Is My Meditation Working?
People have different reasons for trying meditation – better health, more spiritual awareness, a greater sense of inner peace. The problem is that those results are really hard to quantify. So how do you know if meditation is really helping?
It happens often in the early phases of your new meditation regimen. You might start over-analyzing every aspect of your life trying to understand if this whole mediation thing is getting you somewhere. You might even start projecting an air of blissed out calm just because that’s what you think is supposed to happen.
Be honest, have you posted any photos of yourself meditating on Instagram? Is it important for other people to see that you’re meditating? Are you waiting for something to just click and then you’ll know that meditation is right for you?
In actuality, focusing too much on your progress isn’t helpful at all. Trying to embody the “look” of someone who meditates also isn’t very helpful. On the one hand, you’re paying too much attention to results when it should be all about the experience and the process. On the other hand, you’re conforming to a physical illusion based on what you see from other so-called gurus or enlightened people.
What Benefits of Meditation Are Scientifically Supported?
Meditation Helps You Concentrate On Specific Tasks
An interesting study from Yale in 2011 found a link between meditation and the so-called “monkey mind”. Specifically, study participants displayed a greater ability to quiet and focus their minds if they engaged in mindfulness meditation. Being able to control and quiet the monkey mind leads to less rumination and fewer depressive thoughts about the past or anxious thoughts about the future.
Meditation Can Help Your Mind Stay Younger
A study from UCLA in 2015 found that people who meditated regularly had greater mental flexibility later in life. Participants in the study had been meditating for 20 years or more. The researchers observed that these participants had greater volume of grey matter in their brains than older people who didn’t meditate. They had greater cognitive functions and neuroplasticity.
Meditation Can Replace Antidepressants
Research out of Johns Hopkins in 2014 found a strong correlation between mindfulness meditation and reductions in depression and anxiety. The effect of meditation observed by the research team equaled the same effects as antidepressants. In essence, meditation can help to train the mind to experience fewer depressive thoughts and emotions.
Meditation Can Help You Sleep Better
The results of a comprehensive trial published in a 2014 edition of Sleep journal found that meditation helps to improve sleep patterns. The researchers looked at different mindfulness meditation programs and found that people who meditated were able to stay asleep longer and had fewer instances of insomnia.
Small Signs and Indicators that Meditation is Working For You
Meditation and mindfulness are all about being in the moment, but it’s only natural to try and track your progress. When meditation is new to you, it could be helpful to notice and appreciate small changes that can provide motivation to keep going.
Here are a few changes that you might become aware of as you grow in your journey.
You might start to develop better concentration. You can test this ability as you meditate by counting. It might seem very silly or just too simple, but it’s actually quite difficult to count without interruption or distraction.
Related: A beginner’s guide to meditating
So, see if you can count to 20 or 30 without any interrupting thoughts. This is a good sign that your level of concentration has increased.
Once you’ve been meditating for awhile, you’re sure to become more aware of your posture. During the course of the day, you might make minor adjustments to the way you sit while working or pull your shoulders back more while you’re walking. Meditating increases your awareness of self. So, if you’re slouching less then there’s a good chance that meditation is working for you.
Feeling More Rested
You might not notice it at first but think about how you feel when you wake up in the morning. Try to recall how you felt a week or even a few months ago. Do you feel rested? Do you hit the snooze button a few times or do you feel ready to get out of the bed right away? There’s scientific evidence to support the claim that meditation improves your sleep quality.
Greater Attention to Your Breathing
A big part of meditation is breathwork. If meditation is working for you, then you’ll probably take greater notice of the rhythm and patterns of your breathing. You might take a few deep breaths as a response to stressful situations. If your awareness of how you breathe has increased, then meditation is working.
One of the key takeaways of meditation is an increased awareness of what’s going on inside yourself. You’ll become more aware of your thoughts and have greater control over your emotions. It’s a subtle art and the fruits of meditation aren’t always so apparent.
One thing’s for sure, you shouldn’t obsess about the results. One of the best indicators of your progress is caring less about your progress. Meditation is a lifelong practice. Its benefits are both intrinsic and extrinsic at the same time.
Other people might even notice the changes more than you. So, ask a friend or loved one if they’ve noticed anything different about you. You just might be surprised at the responses you’ll receive from others who appreciate your efforts.
Main image by Alejandro Piñero Amerio from Pixabay