The Top 5 Ways That Meditation Can Improve Mental Health
Meditation is an age-old practice that has been scientifically shown to have numerous benefits, with one of its greatest advantages being its ability to improve mental health. Here are five ways that meditation can enhance your emotional well-being.
1) Boosts self-esteem and self-awareness
Mindfulness meditation allows you to take a break from your busy day and engage in deep self-reflection, which can help you increase self-awareness by observing your own thoughts and feelings without judgment. In fact, one study found that individuals who used a mindfulness meditation app for just two weeks reported decreased feelings of loneliness and improved social contact, as compared to those who did not use the app.
Another type of meditation, called self-inquiry meditation, encourages you to develop a greater understanding of yourself. Fostering a sense of self-awareness is important because it can empower you to make changes in areas of your life that you’re unhappy with while also taking advantage of your strengths.
2) Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression
Meditation has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, which is a hormone that’s responsible for the body’s stress and inflammatory responses. Increased cortisol levels can have detrimental effects on almost all of your body’s processes, contributing to sleeping difficulties, weight gain, and anxiety and depression.
However, a Harvard study found that individuals who regularly practiced meditation actually decreased the volume of their amygdala, which is a region in the brain responsible for regulating anxiety, fear, and stress. To enhance your meditation experience, try repeating a mantra, which is a word or phrase that helps you stay focused. This has been shown to have a calming effect, allowing you to shift your focus away from distracting or negative thoughts.
3) Increases positive emotions
If you’ve been feeling down on yourself lately, meditation can boost feelings of love and acceptance towards yourself. With practice, you can learn to extend these positive emotions towards others in the form of altruism, forgiveness and empathy.
Loving-kindness meditation, also known as metta, is a subtype of meditation that can help you strengthen these feelings. One example of loving-kindness meditation would be picturing a loved one and wishing them happiness and peace. One study discovered that adults who practiced loving-kindness meditation experienced a significant increase in positive emotions, such as compassion and empathy, as compared to those who didn’t.
4) Combats addiction
A lesser-known benefit of meditation is that it can help combat addiction. A recent study found that those who had recovered from a drug or alcohol addiction were less likely to relapse if they practiced meditation. Although the exact mechanism isn’t fully understood, researchers believe that meditation can regulate how the brain experiences pleasure, which can prevent these individuals from reverting to their old behaviors. Furthermore, because meditation gives you a heightened awareness of your thoughts, it can give you the power to observe a mental urge but refrain from acting on it.
5) Helps you gain control over your emotions
It can be difficult to communicate with others when you don’t feel that you’re in control of your emotions. While you may believe that you can’t change how your brain functions and therefore you’ll never be able to adequately express your emotions, the opposite is actually true. Meditation can shift how you process and express your feelings, which can help you learn how to better respond to stressful situations and communicate with others. This can help you build long-lasting relationships.
Whether you’re interested in trying out loving-kindness meditation, self-inquiry meditation, or mindfulness, you can reap the benefits of improved mental health. These five benefits of daily meditation for your mental health can hopefully convince you to take up this rewarding activity.
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