The art of meditating has persisted in varying forms since ancient times. Its disputed origins lay in India within the Pāli Canon, (the earliest known Buddhist scriptures). Meditation practices ingrained themselves within China. From there they spread to other oriental countries via the Silk Road. While Christianity and Judaism infused prayer with certain tenets of meditation during the Middle Ages, the West never saw a proper introduction until the last century.
Back in the flower child era of the sixties, meditation gained prominence in America. Along with it, stigmas denoting it as hippie nonsense. Decades later, the taboo still resides, ever more faintly with each passing year. Now mindfulness has breached the mainstream consciousness, surfing the waves of associated crazes like yoga and alternative medicine.
With scientific studies verifying tangible benefits, even the most skeptical of men owe it to themselves to cozy up on the floor pretzel-style and just breathe. So, read on to discover how meditation can enhance any man’s arsenal of tools for navigating his own inner turmoil.
The Benefits of Meditation
1. Coping with Depression:
A study conducted on lifetime sufferers of depression concluded that meditating regularly reduces ‘dysfunctional beliefs’ that perpetuate the condition.(1) Regular symptoms like feeling guilty, worthless, or sad gradually dissipated with daily devotion.
2. Positive Thinking:
On that same note, meditation literally transforms your brain thereby boosting the prevalence of positive thinking. Meditating actually increases the left-sided anterior activation of your brain after only 8 weeks!(2)
3. Mitigated Anxiety:
Remaining grounded in the present moment is a central tenet of meditation. For this reason it’s oft recommended for those who anguish over the past or future. Patients with both anxiety and panic disorders can find sweet relief from symptoms with regular meditation.(3)
4. Less Stress:
This shouldn’t surprise anyone considering meditation assuages the depression, negative thoughts, and anxiety causing us stress in the first place. Additionally, studies have proven that other indicators of stress—symptoms related to heart and intestinal health—were greatly reduced.(4)
Meditation has close ties to altruism as the Buddha himself devoted his life towards ending suffering. Research reinforces this by showing how meditating regularly bolsters our capacity for compassion.(5)
6. Accepting Loneliness:
A strong man is ultimately self-reliant and remains stoic in the face of isolation. However, reaching this state of mind isn’t a one-and-done process. Thankfully though, meditation should speed it up as it’s effective in treating loneliness in older adults.(6)
7. Control Your Emotions:
Our sporadic flux and range of emotions are collectively associated with the ego in Buddhist teachings. Meditation is designed to tame the ego and separate it from our goals so as to achieve total clarity of thought. It’s now been proven that the ability to regulate emotions is prominent in regular practitioners.(7)
8. Paying Attention:
When your cacophony of emotions is met with deafening silence, the external world zooms into sharper focus. This is partially due to the thickening of corticals in the brain—from meditating daily—related to paying attention. In fact, meditation is shown to offset the thinning of these corticals that comes with aging.(8)
9. Improved Memory:
Enhanced short-term memory, executive functioning, and visual processing can be achieved with only four days of mindfulness exercises.(9) Should meditating prove too cumbersome for your daily schedule, try doing short bursts in preparation for a test, speech, or meeting with company executives.
10. Expanded Creativity:
While further studies are needed, evidence suggests that meditation can impact the density and quality of creative thoughts one might have.(10) Interestingly, the results of each study differed depending on the particular variant of meditation used.