There are plenty of things that occur in our daily lives that cause us stress: commuter traffic, hassles at work, and tension in our personal relationships to name just a few. If we don’t find healthy ways to deal with this stress, it can fester, eventually causing anxiety, depression, and even health issues such as hypertension and heart disease.
One of the best ways to beat stress is through mindfulness meditation. This practice helps train you to keep your attention “in the now.” By training your mind to stay in the present moment, you stop it from ruminating on all of the things that bring you stress. While it can be challenging in the beginning, many practitioners of meditation receive amazing benefits:
A Better Night’s Sleep
If you’re someone who suffers from a lack of sleep, you know how it can affect your mood and ability to focus clearly. Research has found that in adults diagnosed with sleep disturbances, meditation improves the quality of sleep obtained each night.
Lowers Stress Levels
Studies have also found that mindfulness meditation can reduce the cortisol levels produced in the body. Cortisol is a stress hormone. When levels of cortisol remain high, it can negatively impact your health.
Decreases Loneliness in Older Adults
Many older adults experience loneliness and isolation due to the loss of their spouse combined with an inability to lead an independent social life. One study found that an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program decreased loneliness and related pro-inflammatory gene expression in seniors.
These are only a handful of the many benefits of practicing meditation.
Getting Started with Meditation
Starting a meditation practice does not have to feel overwhelming and it doesn’t require you to make big lifestyle changes. It simply requires you to dedicate 10-20 minutes each day in your practice.
You may want to look for group meditation classes in your local area to get a feel for how it works. There are also plenty of guided meditations online to choose from.
The biggest thing to remember is that it is called a meditation practice for a reason: you won’t get it “right” right out of the gate. And truthfully, there is no right or wrong. There is only a desire and intent to let go of the chatter in your mind and focus on the present moment. That’s it. Once you get the hang of things, you too can experience some amazing benefits.
Chelsy A. Castro, JD, MA, AM, LCSW