I stand on stage in front of a packed room. My heart is pounding in my ears.
In twenty seconds, I have to walk up to the microphone and give an introduction to the audience. A horrible feeling is rising in my chest.
Terror. I feel terror.
I am an introvert. “I don’t do crowded venues,” I told myself after I was asked to give this introduction. I would rather take a plunge into the Arctic Sea than speak to a room full of people. But I pushed my fear away. “Sure. I’ll do it.”
Now that fear is bubbling up again. I need an escape. A safe place.
I close my eyes for a brief few seconds and focus only on my breath.
Breathe in. Breath out. The air tickles my nostrils.
Immediately, calm overtakes me. My heart rate slows. My nervousness turns to excitement. I step up to the microphone and open my mouth, and my voice is calm and powerful. I can do this.
For the past three years, I have been meditating every day. In this short time, meditation has profoundly transformed my life in ways I never thought possible. Whenever I am scared or nervous or anxious, I simply close my eyes and breathe and within seconds I enter a state of calm. This ability alone is worth more than anything money could buy. And this is just one of the countless life-changing benefits of meditation.
If you’ve ever read the book Bridge to Terabithia (or seen the movie), then you are familiar with Terabithia – an imaginary world that the main characters, Jesse and Leslie, create as a safe haven. It is somewhere they can go to be free from the cares and worries of the world.
Meditation has given me a Terabithia. I have created a clearing of calm and tranquility that I can enter into within seconds whenever I feel the need. I have a refuge no matter where I am or what I am doing. The worries of the world no longer threaten me.
Except this mental place isn’t imaginary, and it isn’t populated with trolls and wild creatures – it is as real as the world we live in.
Since starting my meditation habit, my brain has literally been rewired for happiness, peace and success. Here are just a few of the benefits:
- I rarely become angry.
- I find happiness in unexpected places.
- I form deeper relationships and build friendships more easily.
By far the largest benefit, however, is that a deep, serene calm and peace is slowly permeating into every area of my life.
At first meditating felt unusual – like I was stepping out of normal life and doing something that most people find strange. I soon realized, however, that this wasn’t true – millions of people meditate and many successful people attribute part of their success to meditation.
Here’s proof that meditation isn’t just for monks.
I could go on, but you get the point. The most successful people in the world meditate and there is a reason why. Science backs up the effectiveness of meditation and has revealed an incredible array of benefits.
The Mind-Blowing Science of How Meditation Rewires Your Brain
At first, I couldn’t believe that a simple daily meditation practice affected my life so powerfully. So, I started doing research and devoured all of the scientific studies on meditation that I could find. I was amazed at what I found – it turns out meditation can transform nearly every area of your life.
Here are fourteen scientifically proven ways meditation rewires your brain for happiness, peace and success.
#1: Meditation reduces stress
Feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders? Meditation is incredibly effective at reducing stress and anxiety. One study found that mindfulness and zen type meditations significantly reduce stress when practiced over a period of three months. Another study revealed that meditation literally reduces the density of brain tissue associated with anxiety and worrying. If you want your stress levels to plummet, meditation may be the answer.
#2: Meditation increases your sense of well-being
Want to fill your life with happiness and energy? Mindfulness meditation increases your psychological functioning and in the process improves your sense of well-being. Yoga and tai chi have been found to do this also – according to studies, they have significant therapeutic effects and increase quality of life when practiced regularly.
#3: Meditation increases your sense of connectedness and empathy
Feeling a little disconnected from those around you? Try compassion meditation. Lovingkindess meditation (sometimes called Metta) is a compassion-based meditation that enhances brain areas associated with mental processing and empathy. It also increases your sense of social connectedness. Not a hugging person? You just might become one after trying metta!
#4: Meditation improves focus
Would you love to add razor-edge focus to your life? Research shows that meditation improves cognition and increases your ability to perform tasks requiring focus. One study tested a variety of different meditation types, including Transcendental Meditation, Vipassana, Tibetan Buddhist Meditation, Sufi Meditation and Hindu Meditation, and found that they all improve focus by varying degrees. I used to think coffee was the best way to get focused – now I just meditate.
#5: Meditation improves relationships
Want to strengthen your relationships? Meditation has been shown to better your ability to relate to others. How? It improves your ability to empathize, and it hones your ability to pick up on cues indicating how others are feeling. Meditation also increases your emotional stability, making you less likely to be influenced by any negative people in your life.
#6: Meditation makes you more creative
Ever feel like you could use some more inspiration? Meditation increases your creativity, according to various studies. It’s no wonder that famous creatives like Yoko Ono, David Lynch and Marina Abramović make meditation a major part of their life.
#7: Meditation improves memory
Whether you want to become a memory champion or you simply want to remember the name of that guy who works down the hall, meditation can help. Research has shown that it improves your ability to memorize things and to store and consolidate new information.
#8: Meditation improve your ability to make decisions
There’s a reason high powered executives turn to meditation to help them do their jobs better. Studies have found that both mindfulness meditation and Transcendental Meditation help you make better decisions by improving the functioning of your brain’s decision-making centers. If you want to start cultivating your inner executive, give meditation a try.
#9: Meditation helps people overcome addictions
Do you know someone who has struggled with addiction? One of the most beautiful effects of meditation is that it can help people overcome powerful addictions. One fascinating study found that Vipassana meditation can be incredibly effective at helping people overcoming alcohol and drug related addictions, and similar effects have been found for various types of meditation.
#10: Meditation improves cardiovascular health
Want to get some of the benefits of exercise by sitting in one place? Researchers have found that both mindfulness and Transcendental Meditation improve your cardiovascular health and reduce your risk of heart disease.
#11: Meditation enhances your immune system
Do you get sick more often than you would like? Believe it or not, a variety of different types of meditation, from mindfulness to yoga, have been shown to strengthen the human immune system and make you more resistant to viruses and infections. Take that, cold season.
#12: Meditation helps you find “flow”
Have you ever felt totally, utterly absorbed in the moment? Maybe you were playing a sport or painting a picture, and the world around you just seemed to vanish. This is called “flow,” and is a rare state where the human mind is operating in complete harmony with itself, when you reach a challenge perfectly suited to your abilities. Meditation can help you reach this amazing state of mind, according to some fascinating research.
#13: Meditation reduces physical and emotional pain (better than morphine)
Perhaps the most amazing benefit of meditation is that it has the capability to reduce mental and physical pain better than morphine. Yep, you read that right. That’s a pretty incredibly scientific finding.
Source: Read this awesome Huffington Post research summary
#14: Meditation takes you towards enlightenment?
Traditionally, the goal of meditation is to reach Enlightenment, or a state of perfect happiness and understanding. Can you reach enlightenment by meditating? Who’s to say? Many people say yes, although science still doesn’t have an answer. If you’re curious, there is a podcast dedicated to interviewing people who claim to have reached some stage of enlightenment called Buddha at the Gas Pump. Check it out here.
Want to read about even more benefits of meditation? Here is a fantastic article published on the site Live and Dare that recaps 76 benefits of meditation, and here is an amazing research summary put together by the app Headspace.
How Do I Start?
With so many different types of meditation, it can be hard to decide how to get started. To help, I’ve provided a short list of popular types of meditation, plus a method to help you find one that suits your personality.