What is the Purpose of Meditation? Here are 5 Benefits

Lauren Lehmkuhl
What is the Purpose of Meditation? Here are 5 Benefits

When you think of the purpose of meditation, what do you imagine it looks like? Do you imagine sitting upright with your legs crossed and eyes closed in a quiet room? This may be the most well known form of meditation, but the truth is that you can create moments of meditation in many different ways! Maybe you would rather take some deep breaths while sitting on a cliff looking out over the ocean! Meditation is a mindful practice that may not look the same for everyone - and that’s ok! 

There are no hard/fast rules when it comes to the purpose of meditation and how it can help you. So what exactly is the purpose of meditation? Let’s dive into how you can incorporate this practice into your life and then benefits that can arise from it!

How Do You Meditate?

Meditation is a practice that involves quieting your mind to achieve mindfulness, awareness, clarity, and stable emotions. There are many different techniques. A few common ones are focusing the mind on a particular thought or object, trying to let go of thoughts and emotions, or focusing on the breath as you inhale and exhale. There are many different breathing techniques that you can try during a meditation session or just include in random times throughout the day to refocus your mind! 

Some prefer a guided meditation, where someone directs and guides your attention through the session, while others prefer complete silence. You can find myriads of resources for guided meditations on Youtube, phone apps, or at a local yoga center. You may prefer to meditate in the comfort of your room or discover you enjoy finding a quiet nature spot. Some people enjoy sitting up straight with their back against the wall while others like to lay down. Try a few different types of meditation to determine what suits you best!

What Are the Benefits of Meditation?

Meditation has been studied to provide lots of potential benefits! Let’s take a look at some of them below. 

It can calm your anxiety and help you feel more peaceful.

According to research, 5-12 minutes of daily mindfulness through meditation is associated with decreased stress and anxiety, with a greater improvement observed following more minutes of meditation. Did you hear that?? Only 5 minutes per day can help reduce anxiety! It’s pretty difficult to avoid occasional feelings of anxiety from our busy lifestyles. It’s important to know that meditation can help feel more cool and collected in response to stressful situations.

If you’re feeling anxious, try taking a few minutes to take some deep breaths or try some breathing exercises. When we flood our bodies with oxygen, it tells our brain that everything will be okay! Unless a situation calls for our sympathetic nervous system to kick into “fight or flight” mode to save our life or someone else's, we want our parasympathetic nervous system (the resting one) to be dominant. Encourage your parasympathetic nervous system by incorporating daily meditation. That way, when a stressful situation arises, your brain and body worry less and it’s easier for you figure out. 

It can help you be more present.

Have you ever felt like you are too distracted to focus on a given moment? Distraction is a common trend that many people experience everyday due to busy lifestyles, social media, and pursuit of accomplishment. If you have an overwhelming lifestyle that pulls you in many different directions, meditation can be a great tool. It can introduce refocusing your mind and help you feel more present in your day to day life. 

According to the same research above, 5-12 minutes of daily meditation is also associated with increased mindfulness, especially the longer you do it for! Mindfulness allows us to present and aware of the things around us and not be always in our own stressors/problems. For you, that could mean being able to put work aside and focus your attention on your loved ones at the end of the day, or taking your time to appreciate the little things as you move throughout the day instead of rushing from one thing to the next. 

Want a fun mindfulness tip? Try brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand each day. This sounds simple but it forces you to focus on what you are doing at that moment. Sure, it’s just brushing your teeth - but forcing yourself to be mindful can lead to a more meditative life altogether. 

If you don’t have a stressful life, meditation can still benefit you! Meditation is a great reminder for anyone to slow down and enjoy the moment to the fullest. This can help you be more organized and able to plan a life for yourself that minimizes distractions and stress! 

It can help reduce your cortisol levels.

Have you been noticing elevated cortisol levels on your Vessel Wellness tests? Meditation may be what you need to bring your levels back down to a normal range! It’s normal for our cortisol to get elevated from time to time, but if you are consistently experiencing elevated levels, it’s possible that your cortisol is being produced at a higher rate or not being cleared efficiently due to underlying stress in your body. This can commonly occur from extended periods of mental or physical distress, the onset of infection, a poor diet, an inflammatory illness, lack of sleep, and more. 

Meditation helps calm our sympathetic nervous system - the one responsible for our “fight or flight” response. Which increases our cortisol production when our body is experiencing a stressor. By taking relaxing your mind, signals are sent to your brain to calm it and promote the body’s healthy functionings. 

Having difficulty getting your cortisol levels into the right place? Chat with your nutrition coach today for more tips on how meditation can help you reduce stress! 

It can improve your cognitive function and focus.

Just as meditation can help you be more present in your day, it can also help you be more focused. If staying focused at work is difficult for you, don’t underestimate the power of taking meditation breaks throughout your day. Meditation gives your brain a chance to reset, which can greatly benefit your work and help you refocus. Meditation calms your mind and rids of distractions so that you can perform the best to your ability! 

If one of your personal goals is improving focus, combining meditation with the Pomodoro technique might be the right approach. The Pomodoro Technique is used by many productive individuals to achieve greater work-session output and performance, as well as increased work satisfaction, all with reduced stress. It involves working in 25 minute increments and taking a 5 minute break after each work session.

This technique can apply to longer time periods, like taking a 10 minute break for every 50 minutes of work. During the break, you can practice some meditative techniques such as a short guided meditation on a phone app, a cell phone-free walk around the block, or some simple stretches and breathwork. By focusing on your work more intently during the specified time intervals, you can then really feel the mental reset.

This alternating of time gives your brain the opportunity to focus with greater intensity and then recharge more sufficiently for the next work interval. If the Pomodoro technique is something that you could apply in your work day, try it today!

It can stabilize your mood.

If you’re prone to mood swings or quick to anger, meditation can help reduce the chances of this happening. Taking deep breaths before responding to a situation can help calm your central nervous system, which is responsible for triggering mood changes. Additionally, incorporating meditation as a part of your daily lifestyle may help keep your mood calm so that you can react with patience when a difficult situation does arise. Many people find that daily meditation improves their outlook on life and creates a more positive perspective! 

How Do I Know When I Am Meditating Successfully?

So now that you know some of the benefits of mediation, are you interested in trying it but scared of “failing”? Most masters of meditation would agree that meditation isn’t about doing it once and having an incredible eye-opening experience, it’s about the regular practice of mindfulness that helps calm your body and reset your mind. You might not feel a benefit from a few sessions of meditation, but that doesn’t mean it’s not aiding your health! Like most practices that we do to better our lives, it takes time to see results (like seeing changes in your Cortisol wellness results).  

The purpose of meditation is not to be “successful” at it - success is a completely subjective standard. For some, meditation may mean mastering the ability to keep your mind completely free of thought, while for you, the purpose of mediation may be to just spend a few moments in a mindful state noticing how your body feels, reduce your cortisol levels over time, or just be able to commit to a healthy practice a few times throughout the week. The purpose of meditation does not need to be to reach  “enlightenment” or another lofty goal. As long as you are doing it consistently, you never know what the physical and mental benefits may be! 

How Can I Start Meditating As a Beginner?

Although there are many ways to meditate, if you are new to the practice it may be beneficial to start with finding a quiet room, get seated in a comfortable position (your legs do not need to be crossed nor do your hands need to be placed in any particular manner), close your eyes and simply observe your thoughts while taking deep, restorative breaths. This might be all that you do for your first time meditating, and that’s ok! 

A more difficult aspect of meditation that you can bring to your practice after learning how to pay attention to where your mind goes is trying to release these thoughts out of your head. It’s hard to quiet our minds when we are constantly thinking about our day and using this time during meditation to do so is the key to resetting your focus and emotions. When you identify a nagging thought, try mentally “wrapping” it up in a cloud and letting the thought float away. This will not only benefit you during sessions of meditation, but also in your day to day life when your brain is being bombarded with too many thoughts, emotions, and information. 

Great Job!

Now that you’ve established awareness of your thoughts, you can try bringing awareness to the different parts of your body. Some people enjoy starting by bringing focus to the top of their head and slowly bringing their mind to each part of their body until they get to their toes. Being aware of the way your different body parts feel can help your brain know if there's an area of your body that needs attention. 

Remember, these are just a few ideas for your meditation practice, but it’s up to you what you enjoy doing! Starting with just 2 or 3 minutes at a time is a great way to dip your toes into meditation, it does not need to be extensive. Think of mindfulness as a catch-all term that really covers any practice that asks you to stop and do nothing, but can also incorporate any practice that tends to slow or focus the mind. Think of meditation, yoga, and sound therapy as part of this family of practices

You cannot be bad at mindful meditation any more than you can be bad at being awake, or being asleep. Take 2-3 minutes per day to be with your thoughts and your breath. If this easy for you, challenge yourself to do more! The simplified purpose of meditation is to merely relax and take some time to detach from the world. Your nervous system will thank you.

The Bottom Line

The purpose of meditation is fluid, and the way in which people choose to practice it varies. Find what works for YOU and enjoy reaping some of these incredible benefits! Whether you notice the benefits actively or not, meditation has been scientifically proven to improve health!