For the longest time, I swore I would never meditate. And I don’t mean I was someone who opposed it for the sake of it. I’d tried meditating a million times, but every time, I couldn’t get out of my head. I was well aware of the benefits—I spent years working in the wellness space — but eventually, I accepted that it just wasn’t for me. I did a lot of other things right. I could afford to let this one go.
That was until my partner’s mom started meditating and raved about how much she loved it. At the time, I was headed home for the holidays and knew I’d be spending a lot of time doing nothing, so I thought sure, why not. I downloaded the Ten Percent Happier app, and gave it a go.
A note before reading: This article has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Your licensed healthcare professional can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you as well in deciding whether a dietary supplement will be a helpful addition to your regimen.
If you’ve ever read anyone’s experience with meditation, you may have guessed that meditating made me feel better. Nothing was particularly “wrong” — I have periodic distress, like everyone — but after a week of sitting and breathing for five or ten minutes, something lifted. I would open my eyes after a session and feel at ease, but not sleepy. With each passing day, I felt a little less tense and a little more centered. I was less quick to blurt out a reaction or response and more likely to pause, think, and resume.
Even more surprisingly, my body started changing. The tensions I’d get every afternoon were gone. It was like I’d given my body permission to calm down, and now it was working as designed.
An avid non-believer in meditation, I couldn’t help but look for anything that would dispute my experience or write it off as placebo. But it turns out meditation is pretty well-founded, and, at least for now, I have the experience to prove it.
Unlike some of the Eastern medicines and therapies I’ve studied and practiced, there’s actually a fair amount of credible research about the effect meditation has on overall health. (I’ve spent a lot of time debating different holistic practices with naysayers, and it’s nice to have recognized Western studies on my side this time.) And when you think about it, it makes sense.
Health issues (those that aren’t hereditary or linked to an unrelated or underlying disease) often stem from tension.The American Psychological Association acknowledges that these pressures can cause bloating, pain, and other discomforts. Simply put, this throws off our bodies.Science has confirmed the existence of this connection, and in doing so, realizedthe impact that fear and other psychological facts can have.
As for meditation, one of its premier benefits is—you guessed it—reduction of discomfort. Knowing this alone, we could speculate that meditation can improve one’s health, but alas, we don’t have to. There’s also a growing body of evidence supporting the theory that mindfulness-based therapies (aka meditation) can support and better our systems.
When we meditate, our bodies turn off fight-or-flight mode, meaning they can refocus on our other biological processes. In a similar vein, by decreasing these pressures, meditation indirectly helps us make better food choices. (You know how you eat more or less when you’re overwhelmed? And you crave unhealthy, comforting foods? Yea, that’s not good for you.)
Meditation subdues the sympathetic nervous system andactivates the parasympathetic nervous system—the latter of which decreases cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. It essentially rebalances the body, and lets the body do its job undisturbed.
There are bound to be people who read this and think it’s too good to be true, and that’s okay. In my experience, meditation has completely changed my health, and I can’t say that for anything else I’ve tried: probiotics, warm lemon water, psyllium supplements, ginger, peppermint tea, apple cider vinegar, aloe vera juice (I would not recommend; it’s revolting), zinc, turmeric, glutamine, exercising, drinking more water — the list is painfully endless.
And the science supports this. But even if it didn't, I’m happy to have found what works for me. Sometimes what works is enough.