It often feels like there are just not enough hours in a day and not enough days in a week to get things done. The forty-hour work week is a distant memory. We barely find the time for all our chores and errands, let alone to unwind with our family and friends. The absence of space for self-care can add to the stress, and stress, if not checked early enough, can develop into depression.
With so much to do and so little time, you naturally may wonder if it’s worth the effort to make space for meditation. Especially in the beginning, when your mind tends to jump from to-do lists to unfinished business and back again, simply sitting can feel painfully unproductive. This might be a good time to learn a little bit about what happens when you’ve been meditating for a long time.
Long term effects of meditation
Studies have shown that people who practice meditation report improved sleep. It’s one of the most wholesome and best-appreciated long-term benefits that meditation provides. Medical professionals are now encouraging patients who suffer from insomnia and similar sleep disorders to try different techniques, especially certain forms of guided meditation, to help manage their symptoms. The American Journal of Medicine once reported on a study that aimed to determine the effects of meditation on insomniacs. The results were incredible – all of the patients involved in the study reported improved sleep quality, and 91% reduced their sleeping pill intake or stopped using them altogether.
Enhanced memory, concentration and perception
If you’re curious about what happens when you meditate for a long time, consider the scientific studies involving Buddhist monks and possibly borrow a leaf from them. A good number of Buddhist monks and lay practitioners have perfected the art of meditation over many years. Studies conducted on some of the monks highlight the long-term effects of meditation on the brain. They showed signs of elevated brain activity within the cerebral regions associated with relaxation, happiness, concentration, self-awareness, and other positive emotions and qualities. Conversely, the brain areas responsible for stress and anxiety were less developed.
Increased levels of happiness and compassion
Increased levels of contentment and compassion are among the most desirable long-term benefits of meditation. According to Rachel Parrish, a seasoned meditation instructor, your ability to exhibit true compassion isn’t based on your situation but rather on your complete openness. Compassion is a remarkable trait that’s hard-wired into all of us. Meditation will give you the tools you need to dig deep and access the happiness and compassion that await discovery within. Looking to external sources for comfort and well-being is a deeply ingrained habit, but if you meditate regularly, you’ll surely come to agree that true happiness comes from within.
A healthier immune system
Just as they calm the mind, long-term effects of meditation also benefit the entire body. Some studies have indicated that people who practice meditation produce a higher number of antibodies more rapidly than those who don’t. More antibodies mean you’ll fight diseases more effectively – pathogens will be detected and eliminated with much more efficiency. So meditation not only improves your state of mind, but it also strengthens your body’s disease-fighting mechanisms. A healthy body is one reflection of a peaceful mind.
Improved alertness and ability to focus
We all need to be able to focus in order to carry out our different responsibilities. Any activity that is performed without the proper focus and attention is bound to produce lacklustre results. It’s hard to do a good job when you’re stressed and exhausted, and even more so when you can’t concentrate on the task at hand. At work, factors like stress and exhaustion can lead to a lack of discernment and mistakes. Happily, studies have shown that one of the long-term effects of meditation is improved concentration. Experts now recommend mindfulness meditation to help pacify the mind and increase our ability to remain alert. Luckily, many of our everyday activities at home or at work are fertile ground for the practice of mindfulness. Instead of multitasking, try picking one job or activity and apply yourself to it. With practice, this will improve your productivity and give your intelligence and creativity plenty of space to express themselves.
If you aspire to a better quality of life, meditation is the way to go. Don’t worry, your meditation practice won’t monopolize all of your free time – even sitting for 5 minutes a day can improve your cognition and reduce anxiety and depression.