Most people have heard about the numerous benefits associated with mindfulness and meditation. Meditation is important because it helps establish balanced emotional regulation, aids relapse prevention, and encourages peace and well-being.
Many positive things come from meditative sessions. The thing is, most people only rely on meditation to provide relief from symptoms of mental distress. Have you ever wondered what the benefits of long-term meditation are?
What Happens to the Brain When You Meditate?
There have been several studies that address the benefits of meditation on physical and mental well-being. Let’s look at what the practice of meditation does to the inside of the brain.
Some research suggests that meditation may cause physical alterations to the brain and body. These changes could potentially improve physical and mental health problems, especially by promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors.
For example, results from a 2012 National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) found that meditation causes a direct impact on the brain region called the amygdala. This brain area is associated with emotional regulation, helping to tie emotional meaning to our memories, aiding in decision-making, and identifying how our brain processes reward mechanisms.
Another critical effect of meditation on the brain is how it encourages the growth of new neurons and enhances the connections between neurons that already exist. Neurons are the information messengers in the brain that transmit signals from one brain area to another, which is essential for performing necessary functions. The growth of new neurons helps with faster processing within the brain.
Current Knowledge Regarding Long-Term Meditation
There is not much published research regarding the long-term effects of meditation. Based on what studies say about short-term meditation, one can assume that long-term meditation would only create more significant, positive impacts on the brain and body.
For example, short-term meditation trains the mind to focus on the present moment. During meditation sessions, individuals learn how to bring attention back to the moment in front of them, especially when thoughts about the past or future may creep into their consciousness.
With continued, long-term meditation, an individual would be less likely to experience a drift of past or future thoughts entering their mind. This tactic directly reduces rumination, a common symptom experienced with mental illness.
Upon returning to the present moment, an individual will experience adequate relief from symptoms of anxiety and stress. Long-term meditators would experience more significant relief from symptoms of stress likewise.
Some other benefits of long-term meditation include:
- Better sleep. Many people that struggle with anxiety or other mental health distress experience insomnia from time to time. Long-term meditators continue to focus their mind on the present moment, which helps to redirect any intrusive, racing, or unwanted thoughts that trigger insomnia.
- Better concentration and focus. Meditation is all about having a consistent and intentional focus on your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. With continued meditation, there is no surprise that your attention and concentration will improve in many areas of your life. It helps to increase the endurance and strength of your attention.
- Increased self-awareness. Meditation encourages you to turn inward wholeheartedly. Several different meditations can help you bring greater awareness to your body and mind. Meditation can help you recognize both healthy and unhealthy thought and behavior patterns, which also motivate change.
- Increased compassion and clarity. All forms of mindfulness have a unique way of increasing feelings of optimism, both for others and for yourself. Loving-kindness meditation helps you identify and label positive thoughts and feelings towards yourself. When this form of meditation is continued, your overall self-esteem will be enhanced, as will genuine care and concern for others.
How Do I Know What Meditation Will Work for Me?
There are numerous different types of meditation. Each meditation practice has something unique to offer, although all of them are known to increase general awareness and connection to the present moment.
Before choosing what meditation practice to engage in, it might help to set an intention about what you are looking to get from meditation. For example:
- Are you looking to train your memory?
- Do you want to release emotional tension?
- Are you looking to learn how to love yourself better?
- Do you want to foster more appreciation and gratitude?
Once you have set an intention, consider how you would like to engage in your practice. Do you want to meditate alone, at home? Would you like to be guided through sessions?
Some meditation practice examples include:
- Guided vs. unguided meditation
- Calming vs. insight meditation
- Mantra meditation
- Yoga meditation
- Loving-kindness meditation
- Body scanning meditation
- Focused attention meditation
There are many different resources available to you online to help kickstart your meditation journey. Be creative and curious when you start searching for a meditation style that will work for you. Always be sure to be patient for your first few sessions, as benefits can take weeks to be noticeable.
There is no question that meditation can produce incredible benefits to an individual’s mental and physical wellbeing. Based on current research regarding the benefits of short-term meditation, it can safely be assumed that long-term meditation will only strengthen and enhance long-term benefits. Meditation reduces stress, increases emotional regulation, promotes better sleep and concentration, and even increases self-awareness. West Coast Recovery Center is confident in the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. We offer an array o holistic treatment services alongside our traditional therapy methods to increase self-awareness and self-esteem. Meditation serves as an essential coping mechanism during recovery, especially when coping with cravings and triggers. We provide comprehensive, individualized care to our clients to ensure that their recovery from substance use or mental illness is long-lasting and successful. For more information about the benefits of meditation or the treatment services we offer, please give us a call today at (760) 492-6509.