Ways That Meditation Can Improve Your Life

Though the world is becoming more complex and fractious, each of us has access to a flexible, transformative practice that can improve our physical and emotional health: meditation.

While the practice of meditation might seem daunting or time consuming, and you may well ask, “Why bother?”, studies show that just a few minutes meditating every day can make a big, positive difference in a person’s life. And the benefits add up! Here are eight ways to use meditation to enrich your life.

  • 1

    Improve Your Health

  • 2

    Reduce Stress

  • 3

    Alleviate Anxiety and Depression

  • 4

    Help You Get a Great Night's Sleep

  • 5

    Uncover Your Greater Sense of Meaning and Purpose

  • 6

    Experience More Positive Emotions

  • 7

    Gain Perspective

  • 8

    Strengthen Your Relationships

When our bodies aren’t functioning well, daily life becomes a challenge. In recent studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, scientists have shown that meditation practice improves the immune system, elevates antibodies that fight off infections, and decreases blood pressure.

Stress levels are skyrocketing. We all feel it every day as we’re bombarded with information and to-dos at school, work and home. Meditation, however, makes us feel calmer and more focused by improving the consistency of our heart rates, breathing and brain waves. And it drains tension from our muscles. “Meditation can effectively counteract the harmful effects of stress,” explains Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of the Mind/ Body Institute at Harvard Medical School. Listen to Dr. Benson describe how meditation can treat stress-related conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Americans taking antidepressants has increased 400 percent in the past 25 years. While modern medicines can work marvels, many would rather not be dependent on them. A daily dose of mindfulness meditation has been proven effective at breaking the spiral of depression and tempering anxious thoughts.

A long night of uninterrupted sleep fuels the body and mind with wholesome energy that keeps us going all day long. Yet too often, deep, restorative sleep is elusive. But focusing on moment-by-moment experiences, thoughts, and emotions through mindfulness meditation calms racing minds, launching us into a slumber that helps us become our best selves.

There’s a quiet voice within us that struggles to be heard amidst the buzzing of cellphones and pinging of our inboxes. Although surrounded by possessions, many of us feel a mysterious lack of purpose, even loss, in our lives. When we create the time and space to listen to ourselves, we see our lives as having deeper purpose and greater meaning. As Lama Tsomo says, “Since meditation will help all of your work go better, meditation practice is your most important work for the day.”

When we’re multitasking, it’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed and frantic. It can be hard to acknowledge the good in life when we’re busy racing onto the next task. By contrast, people who practice meditation report experiencing more positive emotions than those who don’t; feeling more love, compassion for self and others, patience, generosity and forgiveness. And those feelings stay with them longer.

We can become self-centered when we stay too wrapped up in the trials and tribulations of our own lives. Meditation can make us feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. “The lens through which we see everything and everyone becomes colored with the ongoing questions, ‘Is this good for me? Is this bad for me? How do I keep this away? How do I get that?’” explains Lama Tsomo. “The secret is imagining yourself as part of a vast, wide ocean. You’re an individual wave, yes—but you’re also a part of something much bigger.”

It’s innately human to seek community and connection. Yet managing relationships—whether in the office or with loved ones—can be fraught with tension. We’re wired to react in a fight-or-flight pattern, and in today’s fast-paced, high-stakes world, that instinct often undermines us. Through meditation we strengthen pathways in the brain that allow us to be less reactive, and we bridge to our higher brain functions. We begin to feel greater compassion towards others, listen better, and communicate more effectively.