Meditation dates back hundreds if not thousands of years. Cultures around the world have used meditation for religious ceremonies, a sense of calm and personal development. Today, tens of millions of people have rediscovered meditation as part of a greater health and wellness routine. Many have found greater overall happiness through meditation.
Meditation apps have unsurprisingly surged in popularity. In 2021, the Calm app reached over 100 million downloads. Headspace topped 65 million downloads. The popularity of meditation for beginners is further exemplified by apps such as Aura and Breethe.
But why is meditation important for our health and well-being? And do meditation apps work?
Increase your mindfulness for enhanced awareness.
Meditation helps its practitioners increase mindfulness. Yet few people know what mindfulness means. Some even take it as a sort of “hyper-vigilance” that actually increases stress.
Being mindful refers to the experience of successive moments in their pure form. You take in sensations and even thoughts but without judgment or analysis. Mindfulness techniques such as meditation help strengthen resilience by freeing ourselves of self-judgments, over-analysis and daily worries. As with the “runner’s high” experienced by athletes, you truly live in the moment.
Meditation can relieve anxiety and other forms of stress.
Stress affects all of us. Over time, stress can become habitual and lead to a seemingly endless sense of anxiety and unease. It can decrease our overall happiness. But does meditation help decrease stress?
A major review of medical and psychological literature clarifies the psychological benefits of meditation. In fact, meditation provides psychological benefits time and again across dozens of clinical trials. The short-term benefits include relief from negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, worry and even fear. This temporary relief can improve anyone’s day. But when practiced as a mindfulness habit, meditation can also relieve anxiety and result in stronger, long term mental health.
Sleep meditations can help you sleep better.
Meditation comes in many forms. You may be familiar with Buddhist, movement, visualization and other meditations. But meditation can focus on specific objectives, too. There are meditations devoted to calm, happiness, positivity, and dealing with anger. One of the most popular forms of meditation focuses on better sleep. That is, meditations can not only help you get to sleep faster, but more deeply, too.
Guided sleep meditations can greatly improve your sleep. Alternatively, sleep stories or ambient nature sounds help others find their own path to better sleep. Even peaceful music to sleep better can be chosen for a more meditative, blissful sleep experience.
Can meditation increase brain function overall?
With all the benefits already mentioned, is it really any surprise that meditation can help you stay mentally sharp? And this mindfulness treatment goes beyond meditation to increase your peace of mind. It can actually increase your health at the physiological level.
In fact, the AANMC has reported that mindfulness exercises such as meditation actually increase levels of the brain’s gray matter. The result is increased motor skills, cognitive function, and memory. So that time you take for meditation can make you more productive as well as happier.
Mindfulness programs have physical health benefits.
The mind, brain and body are not separate entities. They are not even distinct “parts” of a single unit either. Insofar as they can be distinguished, they exist on a continuum that creates our complete selves. When something benefits our psychological health and well-being, it naturally benefits our bodies as well.
In a review of studies, the NIH found evidence that meditation can benefit in pain relief, lowering high blood pressure and ending bad health habits such as smoking. And because meditation provides anxiety reduction, it can lower release of hormones such cortisol and adrenaline. What is the end result? Gathering evidence suggests a strengthening of your body’s immune system through meditation.
Are meditation apps worth it?
The growing case for meditation leaves many asking, “How do I meditate?”
Meditation apps make learning better mindfulness and meditation routines easy. Apps such as Calm, Headspace, Breethe, and Aura provide countless tracks featuring some of the best meditation teachers and life coaches. You can learn simple breathing techniques to relieve anxiety or take entire courses designed for any skill level. Plus, the apps are convenient and easy to use. They even provide sleep tracks ranging from sleep meditations to relaxing music.
You can try the best meditation apps entirely for free. For a fuller, more personalized mindfulness routine, the apps offer subscriptions for about $60 to $80 per year. Tens of millions of users have found them well worth the cost. In fact, the most popular meditation apps are among the best reviewed health apps at the Apple Store and Google Play.
At about $5 a month for an annual membership, meditation apps offer a convenient way to build your very own self-care routine. for learning how to build your very own mindfulness routine.
Photo by @Anikona_/Twenty20