Post contributed by Leigh Ann Errico
After being practiced for thousands of years in the Far East, meditation has finally taken off and enjoying its popularity in Western culture. Beyond its deep ties to mysticism and spirituality, science shows that there’s something very real to this magical practice.
I’ve been an Executive Coach for 15 years and have long known intellectually that meditation is valuable, but I didn’t give it a spot on my schedule until 2020. It took my doctor pointing out how off-kilter my adrenals were for me to wake up and decide to take charge of my health. And ZERO regrets. My morning ritual is now to wake up at 6AM and immediately put on my meditation app, so I can swim in my intentions for the day. My bonus little luxury? I sip warm water with lemon and do light stretching to ease my body awake. I’m six months into my new practice, and I can already say it’s been a true life-changer.
There are many amazing benefits to meditation. Don’t just take my word for it – let’s dig into the data and see why you should add meditation to your daily routine:
1. Lowers Stress Levels
The purpose of meditation is to reduce stress and calm the body and mind. Both mental and physical stress lead to elevated levels of cortisol. Too much of this stress hormone can create a toxic cocktail of inflammation and a compromised immune system.
High cortisol levels can also interfere with our sleep, cause anxiety and depression, increase blood pressure and create fatigue and cloudy thinking.
But good news: Our new friend meditation can decrease feelings of emotional and physical tension, especially in those with higher levels of stress, according to a study involving over 1,300 adults.
2. Reduces Depression
Meditation fights off the blues. A study that involved 400 students (13-20 years old) found that those who followed an in-class mindfulness program were reported to have reduced rates of anxiety, depression, and stress after six months.
Another study from the University of California involving people with past depression discovered that mindfulness meditation lowers ruminative thinking and dysfunctional beliefs. Wow – powerful stuff.
3. Calms Anxiety
Meditation reduces stress and anxiety. An eight-week study demonstrated that the practice of mindfulness meditation lessened symptoms associated with social anxiety, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders, paranoid thoughts, and panic attacks.
Meditation also helps people in high-pressure work environments manage their anxiety and stress. A study involving nursing students proves it.
4. Improves Rapid Memory Recall
Harvard Medical School’s research on the effect of meditation on retaining information showed that people who meditate have more control over alpha rhythm — a brain wave that screens out everyday distractions, allowing for more important information to be processed and saved.
“Mindfulness meditation has been reported to enhance numerous mental abilities, including rapid memory recall,” said Catherine Kerr of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and the Osher Research Center, both at HMS.
If you’re like me, you could use some streamlining in a world of information overload.
5. Increases Attention Span
Research shows that our attention spans are shrinking, but focused-attention meditation strengthens the capability and endurance of your focus.
One study demonstrated that workers in human resources who practiced mindfulness meditation on a daily basis were able to stay engaged with a task for much longer. They also remembered the details of their tasks much more clearly than those who did not devote time to periods of deep thinking.
Finally, meditation can even help reverse brain patterns that lead to worrying, mind-wandering and poor attention.
With the world now facing so many new and unique challenges, it’s never been more important to give meditation a place in our self-care toolkits.
Ready to find your zen? Check out helpful meditation related resources to help you get started.
Leigh Ann Errico is an organizational psychologist, a Georgetown University-certified leadership coach, a Corentus-certified team coach, and the founder of LAErrico & Partners. Leigh Ann is also currently working to complete her Health & Wellness Coaching Certification at Georgetown University.