When you experience stress, your body goes into “fight-or-flight” mode, even if you aren’t aware of it. The fight-or-flight response is the body’s reaction to outside stress. In an actual physical life-threatening situation, this response is what could save your life. However, if your body is continuously switching on its fight-or-flight, it can be harmful to you physically and mentally.
Stress is inevitable, so how do you combat this? Many people have found the answer to that question in meditation. Meditation has the opposite effect on the body by setting off its relaxation reaction. It’s also one of the few self-improvement activities that are both effective and 100% free. In this article, you’ll learn all the ways meditation can help you overcome stress in your life and how to take advantage of them.
1. Increase in Positive Mood
A 2014 study found meditation to be as effective as an antidepressant in combating depression. Often, it’s easier to deal with stressful situations when you have a generally positive mood outside of that situation. This can dramatically lessen the impact of stress and the amount of time you experience it. Plus, you will probably be less likely to think of it later on.
2. Deepen Self-Awareness
Using meditation as a means to gain self-understanding may enable you to become the best possible version of yourself. An example of this is self-inquiry meditation, which specifically tries to help you discover how you relate to others and better understand yourself.
You will learn to recognize beliefs that are self-defeating or damaging. In a sense, the concept is that the more mindful you are about your thought patterns, the more capable you will be in reorienting your thinking to a more constructive direction.
3. Strengthen Attention Span
Meditation requires a lot of focus. Forcing yourself to concentrate on interrupting your thoughts may feel impossible at first, which is why many people only meditate for a minute or two when they begin meditation and slowly work their way up. It’s a workout for your brain, and just like when you work out a physical muscle, meditation will take some time to master. However, you will be able to strengthen the mental muscle that is your attention span.
4. Reduce Memory Loss
Meditating can fine-tune your brain in more ways than one. It’s not surprising that the exercise that improves your ability to concentrate also helps your brain’s ability to process information overall, including your memory.
How many times have you stressed out because you forgot something important? Well, meditating for five minutes each day as well as other brain-boosting activities can reduce memory loss, which could help you avoid stressful situations that arise from everyday forgetfulness like your wallet or a deadline at work.
5. Break Bad Habits
Using meditation to enhance your self-control and increase your awareness of triggers for addictive behaviors may help you break any dependence you have on them. It teaches you how to control your thoughts, which makes it easier to redirect your attention to a more positive thought. Your newly heightened ability to self-reflect will help you better understand why you felt the need to adopt those bad habits in the first place.
6. Avoid Insomnia
Stress and overthinking have a truly unique effect on humans: You can exhaust yourself mentally and physically from it, but also be unable to sleep because of it. People who are constantly stressed often experience a continuous stream of negative, unwanted thoughts as a result. Many of the people who experience this say having these thoughts makes it harder to sleep than physical pain does.
You’ve already learned that a benefit of meditation is redirecting thoughts, but it also helps your body relax – both of which can help avoid insomnia.
7. Become a Kinder Person
Science indicates that there’s a strong possibility that mindfulness meditation can result in a heightened sense of a “pro-social” mentality. Pro-social means naturally feeling a little more generous and empathetic towards others.
Though correlation doesn’t lead to causation, it makes sense that practicing mindfulness in some shape or form can result in expressing more compassion and consideration for others, and for yourself. This can make it easier to forgive the people that cause stress, and help you avoid causing stress for others.
8. Relieve Pain Naturally
Meditation can help your brain release endorphins, which are natural pain relievers, that spread throughout your body. Because your brain is in a calmer state when meditating, the muscles around your joints become more relaxed, making you feel less pain. Plus, with the added mental strength you develop, your ability to cope with pain can increase.
9. Lower Blood Pressure
Stress makes your heart work overtime, which leads to high blood pressure. With that being said, increased blood pressure makes it more difficult for the heart to pump blood which can result in poor heart function and lead to a heart attack or stroke. This is why triggering the fight-or-flight response mentioned at the beginning of this article can be physically harmful to people who are constantly stressed.
Meditation sets off the body’s relaxation reaction by relaxing your nerve signals, which is what controls heart function, blood vessel tension, and alertness.
10. Improved Emotional Health
Mindfulness meditation can not only reduce symptoms of depression but also reverse them. The chemicals that cause depression are released as a direct result of stress. The way meditation helps reduce stress also decreases the release of this chemical, which can feel like rain clouds parting from your brain to reveal some sunshine. That’s a cheesy way of saying that meditation can help rewire your brain to have a more positive outlook on life.
Incorporating Meditation in Your Life to Overcome Stress
Because of its mental and physical benefits, meditation can help you overcome stress in your life. Though you may struggle at first, you’ll find that the better you become at it, the better you feel. With the strengths gained from meditation, revolving your life around stress will be a thing of the past!