(R)
It gives you perspective: By observing your mind, you realize you don’t have to be a slave to it. You realize it throws tantrums and gets grumpy, jealous, happy, and sad, but that it doesn’t have to run 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 showered your mind? As a consequence, you’ll feel more clear and see things 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 minds. 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 it 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 tried it once or twice, and it didn’t work for me – did you know there are many different ways to meditate? There are so many techniques (Mindfulness, Transcendental Meditation, Loving-Kindness Meditation, Compassion, Yoga Nidra, Sudarshan Kriya, Vipassana) you have to find the shoe that fits.
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; 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; all the junk’s coming up. 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 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.”