With every passing year, more and more people are starting to meditate. But although meditation is now fairly mainstream, the practice’s popularity is not down to advertising but purely due to the life-changing benefits people experience. So naturally, this leads many people to question what makes meditation so powerful.
Meditation is so powerful because it can positively impact every part of our lives. This is because the practice changes our brain chemistry, slowing down thoughts, improving concentration, reducing fear, anxiety, stress, and much more.
Moreover, everyone, including children, can experience these positive changes. So read on to learn how you (and your loved ones) can enjoy a happier and healthier life thanks to meditation.
The science behind meditation
Before we dive into what you will experience from meditating, let’s explore just how those benefits are possible. Scientific research has found that meditation can change your brain by increasing or decreasing activity in certain areas and creating new neural pathways.
Meditation cannot stop all thoughts in your mind, but it can reduce the amount you have by increasing the space between them. A study by Yale University found that meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the area of the brain responsible for mind-wandering and excessive and repetitive thoughts.
An overactive DMN can result in anxiety as the mind creates worrisome thoughts about the future. So, as meditation decreases activity in this area, people who meditate are less likely to experience anxiety than those who don’t.
In addition, every time we meditate, our brains create new neural pathways, known as neuroplasticity. This, combined with the decreased DMN activity, means that thanks to meditation, we can quickly notice when our mind starts to wander and snap back to the present moment.
Neuroplasticity can also alter your behavior, habits, and thought patterns, which explains why many people adopt healthier habits and more positive thoughts after regularly meditating for a while. Studies have shown that it takes, on average, two months for meditation to rewire your brain enough to enhance functions like focus, decision making, and emotional control.
Lastly, meditation increases gray matter in the brain, which essentially keeps your mind young. A study by UCLA found long-term meditating reduces age-related tissue decline; thus, the practice can be a mental elixir. However, the gray matter volume observed in people who had been meditating for 20+ years was significantly more than in those who started meditating recently.
Why meditation is beneficial for adults
Not only can anyone meditate, but you can start meditating at any age, although the younger, the better (more on that later). Still, meditation is beneficial for adults as it positively affects all areas of your life in multiple ways.
Meditation can improve your work life
You actively improve your concentration skills when you sit down to meditate. Focus is closely linked to productivity, so the more concentration you have on your work tasks, the more productive you will be.
Meditation helps you remain undistracted when focusing on a task at hand. Without your attention constantly being drawn away, you’ll notice how you complete tasks quicker and thus get more done. Moreover, this increased focus improves accuracy, so you are less likely to make mistakes.
In addition, a Harvard study measured the effect of eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a type of mindfulness meditation. It found participants had increased cortical thickness in the hippocampus at the end of the course.
The hippocampus governs learning and memory, so the study shows that meditation can improve your ability to learn new skills and remember information. This finding is particularly interesting for anyone seeking a promotion or career change. It shows meditation can significantly help you develop the skills needed for a new and better role at work.
Meditation can improve your home life
The Harvard study mentioned above also contains some findings that suggest a meditation practice may help us show up better in our home life. For example, meditation decreases brain cell volume in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress.
If you have children, you’ll know just how stressful raising little humans can be. Then when you add on the other responsibilities of running a home, it’s no surprise that a survey by WebMD found that 57% of parents rate their stress levels as 7 or higher (on a scale of 1 to 10).
Meditation can reduce your stress level by changing your subjective perception. As a result, with regular meditation, you may find that you handle stressors more effectively and that fewer things trigger and annoy you. Thus, meditation is crucial if you’re looking to create a more peaceful home environment.
Meditation can improve your relationships
Another reason why meditation is so powerful is that it can positively affect the lives of those around you as well as yourself. The practice of meditation alters how we interact with others and, most importantly, how we handle disagreements and conflicts.
The reason for this is because of the increased self-awareness we have. Without self-awareness, we are quickly taken over by our minds and the untrue thoughts and judgments it makes. This often leads us to overreact, create arguments, and have a strong need to be right, leading to grudges and long-term conflicts.
As meditation increases our self-awareness, we can better see our thoughts for what they really are, destructive inner commentary. We realize that the things our mind tells us are not always true. This allows us to see situations clearer, thinking things through rather than reacting straight away, potentially damaging our relationships.
In addition, studies have shown that the neural circuitry changes of meditation can make us feel more compassionate. Therefore, we can better see others’ sides of the story. We may even understand that the reactions of others usually have nothing to do with us but rather are due to their own issues.
Metta meditation, also known as loving-kindness meditation, is particularly beneficial for helping us heal relationships. This meditation style requires you to visualize and send loving-kindness to a person you are experiencing difficulties with. This technique enables you to release the negative emotions you have towards that person and thus, improve the relationship.
Meditation doesn’t just help us cultivate a better relationship with our partners and children. It can impact the quality of our relationships with friends, family members, colleagues, neighbors, and more.
Meditation can change your personality
Meditation improves your work, home life, and relationships because it changes your personality. This is because of the new neural pathways a regular meditation practice creates over time.
Research has found that people who meditate have lower levels of neuroticism than non-meditators. Neuroticism is a broad personality trait used to describe someone with anxiety, sadness, irritability, and self-consciousness tendencies.
The same study found that people who meditate show higher curiosity and receptivity to new experiences. In addition, they do not appear to focus on achievements as much as non-meditators. Instead, they enjoy the process regardless of the result.
You might not feel significantly different after your first few sessions of meditation. However, once you’ve been meditating for 6 months or 1 year, you’ll likely feel totally different from who you were before finding meditation.
Why meditation is beneficial for children
Suppose you’re a parent and you have your own meditation practice. In that case, you likely already know how meditation can benefit your child. Even if you don’t meditate yourself, you may have seen meditation classes advertised at school and wondered if they could help your child.
Considering how beneficial meditation can be for adults, naturally, the practice is suitable for children, regardless of age.
Meditation can help children regulate their emotions, something many kids struggle with. In addition, meditation can reduce impulsivity in children who get angry or frustrated quickly, resulting in fewer meltdowns.
Because meditation helps improve focus and listening skills, starting this practice will likely enhance their experience (and grades) at school. The increased concentration will also improve their problem-solving skills, helping them tackle those challenging math questions.
Meditation doesn’t just promote kindness and compassion in adults; the practice has the same effect on children. Therefore, children who meditate are more likely to excel in team sports and avoid fights and conflicts with other kids.
The quiet and mindful practice of meditation is also helpful for helping children wind down at night or when calm energy is required, such as when waiting in a queue at the grocery store. This, of course, benefits both parent and child!
However, the most significant impact meditation can have on a child’s life is improved mental and emotional health as an adult. Meditation gives children a vital tool of self-regulation that will help them deal with all the challenges they will face as a teenager and in adulthood. Thus, encouraging your child to meditate from a young age could literally change their life!
How to help your child meditate
So how can you get a high-energy, easily frustrated 5-year-old to sit in stillness? Meditation is difficult for adults, so naturally, getting a child to meditate is challenging. Luckily though, there are various ways you can help a child build a meditation practice, even if you don’t meditate yourself.
- Create a peaceful and quiet environment – If you want to introduce meditation to your child at home, you’ll first need to create the right environment. It won’t work if the TV is on in the background or pets are around. So turn off all devices, put on some calming music, and dim the lights. The best place to create a meditative environment is your child’s bedroom, as they already see it as a place to relax.
- Breathe deeply with them – You don’t have to be a pro meditator to teach your child some basic mindfulness. The breath is a powerful tool for creating calm within. Whenever you notice your child is upset or angry, sit down with them and encourage them to breathe deeply. You will both quickly see how focusing on the breath has a relaxing effect.
- Put on guided meditations aimed at their age – Some meditation apps have guided practices for children, such as Headspace and Insight Timer. You can also find various kids’ meditations on Youtube, including some great visual ones. This 6-minute calming activity has no speaking, only music with a cute cartoon monkey instructing relaxing arm movements your child can easily follow along.
- Look for kids’ meditation classes – Many educational establishments incorporate kids’ yoga and meditation in their curriculum. If your child’s school does not run sessions, look for kids’ classes at a community center or a local yoga studio.
If you’re an active meditator, here are a few additional ways you can help your children create a mindful practice.
- Encourage them to join you in your meditation – If you meditate yourself, this is an excellent way to “test the waters.” You might be surprised to find that your child is interested in what you do during your meditation and, thus, is keen to join you. If so, use the time to explain why you meditate and how it can help them. However, if your child shows no interest in your meditation practice, don’t force them to join you, as this could be counterproductive.
- Teach them about mindfulness through storytelling – As an experienced meditator, you know how powerful visualization can be. You can tailor visualization meditation to children by using mindful storytelling. Get creative and think up calming stories to help your child wind down at night. You could also incorporate themes like forgiveness, self-confidence, or any quality you think your child needs. If you lack inspiration, you’ll find many scripts and videos online.
Why meditation is beneficial for teenagers
Meditation offers teenagers many of the same benefits as children, such as improved focus, concentration, and self-regulation. Being able to observe, understand, and regulate emotions is crucial for teenagers as they are currently dealing with hormonal changes.
Meditation improves communication between the frontal lobe of the brain and the amygdala (the center of emotional behavior). Many teenagers experience anxiety, stress, and reactivity because these two areas do not communicate well during the teenage years. So, with daily meditation practice, the connection will strengthen, allowing the brain to better process and regulate emotions.
The compassionate feeling the practice of meditation evokes is not just towards others but also ourselves. Thus, meditation helps teenagers build self-esteem as it teaches them to love and accept themselves.
In fact, part of the loving-kindness Metta meditation mentioned earlier involves sending love to yourself. As many young people lack self-love, cultivating a meditation practice during this vulnerable time can be extremely powerful.
Self-confidence is one of the most essential qualities for a teenager. A teen with low self-worth is more likely to give in to peer pressure, do things to please others and fit in, and generally make bad and unhealthy decisions.
However, the increased self-image and confidence teenagers gain from meditation will determine their decisions and the path they follow. With higher self-worth, they will value themselves more and, thus, make better and healthier decisions.
Meditating as a family
Meditating with your children or partner is an excellent way to spend quality time together. Making it a family activity doesn’t just strengthen the relationship between you but also the relationship with yourself. Meditating as a family can also improve communication and help everyone stay calmer, reducing the number of arguments.
As you know, children learn much about life through their parents and what they see at home. So, if you want your child to meditate, they are more likely to be interested if they see you doing it. Likewise, by creating a calm and relaxing home environment, your children are much more likely to seek out the feeling of calm.
What’s more, as meditating with your children installs a healthy habit, they will be much more likely to continue doing it if it is a family tradition. If you’re feeling inspired to create a family meditation practice in your home, here are a few tips for success:
- Establish a meditation routine – First, decide how often you want to meditate as a family. Perhaps you want to create a 5-minute window every evening before bed. Set a time you know you can stick to every day, a time when you have no other responsibilities.
- Create a calming space – Next, think about where you want to meditate with your kids. You may decide their bedroom is the best space or maybe you prefer the living room. Use the same spot every time, so everyone knows that area is for quiet time. Make the space cozy and remove any distracting objects around. One idea your kids will surely love is to set up a meditation tent.
- Don’t force it but don’t give up – Some children will take to meditation better than others. So if your child gets restless after one minute, start with one-minute meditations and then gradually extend them. Or if they get too fidgety sitting down, maybe try lying down meditation instead. Experiment with different styles, lengths and times and try with and without music to see what works best.
How to start meditation
If you’ve never meditated before, you may wish to cultivate a meditation practice yourself before introducing it to your children. Alternatively, you might enroll your child in a meditation class and wonder if you could also benefit from mindfulness.
Meditation is a practice that everyone can do and benefit from, regardless of age, gender, personality, or anything else. There are many types of meditation, so if you tried one before and didn’t like it, I highly recommend trying some others. With so many different techniques, there is one for everyone; it’s just a case of finding it.
Using a meditation app is the best way to learn and try meditation. Meditation apps are safe, accessible, and easy to follow. They have meditations for all levels and age groups, including absolute beginners. In addition, you can choose guided meditations, relaxing music, soothing nature sounds, and more.
Some meditations are totally free, such as Insight Timer. Others have free content or free trials with options to become a member should you wish.
Final thoughts on the power of meditation
No matter your age, starting a meditation practice can bring positive results to your work, home life, and relationships. If you’re yet to try meditation, consider trying it as a family so you can experience the incredible benefits together. Or, if you already meditate, start sharing the magic with your loved ones.