MeditationThis ancient practice can do so much more for your mind and body.

Unless you’ve been living on a desert island, you’ve heard that meditation can help reduce stress. And if a friend or family member hasn’t told you, “You really should try meditating,” you’ve certainly had headlines scream it at you.

Mindfulness may make you calmer and help you better manage stress, for sure. But focusing solely on that benefit is like saying Hamilton is only about a founding father. There’s way more to talk about!

“Meditation has a host of benefits, and there is no such thing as a negative side effect of meditation,” says Myk Likhov, CEO and founder of Modern ŌM.

Check out these seven ways meditation can improve your life—beyond stress relief—and you might start wishing you could get to that desert island so you can practice 100% distraction-free.

It Helps You Make Better Decisions

“Meditation creates a wedge between your awareness and your thoughts,” Likhov explains. “Most of us run around identifying entirely with our thoughts, and so you react. Someone cuts you off, and you mentally curse them out.

“But spending time meditating—where you’re watching your thoughts—helps you realize, ‘I am not my thoughts.’ And that gives you the power to choose how you want to react. So if you miss your flight, you can go crazy—but that’s your thoughts. Do you want to do that? Or, rather than getting riled up, you can get on the phone and determine a plan to solve the problem.”

It Slows the Aging of Your Brain

We all want to maintain a sharp mind as we grow older—something we’re reminded of every time we misplace our phone. Well, meditation may help.

In one study, researchers looked at the brains of 20 adults, particularly the prefrontal cortex. This part of your noggin plays a role in working memory and executive decision making. The scientists paid close attention to the amount of gray matter, which normally shrinks as you age.

They discovered that 40- to 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of gray matter as 20- to 30-year-olds did.

It Increases Intelligence and Creativity

That boost in gray matter may also make you more intelligent and creative. Practicing Transcendental Meditation boosted creativity and intelligence in high schoolers. Researchers say the meditation is like a good night’s sleep: Since it makes you more rested, you perform better.

It Fosters a Positive Attitude

“I work with a client who has Parkinson’s disease, and we meditate at the end of our yoga sessions,” says Danielle Karuna, an advanced yoga teacher and co-founder of Provita. “She gets very frustrated with the disease, and meditation helps her feel acceptance and peace for what is. It enables her to shift her attention to the positive and feel gratitude for all the good in her life.”

It Strengthens Your Immunity

You still need to wash your hands during cold and flu season, but meditation may fortify your immune system. In a review of 20 studies, researchers reported that meditating appears to decrease inflammation markers. And meditating may also help your body produce more antibodies to fight off disease, according to a separate study.

The authors of both reports caution that more research is necessary, but since meditating is like eating veggies (never hurts to do it!), it’s just one more reason to take up and keep up the practice.

It Helps You Trust Yourself

“I’ve found that meditation enables me to get out of my own way so that my mind and my ego aren’t running the show,” says Karuna. Science backs this up: After learning meditation and other mindfulness skills, adolescents reported greater self-compassion and life satisfaction. So if you want to be less concerned about FOMO or keeping up with the Joneses, consider meditating.

It Boosts Confidence and Resilience

Meditation’s benefits may even extend to the office since a little reflection time may help you walk into any room like you own it and bounce back from adversity without a scratch. After meditating for 15 minutes twice a day for six months, ninth graders reported greater self-confidence and scored higher on a test measuring resilience.

– By Brittany Risher

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