Is Meditation Overrated?
One of my clients asked me the other day if I thought meditation is overrated. Let me tell you about my experience and you decide for yourself.
In the mid-90s, I was deeply attracted to anything out of the ordinary that involved altered states of consciousness. No wonder that as a hippie college student studying business, I was delighted to find a professor who — unlike most of the people around us in the business school — seemed always to be calm, collected and clear. Intrigued, I went to his office after the first week of classes and asked what his secret was. Why did he at least appear to be so happy and at ease — even in seemingly difficult situations — when nearly everyone else around us was constantly stressed, on edge, overworked and even physically spent?
His secret? Meditation. I was sold on meditation on the spot and before I knew it was spending hours every week in Dr. Tom’s office learning mediation from him one-on-one.
Here’s what I looked like when I first started meditating in business school:
With practice, meditation helped me be less stressed and more centered. I gained increasing focus and clarity, and I slept better. I was more productive at work and in my studies, and I was more present in all of my relationships.
Those powerful results led me directly after college to travel around the world to study with the leading scholars and teachers of meditation. What was planned to be a six-month trip became a two-year journey, and I returned to the United States an incredibly happier, healthier, calmer person than when I left.
Here I am with a Sadhu in Nepal, a recent college graduate, eager to soak up all I can about meditation and yoga. This particular fellow didn’t teach me anything, but his dreads made for an epic photo.
Now, 15 years after that global jaunt, I continue to meditate and continue to feel more focused, calm and creative than ever.
In the last several years, mediation had become more mainstream. It’s what led that client to ask me recently if I thought meditation is overrated. As you can guess, I replied that in fact, the opposite is true: If anything, the benefits of meditation are underrated.
To make my case, I sent him the following list of the 8 most significant and accessible benefits of meditation and the scientific support for each one (you’ll see the links to those articles with each benefit). These, friends, are the scientifically proven benefits of meditation (and I concur!).
1. Increased Focus
A regular meditation practice increases focus. Some of the top money managers say that meditation helps them better deal with information overload, and not just in the sense of remaining calm when events are frantic. It also helps them identify the most significant bits of data among the thousands of incoming pieces of information.
2. Reduced Stress
When you meditate, you activate your Vagus nerve. This triggers a signal in your nervous system to slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure and decrease your levels of cortisol. The result: lower stress.
3. Less Fear
Meditation helps calm the fear center of the brain, in the amygdala, even when you’re not meditating. When your fear center is calmer, you can more easily and quickly make clear, unbiased decisions based on logic and reason.
4. Stronger immune system
Mediation boosts your immune system so you can stay healthy and energetic throughout the year.
5. Increased Resilience
When we’re afraid, even in every day life (“Hey, Bob, I heard there’s a round of layoffs coming”), we often become anxious, even in ways we may not realize. Our mind can race and our body can tense. Meditation counters the fight-or-flight response by boosting the parasympathetic nervous system. The result: It’s easier to stay calm and focused when under pressure.
6. More Insight
Meditation sharpens the mind and allows us to look more closely at what’s right in front of us with fewer distracting (and often imaginary) filters.
7. Increased Quality and Length of Sleep
Meditation improves our ability to sleep soundly. When you sleep well, you can remain focused, relaxed and more productive when you’re awake.
8. More Creativity
When you meditate, the creative centers of your brain are stimulated, and your ability to think in new ways is increased. This benefit will help at work and in relationships!
As a bonus, check out these six brilliant ideas and institutions that came about as a result of meditation:
You can have all of these proven benefits of meditation! If you want to start learning how, or if you want to get back to a meditation practice, sign up now for my upcoming 21-Day De-Stress and Re-Focus Meditation challenge.
My facial hair may be gone, my locks may be shorter, but my state of inner joy continues to grow!