Getting healthy isn’t just about cutting down on the amount of junk food that you consume, or increasing the length of your fitness routine.
We have to consider emotional and psychological health just as much as we need to embrace our physical body.
Traditionally, the way the we have approached emotional health has been either through medication, therapy, or through overstimulation of our senses using alcohol, and other addictive substances.
Such poor choices — therapy often involves the prescription of drugs — lead to an even poorer life experience, and one can find himself going in great lengths to sabotage himself because of the inability to address certain emotional, and psychological states of mind.
It’s safe to say that 2016 has been a year of mindfulness, especially in media and on television where the benefits of mindfulness are starting to find their way into people’s daily life.
But, the movement has yet to gain momentum, as many are still exploring and learning about meditation, mindfulness, and how self-love benefits a healthy lifestyle.
What’s the context of Health?
When we think of the word health, we might immediately associate that with feeling good in our body, being disease free, and not having any internal problems. This is the common and medical understanding of health.
Mindfulness, which includes meditation, introduces yet another aspect of health, which is all about the way that we feel about ourselves internally, and the way that we feel about the world externally.
Psychological diseases are just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, as physical, but little emphasis is being put on the fact that change in your life experience starts from within, from the choices and decisions that you make that affect your body, your mind, and your perception of the world around you.
There is an amazing documentary called The Sacred Science, in which a group of people with serious diseases (cancer, diabetes, parkinson’s, etc,.) went into the jungle for 30 days to try and heal themselves using natural plant medicine.
The project was a big success, but one of the most important points that this documentary was able to portray, was the way that the mind affects the body and how unaddressed emotions can turn into a disease in the body.
During the course of their 30 day retreat, many of the participants began to realize how difficult it can be to spend this much time alone by yourself, to face your emotional and psychological patterns that had manifested as diseases. Some healed, while others found lifelong spiritual fulfillment. It’s an inspiring, and eye-opening, documentary that shows how limited the pharmaceutical industry is across the globe.
Health in this context, is all about your well-being.
How does meditation improve your health?
When you start to catch up with what everyone has been saying about meditation, some of the first things you learn about are,
- Meditation makes you happy.
- Meditation helps you live in the moment.
- Meditation relieves stress and anxiety.
In the broader context, those sound like amazing benefits, and certainly appealing enough for a practice that only requires for you to sit still for 10-15 minutes a day.
Yet, sitting still for a few minutes a day has proven to be one of the most challenging things for people to do. In that split moment of silence, when you close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, and the surrounding world suddenly disappears, all you’re left with is your own mind which you’re observing from a completely new perspective.
There are those who find comfort in being still, but majority of people will turn away from meditation because they don’t want to listen to what is going on in their inner-world, and will rather avoid meditation for the sake of not having to look deeper to find the causes of not being happy, of having anxiety, or lacking confidence in life.
Indeed, meditation provides a natural medium for learning how your mind functions, where your emotions are coming from, and how perceived limitations are stopping you from moving forward.
Regardless of how difficult meditation proves to be, the benefits outlined above are still valid, and easily experienced over an extended period of time, which is why keeping up with a regular meditation practice is critical for getting the most out of it.
Meditation makes you happy.
The common belief in the world is that happiness has to come from outside of yourself. Whether it’s getting the newest edition of an iPhone, or booking a vacation you’ve been dreaming about your whole life, there is a tendency to think that a particular external clause can make you a happier person.
Sure, traveling to new places and being gifted nice things makes you happy, but this happiness rarely lives beyond a short honeymoon period.
When you seek happiness outside of yourself, that is also the experience that you get in return. It might be happy, but it is outside of yourself, and in turn outside of your ability to maintain its momentum.
Whereas with meditation, you start to develop the understanding that some of your happiest moments in life have come from how you feel about yourself, not how others perceive you through their own perspective.
There are hundreds if not thousands of meditation techniques that one can learn, each with their own set of benefits, and qualities that nurture your self-growth.
If you practice doing the loving-kindness meditation, you might find yourself experiencing a heightened sense of compassion towards yourself and others, without having to use strong physical and mental force to teach yourself something that is already a part of you.
When you develop the ability to recognize yourself in others, and have a good intentioned perspective of the lives of others, you naturally start to feel happier because the surface behavior and problems of others no longer are affecting you, thanks to your newly developed skill of seeing the good in the world, and within yourself.
So yes, a regular meditation practice will make you a happier person.
Meditation helps you live in the moment.
This particular benefit is included in nearly every book, article, or magazine column that talks about meditation. It has become somewhat of a slug for defining what meditation is about, without ever really going into detail as to what it means to live in the present.
To begin with, we never really live outside of the present moment. Where are we, if not in the present? The problem arises when we start to forget about our own present moment experience, and instead allow our emotions to get the best of us.
We’re all emotionally driven human beings, whether we’re looking for joy or we want to avenge ourselves, emotions are typically one of the strongest driving forces for a human life.
When you work on a project and you achieve a great result, you naturally feel good about yourself, your project, and the people that helped you. You’re fully present with your success, and you’re enjoying that moment.
But, sometimes things don’t go as planned. You might find yourself in a pickle of a relationship, with your other half either cheating on you, or doing something that greatly influences your perspective of that other half. In those cases, the most commonly experienced emotion is anger and sadness.
Feeling this way is part of life. We can’t really condemn ourselves for experiencing the different dimensions of life, but.. both success and lack of it can turn into unhealthy habits by themselves. A successful project might boost your Ego to dismiss anyone below yourself, and an overly unsuccessful relationship can make you bitter against other males or females that you feel have hurt you deeply.
There’s always a catch in these situations, and the smart move is to be present enough to recognize it.
Whether success or lack of it, when you live in the present you’re enabling for life to flow effortlessly, as if through you. You become an observer of life, an active participant who chooses to maintain his skillful balance in situations positive and negative alike.
You don’t have to look for the present moment, it’s already here. It’s moving alongside each of your breaths, so become aware of it. This, is one of the most healing understandings that meditation teaches you, so as long as you’re keeping up with regular appearances for your practice.
It takes some effort, and time, to rewire your awareness to recognize how a reactive behavior can stand in the way of you being present, and unconditionally happy.
Meditation relieves stress and anxiety.
I began meditation with ample amounts of stress and anxiety on my shoulders. I had just gotten out of a 5 year run as an addict, and stars had aligned for me to make some significant changes in my life. Anxiety, stress and fear of change were some of the most dominant emotions in my life, for a very long time.
There was something about sitting still for 20 minutes that really appealed to me, it resonated deeply with how I had felt when I would use drugs, being in my own world and without a care of what others think, but this time the experience was more personal, it was natural.
So how does meditation help you to beat those dense emotions? One has to understand that meditation doesn’t always work in front of you, but will often work behind the scenes to help you come to terms with some of your past experiences, and how they affected your psyche and psychological state of mind.
Needless to say that anxiety and stress by themselves are broad terms for particular feelings. There has to be a root cause for feeling a certain way, meaning in order to feel anxious, there needs to be something that you’re anxious about. Maybe it’s the anxiety of showing off your weaknesses to others, or the anxiety of letting go of a close friend to you because he or she is no longer bringing anything good in your life.
Meditation teaches us the virtue of patience, the virtue of recognizing that nothing in this life is permanent, not even your own life. Through meditation, you can jump start your personal journey of self-healing, of self-therapy.
My past was rough, painful, and it gave me plenty of challenges that still affected me even after having spent 2 years with a regular meditation practice.
Change takes time, and effort is the key component for making the process of change as smooth, as tangible as possible.
It’s not as much about meditation setting you free, it’s about you setting yourself free from what which has affected you all your life. Meditation, it’s a process, and you’re the perpetrator of that process. When actual change does happen, it’s not because of meditation, it’s because of your determined effort.
How you feel about yourself is Health
Meditation is a gradual process. It takes a reasonable amount of time to understand the purpose of meditation in your life, and for anyone to truly experience a meditative way of living, one has to dedicate himself to a regular and disciplined practice.
The answers to the problems we experience in our life lie within ourselves, it takes a moment of silence to truly listen to your inner-knowing, your own wisdom that can help you navigate a treacherous path in life.
Do you agree that health isn’t just within our body, but also within our minds and emotions?