Sometimes, life sucks. As Buddhists would say, "Life is suffering."
That being said, whether you're a recent grad struggling to keep your kitchen stocked with ramen or a monk spending a lifetime striving toward enlightenment, most of us can agree that being a human being involves enduring a distinct blend of highs and lows.
While the highs can be exhilarating, far too many of us know that the lows can be devastating.
Thankfully, there are coping mechanisms. Mindful meditation offers a way to guard against the pains of life and a way to fully enjoy its beauty, as well.
Essentially, it involves connecting to the present moment, often by sitting quietly and observing your breath (or any other particular sensation), without judgment. It's about turning off the impulse to be somewhere else and instead, accepting where you are. Here are five reasons to give mediation a try:
1. It Keeps You Healthy
Thanks to modern technology, we're able to stay in constant contact with nearly everyone.
Unfortunately, "everyone" includes your boss, your coworkers and plenty of other people from whom you could probably use some time away. Because of this constant connectivity, many of us are under a lot of extra stress.
Any physician will tell you that such stress is awful for the immune system. When you work too hard, you get stressed and then you get sick.
When you get sick, your work performance suffers, which creates more stress and makes you even sicker. It's not a good cycle in which to get caught.
Meditation offers a way out. According to a UCLA study, HIV patients who participated in regular meditation sessions experienced a slower drop in their immune cells than those who did not.
By simply paying attention to the present moment for an extended period of time, patients were able to vastly improve their health.
That's a pretty solid benefit from an essentially free prescription.
2. That Includes Your Mental Health...
Depression is a legitimate illness. Yes, we all sometimes feel sad, but clinical depression involves much more than being mopey and listening to the bands you loved in seventh grade.
It involves a total dysfunction in the parts of your brain that allow you to enjoy life. The causes of depression vary, but whatever it is, anyone going through it knows that it's hell.
Studies show that, in conjunction with other treatments, meditation can guard against relapse for individuals who suffer from depression. Any side effects — at least negative ones — are non-existent.
3. It Can Make You a Better Person
In the “me” centric age of Facebook, Twitter and a culture that takes "selfies" seriously, it's important to constantly remind ourselves that we're all sharing this world.
Sure, you may feel the urge to scream profanities at the assh*le on the road who is making you late for work, but that assh*le is a fellow human being (albeit, one who needs further acquaintance with the gas pedal).
It's easy to preach about caring for others and being a good person; it's tremendously more difficult to practice such a lifestyle. Meditation makes that task a bit easier.
Researchers foundthat Monks who engage in prolonged meditation throughout life are more likely than the general population to have activity in the part of the brain associated with compassion. By simply meditating, they were able to more fully develop qualities of a good person.
4. It Can Make You a Better Employee
While it's nice to imagine that we can all reach our goals by simply doing what we love, it's far more likely that at some point in our lives, we'll be stuck in a boring job.
Maintaining focus when you're staring at a spreadsheet can seem impossible at times, but it's also necessary if you're going to climb that corporate ladder.
If you're looking for a way to develop your attention skills, meditation can play a key role. Research indicates that individuals who regularly meditate show greater ability to maintain focus, regardless of whether or not they enjoy the task at hand.
Given that very few of us are constantly thrilled with our jobs, strong focus is a marketable, lucrative and rare skill.
5. It Enriches Your Life
There's nothing wrong with being ambitious; aiming to make something of yourself obviously beats wasting your potential.
With that said, when you spend so much time looking toward the future, you train your brain to ignore the present. When your future finally arrives, you'll miss it because you conditioned yourself to focus on tomorrow, rather than on today.
Mindful meditation, at its core, is about connecting with the present moment. This does not mean that you will always find joy in that moment, however. Whether you're sick, stressed or heartbroken, there are plenty of reasons to wish your life were a bit different.
But, if that's all you spend your time doing and pondering, you'll never appreciate where you are or who you are. With the right mindset and focus, you may even discover that where you are is not always a terrible place to be.
Look around you. Ask yourself whether you truly appreciate your existence, or if you, ironically, spend your whole life trying to evade yourself and your circumstances. If you find yourself unable to engage with the present moment, there is a simple way to get back: Sit down and breathe.
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