On most days, our minds are cluttered with all sorts of confusing and exhausting thoughts. We replay conversations from the past, worry about the future, and wrestle with the dozens of demands of the present.
But can you remember a moment of pure, undistracted peace? Maybe it was when you rocked your newborn to asleep, and was completely happy just breathing in her baby-powder scent. Or the time you sat on the beach, watching the sunset, and for once you weren’t thinking about anything. You were just there, feeling the sand on your toes and the breeze on your face—quiet, aware, content. How would you like to have that moment any time you wanted? Read on.
The secret is meditation. It quiets your chaotic mind, so you can be 100% in the present moment. Many cultures and faiths use it to broaden consciousness and invite insight. It also has very practical purposes outside the realm of religion. Sports coaches encourage athletes to visualize peak performance. Psychologists recommend it for managing stress, panic attacks, phobias, and even addiction.
Thus, meditation offers many benefits for many different kinds of people. And it can make a difference in your life, too. Here are some things you can gain from just 10 to 20 minutes of meditation a day.
1. Meditation helps you get better sleep.
Insomnia and other sleep problems can be caused by what many people call “a screwed up body clock.” Basically, your unpredictable schedule—driven by office overtime, parties with friends, or taking care of newborns—has taught you to ignore your body’s needs and natural rhythms.
To solve this, you can try auto circadian meditation, which helps you manage your internal clock. This technique teaches you focus on breathing and other “body cues” so you become more attuned to your biorhythm. Once you’ve got that, you can reprogram it, the same way you’d reset your alarm clock.
2. Meditation increases your concentration.
We all live in the world of multi-tasking, but all productivity experts say that the true secret to getting things done well (and even faster) is to concentrate—shut out distractions, focus on the task, and put both your conscious mind and intuition at work.
That’s easier to do when you meditate, which gives you more control over your thoughts and instills the practice of one-pointedness, or becoming completely aware of the present moment. In fact, many sports coaches encourage their athletes to meditate before a big game, so they can tune out the pressure or the noise of the watching crowd and simply focus on the ball and visualize hitting it out of the park.
3. Meditation encourages positive thought.
Use guided meditations to reflect or affirm thoughts of abundance, health, career success, faith—practically anything. This is particularly effective if you’re worried about something, and your thoughts race towards worst-case scenarios no matter how hard you try to “clear” your mind. Don’t fight your thoughts. Instead, direct them to more positive things, as a voice recording describes calming images or repeats affirming statements.
4. Meditation can accelerate healing.
You will find many healing meditation groups that teach techniques that synchronize brain wave patterns or clear energy blocks that can worsen disease. While these claims can never be scientifically proven, there is anecdotal evidence. Doctors have noticed marked improvement in the nervous system, or stronger immune system among patients with AIDS or cancer. (Important: meditation should never replace medical treatment and consultation with a doctor.
In any case, many people feel that meditation falls under the category of “doesn’t hurt to try.” At the very least it can alleviate stress, and even the most traditional and skeptical doctors will agree that emotional well-being affects digestion, sleep, appetite, heart rate, metabolism—things that can affect your body’s ability to cope with, and recuperate after, an illness.
5. Meditation can help reduce addictive behavior.
Many therapists and rehabilitation centers teach meditation to recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. It helps many people cope with the emotional ups and downs, or calmly confront issues that may have triggered addiction in the first place. Mantras and breathing exercises can also help “talk” someone through temptation and a possible relapse.
Some forward-thinking doctors also recommend rehabilitation treatments that combine counseling, meditation and hypnosis.
6. Meditation can increase creativity.
Many people say that the process of becoming more self-aware, more focused, and calmer and open to “new possibilities” has dramatically improved their intuition and problem solving skills. This has led to increased creativity—not just in the realms of the arts, but in everyday life. When they run into a problem they can think out of the box and spot opportunities much faster than before. When they tackle a dreary task they are able to find something enjoyable or fulfilling in it.
7. Meditation helps you become master of your feelings.
The more aware you are about your own feelings, the less likely you’re going to dump them on somebody else, or do/say stupid things because you “just couldn’t stop yourself.”
Now, this doesn’t mean that you’re going to deep-breathe your way to a perfect, happy life. You’ll still get mad at your daughter for skipping curfew, and you’ll still get a little hurt when your crazy boss doesn’t appreciate what you do. But instead of getting sucked into those feelings, meditation—especially those associated with zen—can help you calmly acknowledge and release them. “It is what it is,” you will say.