It’s the word that gets tossed around daily by so many people, yet the actual practice of meditation is lost on many, because frankly, it’s a difficult discipline to master. That said, if you knew meditation was as good for your brain as a trip to the gym is for your body, wouldn’t you at least want to try it? Think of it as spinning class for your mental health!
Dr. Hedy Kober, a neuroscientist who studies the effects of mindfulness meditation, says that daily meditation “did to my mind what going to the gym did to my body—it made it both stronger and more flexible.” Kober is not alone in realizing the health benefits of meditation; studies show that regular meditation decreases stress and anxiety, and can help those dealing with addiction, depression, and eating disorders. Plus, it just makes your brain work better.
Here we discuss just 15 meditation benefits that make it just as important as the gym:
1. Because it can help you beat depression. Combined studies have found that even just a few minutes of mindful meditation—sitting quietly and relaxing and breathing, can help alleviate symptoms of depression and improve coping skills.
Read Related: How to Practice Mindfulness: Meditation on the Go
2. Because it enhances creativity. Scores of creative types, from artists to actors and directors, swear by meditation as a way of shaking off creative blocks and breaking through to new levels of creativity and productivity.
3. Because you’ll perform better in the workplace. A 2012 study indicates that employees who meditate regularly are more focused at work, make better use of their time, are more productive and better at multitasking. Want to get noticed for that big raise? Meditate!
4. Because you’ll calm the hell down. Mindfulness training and meditation, where users focus on the present and “being in the now,” has been shown to decrease anxiety and lower blood pressure.
5. Because it strengthens your most important muscle—your brain. A study has shown that regular meditation actually increases gray matter—that stuff that makes your brain click—particularly in the areas that govern memory and learning.
6. Because it will help you with addictions. Emotions are at the root of virtually every form of addiction. And meditation helps us manage and understand our emotions and come to terms with past trauma. This in turn makes us better equipped to combat our addictive behaviors.
7. Because you’ll have better dreams. Meditation is thought to contribute to “lucid dreaming,” a dream-state where sleepers have control of their dreams and can use their minds to solve problems, envision creative endeavors or slay monsters, as the case may be.
8. Because it will make you a better student. Because mindfulness meditation keeps the mind from wandering to random thoughts and stay present with the task at hand, it is has been shown to boost student performance on test scores, from course-specific exams to standardized tests.
9. Because it will improve your relationships. Conflicts in relationships usually involve a clash of egos. Meditation allows us to stand outside and look in at our own behavior, keep our egos in check, and find more harmony in our closest relationships.
10. Because it will give you a ritual. We don’t mean religious rituals. Meditation as a daily ritual, as routine as brushing your teeth or making coffee in the morning, helps to structure your day and give you something to look forward to.
11. Because it will make you nicer. It stands to reason that a less anxious, more relaxed, more focused version of you is also going to be a nicer person to be around. Because meditation can help with anger issues, your outlook on life and those around you may get a lot sunnier.
12. Because it will help you focus. Because meditation teaches you to focus on the thoughts you want to focus on, and not those that cause stress, anxiety or depression, the new, more focused you is sharper and more aware of the world around you.
13. Because it can boost your immune system. A small study has shown that meditation reduces inflammation and heart disease among seniors and in the process, boosts their immune systems.
14. Because it will make you feel less lonely. The same study showed that seniors who meditate reported feeling less lonely—not because they made friends through meditation, but because the practice helped them feel more positive about their lives.
15. Because it will make you a better lover. Great sex requires you to be mentally and emotionally present in the moment, and those are exactly the skills that meditation teaches. Who can argue with that?