Meditation is such a popular trend. Meditating is now an actual medical treatment. Large companies, such as Apple, even have meditation built into their schedules. There are entire building centers dedicated to meditation. To list a few examples closer to home, we meditate in Journey, during assembly, in chapel, and so on. My Apple Watch even reminds me to meditate. Meditation is everywhere, but why do we meditate? Meditation is said to relieve stress, but, if you’re as skeptical as I am, you want to see the research behind this claim.

The Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health describes meditation as a practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or on attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth. Meditation originated in Buddhism as a vehicle to reach spiritual understanding, but it has been adopted by the secular world for its psychological benefits.

Regularly practicing meditation has many benefits, some of which include having a happier outlook on life, less stress, higher empathy, and more appreciation. The British Broadcasting Corporation explains how mindfulness meditation works. Mindfulness meditation, one popular form of meditation, helps one become less stressed and anxious because it allows one to be present in the moment and develop the skill of acknowledging one’s thoughts and releasing them rather than dwelling on them. These skills combined allow people to feel more at ease because they are not tuned in to their inner thoughts but to the moment. Another form of meditation called “transcendental meditation” focuses on the repetition of a word or phrase, which allows one to go into a deeper area of their mind and “transcend” the part of the brain which produces negative thoughts. Research by Barnes, Treiber, and Johnson found that this type of meditation helps to reduce stress, hypertension, blood pressure, and depression. Harvard’s Daily Gazette has found that frequent meditators have more grey matter–an aspect of the brain that controls decision-making and sensory perception–developed in the hippocampus, the part of the brain which is responsible for empathy and long-term memory. The study also found that in the brain of a frequent meditator, the grey matter of the amygdala was smaller. The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for causing stress and anxiety.

Overall, meditation has many benefits and should be practiced to help one achieve a healthier lifestyle. Now that you are aware of all the benefits of meditation, you may be wondering how to meditate. Well, meditation is simple. To practice mindfulness meditation you can either sit or lie in a comfortable position, then close your eyes and focus on breathing in and out. When thoughts come into your brain, do not dwell on them, just let them pass. It is recommended you meditate at least once a day for 5-10 minutes.