What's So Great About Meditation?

It takes a regular investment of time to meditate — and time is one thing most of us feel we don't have enough of. So why would anyone meditate? Are meditators just rebellious freaks? Or is there something to it? There are, surprisingly, several good reasons to spend the time:

1. Meditation produces a rare combination of increased alertness and profound relaxation. You become alert and deeply relaxed at the same time. You become more alert than your normal waking state and more deeply relaxed then you are when you're asleep. This is a different state of mind and body than you get doing anything else. After meditating, you feel well-rested.

2. An important side-effect of meditation is a dramatic drop in blood lactate level. Lactate is related to anxiety. When people feel anxious and their blood is measured, they have high levels of lactate in their blood. And when researchers inject pure lactate into an otherwise calm person, the person becomes anxious. Sometimes it even gives them panic attacks. The experience of low blood-lactate is a wonderful sense of peace.

3. Using a machine that measures the amount of sweat on the surface of the skin (a measurement of stress of all kinds: nervousness, anxiety, anger, etc. because when human beings experience even the slightest amount of stress, their skin sweats), the skin is four hundred percent drier during meditation than it is before meditating. The amount of sweat on the surface of your skin while you are meditating is less than it is when you're sleeping.

4. Meditation also lowers the cortisol level in your blood. Cortisol is a stress hormone. It is known as the stress hormone, although there are others. Too much cortisol is bad for your health. And most of us living in the modern, industrial world have too much of it in our system every single day. Lowering your cortisol level regularly is measurably and positively good for your health.

5. Almost all self-help techniques require a certain presence of mind, an ability to be calm and concentrate. For example, if you want to listen well, alter a habit, change the way you think, deal with conflict, and so on, you need to be here and remember to do it. So the calm you cultivate in meditation helps greatly in making other changes in your life.

6. It is like fasting from your normal state of daydreaming. It is, in a sense, waking up from the daydream and becoming aware that you were daydreaming and didn't know it. The ongoing stream of thoughts and interpretations you have in the process of making sense of your world is a kind of daydream. You interpret the world, you don't just perceive it. The technical term for this effect of meditation is deautomatization. The way you interpret your world is automatic. It is well worth making it less automatic. It makes you more capable of seeing things freshly and changing your mind about things you never would have even noticed before.

For these and many other good reasons, millions of people make the time every day to meditate. They don't generally go around trying to get others to do it or even tell others they meditate. They simply do it for their own personal benefit. And you can too.

Books for further study:

The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation: A Review of Contemporary Research With a Comprehensive Bibliography, 1931-1996
by M. Murphy and S. Donovan

The Book of Meditation: The Complete Guide to Modern Meditation
by Patricia Carrington

The Fine Arts of Relaxation, Concentration and Meditation, Revised: Ancient Skills for Modern Minds
by Joel and Michelle Levey

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

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