The advantages of meditation can impact more than just your mind—meditation can help you work out harder, stay healthier, and enjoy life more.
Want to squash stress, sleep sounder, ditch excess weight, eat healthier, and workout harder, all in one fell swoop? Meditation might provide all of the above. According to Mary Jo Kreitzer, Ph.D., RN, founder and director of the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota, the key to reaping the benefits of meditation is living in the now. “Many people live much of their life on auto-pilot, but meditation—particularly mindfulness meditation—helps people focus on living life in the present moment,” she explains.
It Makes You a Better Athlete
Some of the benefits of meditation can potentially impact your workouts. People who practice Transcendental Meditation have similar brain functioning to elite athletes, according to a study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. Sitting in silence every day doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly be ready to win a marathon, but it can help you develop the mental grit and traits among top athletes. Plus it can help you push your body through the pain (more on that later). Find out more about How Meditation Can Make You a Better Athlete.
It Lowers Stress Levels
Lowered stress is also among the benefits of meditation. Mindfulness actually helps to lower your cortisol levels (the stress hormone), according to research from the Shamatha Project at the University of California, Davis. Researchers measured participants’ mindfulness before and after an intensive, three-month meditation retreat and found that those who returned with higher levels of focusing on the present also had lower cortisol levels. Don’t worry, the stress relief comes quicker than three months: People who received just three consecutive days of mindfulness training (25-minute sessions where they were taught to focus on breath and the present moment) felt calmer when faced with a stressful task in a study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology.
It Increases Self-Awareness
We all have blind spots when it comes to our own emotions, behaviors, and thoughts, but mindfulness can help conquer this ignorance. A paper in Perspectives on Psychological Science found that because mindfulness involves paying attention to your current experience and doing so in a non-judgmental way, it helps practitioners overcome the biggest roadblock in self-awareness: not knowing their own shortcomings.