What Happens When I Meditate? Here Are 5 Surprising Benefits
The #trending approach to hitting pause on your hectic life may have its detractors, but the science is undeniable. Go on, meditate.
1. Don’t Waste Your Breath
If endlessly repeating mantras isn’t for you, focused breathing is the best way to enter a meditative space. And the benefits are instantaneous. It calms anxiety by reducing cortisol in your blood, and stimulates the release of nitric oxide. This helps open up constricted blood vessels, protecting your heart from the effects of stress. Breathe in for four seconds, hold for four, then breathe out for four and hold again. Repeat and relax.
2. Enter Sandman
With your stress hormones now under control, your calmer state will allow your brain to start shutting down. It reduces the beta waves stimulating your frontal lobe, helping you drift off. Research published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that meditating for 20 minutes per day reduces the number of times you wake up during the night – and helps you feel more refreshed the next morning. Chase this pre-bed routine with a cup of sleep-inducing camomile tea and it’ll soon be lights out.
3. Brain Gains
Regular meditation not only reduces fatigue, but protects you against cognitive decline, too. A Frontiers in Human Neuroscience study found that those who practise it regularly exhibit higher levels of gyrification – the growth and folding of the cerebral cortex, which allows them to process information faster. This type of brain growth not only rebuffs Alzheimer’s later in life but has been linked with improved attention to sharpen your focus at work today, too.
4. A Light Idea
As well as forming new neural connections, meditation can rewire old ones to make weight loss easier. A lesser-known version of mindfulness called “decentring” teaches you to disassociate thoughts from reality. Over time, for example, you can turn your burger craving into a passing idea, easy to ignore. This may strike you as woolly, but this technique has been proven to dull your hunger response on a physiological level, in turn boosting your willpower.
5. Crash Course
If you still need convincing, try diving in head first. Three weeks is enough for you to enjoy the most potent benefits that meditation can offer. Go on an intensive retreat; research claims the enzyme telomerase will flood your system. This helps rebuild and lengthen the telomeres of your immune system to slow ageing and stave off illness from the inside out. You’ll emerge feeling younger, healthier, and maybe – just maybe – wearing a bangle or two.