June 27, 2017
There’s something wonderfully refreshing about sliding into the shower after a long day, as the gentle pounding of drop after drop melts away the oil and grime. Then to emerge feeling clean and fresh – ahhhh… I think of meditation as a shower for the brain. When I’m feeling stressed, irritable, or in a funk, meditation has a way of resetting my brain and clearing out the junk. While this is useful at any point in the day, my favorite times are mid-day as a nice preparation for the latter half of the day, or about 30 minutes before bedtime to clean my mind in preparation for a restful night’s sleep. Why then is it so hard to make this a habit?
Meditation is Harder than it Seems
If meditation is like a shower for the brain, it’s also like flossing teeth – wonderful when you already do it, but difficult to make it a habit. To help with this, I have been using the HeadSpace app on my phone. It’s simple to use and completely free. Just open the app and it will guide you through a meditation session each day (or as often as you would like). There’s something about having another person lead you through meditation each day that makes it easier than going it alone. And having a unique session each time is a significant advantage over simply replaying a YouTube video on meditation or guided relaxation (my previous method).
There’s no shortage of studies showing the benefits of meditation. In fact, given the overwhelming evidence supporting meditation, there’s no logical reason for us NOT to meditate. Because there are hundreds of studies purporting the benefits of meditation, we are able to tap into two of the most powerful tools for evidence-based decision making: systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Because these approaches carefully filter and aggregate multiple studies, their conclusions tend to be more robust and accurately quantified than individual studies. Without further ado, here’s what we find:
- Meditation boosts positive emotions and aids in relationships greater than can be explained by mere relaxation or cognitive restructuring.
- Kindness-based meditation reduces self-reported depression and compassion.
- Transcendental Meditation reduces blood pressure.
- Transcendental Meditation provides extreme reduction in anxiety. The greater the anxiety level, the greater the benefit of meditation. Substantial effects were seen within 2 weeks and still present at 3 years.
- Mindfulness meditation interventions are likely to help with Substance Use Disorders, but more studies are needed.
- Mindfulness meditation decreases binge eating and emotional eating in affected populations.
Again, the study conclusions described above are all from systematic reviews and/or meta-analyses. There are hundreds of studies demonstrating the benefits of meditation.
- Meditation has rigorous evidence supporting its usage in reducing depression and anxiety and increasing positive emotions.
- Meditation requires only about 10-15 minutes per day.
- Try the Headspace App if you have a smartphone.