Meditation has been around for thousands and thousands of years. Yet, as cultures continue to grow and science continues to evolve, this ancient practice is proving more and more valuable and valid as times become tougher (in an economic sense) and people become “tougher to love” (once again, an economic effect).
The incredible advantages of daily meditation are blatantly obvious to those who use and benefit from them, and slightly less than insane sounding to most “average folk”, who associate people sitting on the ground with their legs crossed and eyes closed with tripping on peyote, salvia, LSD, or other number of recreational drugs. The hippie culture may have stigmatized this activity for some, but I assure you there’s orders of magnitude more value in cashing in your ego for the benefits provided by this simple practice.
Here are five reasons you need to start meditating daily, and what these five things did for me on my personal path of clarity and self-evolution:
5. Increases Clarity of Thinking
This one seems obvious, but it’s deceptively excellent. Did you know your brain changes physiologically when you meditate? This has been studied, tested, experimented, and documented plenty of times now to be accepted in the scientific community as fact.
Using state of the art EEG (electroencephalography) equipment, we can measure the electrical activity in the brain during various states as directed by the user. In states of mindful meditation it has been discovered that the brain will drop substantially in terms of alpha in theta waves, while simultaneously increasing in beta waves. What this tells scientists is that you’re not only consciously choosing to relax – and your brain and body are responding to this conscious choice – but you’re also relaxed while being incredibly sharp, focused, and aware.
Your brain is telling scientists that it’s much more malleable and moldable than previously believed. We’re slowing proving to the larger scientific community through our habits and results that our choice of thinking and attitude towards life plays a HUGE part in how successful we are at accomplishing goals. Daily meditation can help you tighten up any loose ends on the mental level by regaining control of them. Starting your day off with a 15-20 minute meditation session is a great way to kick off the day with a heightened sense of mental clarity.
For me, this one was obvious after just one session. I became way more aware of the subtle shifts in my own thinking, and I also became aware of the fact that I don’t have to remain a passive bystander to the activity taking place in my brain. My thoughts are always a choice: either I’m choosing to intelligently direct them, or I’m not, and I suffer because of it. This was a no brainer (see what I did there?) for me, and I was hooked. Three years later, and meditation is a huge part of my daily personal success process.
4. Reduces Stress
Not just mental stress, but physical stress as well! Daily meditation can help lower blood pressure, is anti-inflammatory, and actually increases your immunity (just like going bare), along with increased ease of mood and emotional balancing. Again, this is somewhat due in part to the cascading physiological affects of meditation.
We tell our brains that we’re slowing down, they respond, and this as a result influences the rest of our bodily systems. Our central nervous system relaxes, blood pressure naturally drops, tightness loosens, breathing becomes easier and more full, etc. I want you to notice how none of this was achieved with an external chemical or stimulus; nothing except the choice to meditate catalyzed this domino effect. I want you to appreciate just how friggin’ powerful your ability to simply choose where to direct your conscious will and intention next truly is.
As someone who’s physically active the majority of the time, I didn’t expect to see much of a difference in this category. Boy, was I wrong! After a week of adding daily meditation to my already busy fitness routine, I noticed myself having much more energy at the end of the day – despite physically exerting myself more than usual. This was very odd for me at first, but I quickly got used to it, and even embraced the “Why am I not getting tired, I’ve been awake for 20 hours” symptoms as a sign of progress.
Of course this is very, very different than pounding a pot of black coffee at 8pm, then wondering why you can’t sleep. You’ll know this for yourself, because you can actually fall asleep rather quickly if you commit to it. It’s like your brain is trying to tell you that it’s becoming more and more open to you telling it what you want it to do…
3. Emotional Balance and Control
All this brain-slowing-down is going to give you the chance to become more conscious and aware of your emotional centers. You’ll finally become able to sort them apart from the thinking level, as well as see where thought and emotion do indeed blend and become almost inseparable at certain points.
The true benefit of this is that you start to understand your thoughts and emotions because you view them almost from a third-person perspective. You stop feeling them directly, and start watching them pass by you like images on a move screen. You start to realize you are not your thoughts, but the intelligence behind the mind which directs them. Eckhart Tolle speaks about this perspective quite a bit in his writing.
When you “come back to reality” and go about your day, don’t be surprised when you suddenly notice yourself being less reactive in general. You’re becoming quite grounded, young grasshopper.
This is what pulled me out of my stretch of frequent panic attacks from 2009-2011ish. Back then, I was very reactive to my environment and prone to blowing up over very trivial matters. I’ve never had a temper, but I’ve also never been shy about letting other people know I didn’t approve of what they were doing. All of this occurring in a social or public setting was a nightmare for me, and I knew I had to regain control of my emotional states or I would forever be at the mercy of the seas.
Thankfully, (as with almost any problem) a little self-education solved all that for me. After months of reading books by authors I highly admired in the field, I began taking meditation far more seriously. I’d previously dismissed things like meditation, goal setting, and list making as extremely stupid and time-wasting activities reserved for newbies who don’t actually know what they were doing. I was very humbled to find out that I myself had no idea what I was doing, and that that was a huge part of my problem.
Humility and self-study eventually gave way to mastering my emotions, and I haven’t had a single panic attack in over three years .
2. Improves Emotional Intelligence
You might be thinking this is the same thing as what’s presented above. It’s not. Not even close. The only thing they have in common is they share the term “emotional” in the title. Plenty of people can be emotionally balanced (temporarily), but few enable themselves to become intelligent through their emotions.
To be emotionally balanced is to regain control over self-sabotaging emotional states that tend to run on autopilot.
To be emotionally intelligent is to consciously choose to move to new emotional states on the fly all together (without a the need for arbitrary self-talk fueled by social conditioning), with the understanding that our attitude plays a massive part in how successful we are at any activity or endeavor we seek to undertake.
Balancing emotions is definitely the first step, but it shouldn’t be where you stop and get off the bus entirely. When your emotions are balanced, it’s because on some level of consciousness, you’re aware to their negative effects and you’re choosing to stay within a particular threshold of your own emotional pallete.
Building off of my experience in the prior step, it wasn’t until I started becoming conscious of the fact that I could choose any emotion to match any external situation that I was able to really step up my game. It’s like I became immune to bullshit and perceived uncertainty. This job sucks? Ok, leave it for something more congruent.
“Aren’t you concerned about money?” No, because I know as long as I stay focused, I will perceive opportunity and make it work to my greatest advantage, because I choose to do so. “But…” Stop choosing to instantly default to the worst case scenario and start assuming the best things imaginable are going to occur, then watch what happens. I’ll let the mystery factor entice you into discovering the ending to that book for yourself .
1. Immensely Improved and Ease of Neuroplasticity
The big one. So big, it supersedes everything else on this list, because it’s the root cause of everything else on this list. Throughout the entire meditation process, you’re actively engaged in neuroplasticity, or the active and intentional increase in certain physiological responses to certain thoughts, with a decrease in physiological response to others.
Simply put: You’re rewiring your brain to respond more positively to life, pick up on more sensitive cues for positive opportunity for growth, become calibrated to only noticing things which are congruent with its thinking, and thus putting yourself in a highly-advantageous position to set and achieve goals.
Simply put, neurplasticity is ultimately what’s responsible for changing my life. It’s enabled me to overcome the majority of my irrational fears (failure, insecurity, scarcity/going broke/homeless, opposite sex, etc) while at the same time enabling me to harness and store more information. It’s like my brain has received multiple RAM upgrades; I swear I’m processing, accessing, and storing more information than before. I also experience periods of what I like to call “sideways thinking”, where it definitely feels like I’m thinking about two separate things, often unrelated, simultaneously and without any weakening in the clarity of focus.
I truly hope this list has inspired you to look into daily meditation a bit more. Neuroplasticity plays a massive role in my upcoming book. I truly believe it’s a life-changing activity that more people need to be aware of. The ability to quit bad habits, start positive habits, intelligently layout goals, and approach them as optimally as possible are all waiting right behind the door of neuroplasticity. All we have to do is open, step inside, and read the user manual.