Why meditate? Benefits of meditation

10 years ago, if you’d told me about the benefits of meditation and asked me to start the practice, I would have said that I don’t fancy being a monk.

Now, meditation has become an integral part of my daily routine.

These are just a few benefits I have noticed since starting the habit:

  • I don’t lose my cool as often
  • I’m able to handle my anxiety better
  • I feel grateful and happy. I am delighted by ordinary things I’d previously taken for granted
  • I’m able to immerse myself in deep focus
  • My productivity has skyrocketed

When I started meditating a few years ago, it felt unusual. Like I was performing a strange ritual.

But as I went deeper into the practice, I soon realized there is nothing weird about meditation. Even as a beginner I gained so much from the practice that I wished I had started meditating during my college years itself.

There are two habits I believe every human being should cultivate:

  1. Exercise (training the body)
  2. Meditation (training the mind)

Many people have this misconception that mediation is just something that monks do at a monastery. You’re busy living a real life, so you don’t have time to sit on a cushion and do nothing.

I understand. I used to think exactly the same way.

But the truth is that meditation is a valuable tool at our disposal, and is accessible to anyone, regardless of their age, background, or spiritual inclination. You don’t have to be a monk to reap the benefits of meditation, just like you don’t have to be a professional bodybuilder to reap the benefits of exercise.

Taking the wide path

In their book, The Science of Meditation, Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson describe what they call the deep path vs the wide path of meditation.

The deep path is the intensive practice of the monks where they meditate for several hours a day. Obviously, this approach is not sustainable for a layperson.

The wide path is a more accessible and practical approach to living a better, happier, fuller life. This path takes the same meditation practices, but strips them off their spiritual context and other complexities making it more accessible and feasible for average lay people like us.

What we are interested in is the practical application of meditation techniques on everyday life and the problems that we encounter on a daily basis.

Meditation helps you become calmer and happier. Meditation increases self awareness, reduces stress, and also confers physical benefits.

Pick any type of meditation you want. But stay consistent with the practice and you will soon see an improvement in the quality of your life.


The aim of meditation

In his book Meditation for Beginners, Jack Kornfield talks about how he once found a poster which captured the essence of meditation practice.

“You cannot stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

Kornfield explains that meditation is not about holding any specific state of mind, because that is an impossible task. But it can train us to be present every moment with openness and awareness. It helps us clearly see what is happening in our life.

The aim of meditation is not to control our life, but to relate to life deeply and meaningfully, without each moment being bogged down by the personal stories we attach to every thought and emotion.

The skills we develop on the meditation cushion – being more mindful, compassionate, and more present – translate well to other aspects of our life as well. 

Ultimately, meditation is mental training that enables you to live life in a better way.

Developing attention

Meditation is a great way to quiet down the chatter of our monkey mind and tame distractions. It is fantastic for developing attentional control – the ability of an individual to choose what to pay attention to and what to ignore.

Our mental resources are limited and there is a lot of information to process all around us. When we shift our attention from one thing to another, we experience what is called attentional blink which results in the loss of a small amount of information.

A study on vipassana meditators found that meditation improved their ability to focus, and reduced attentional blink by 20% [1].

I have gone into more detail about how meditation can improve focus and attention in another article.

Developing courage

When we sit down to meditate, we allow ourselves to deeply observe and fully experience whatever is happening at that moment. It could be body sensations or mental phenomena. 

Whatever comes up, we remain steadfast and stay with the practice so we develop the nonjudgmental clarity of simply seeing thoughts and emotions as they come and go.

As we develop the qualities of being steadfast and seeing clearly, we also gradually develop the courage to experience our emotional distress without feeling like our life is falling apart.

Meditation is not an instant makeover, rather it’s a gradual transformative process. The more we practice, the more skills we develop, and the more courageous we become.

Increasing the flexibility of our mind

A study published in the Consciousness and Cognition journal reported that mindfulness is intimately linked to improvements in cognitive flexibility [2].

Cognitive flexibility is the ability of the brain to adapt to unplanned or changing situations or events in life. This flexibility allows you to shift your perspective as appropriate for the situation, and come up with creative solutions to even hard problems.

If your mind is inflexible or rigid, you may struggle to deal with changing life circumstances or to solve problems.

Through a regular meditation practice, you develop the ability to accept changes calmly, without panic. The ability to remain serene and unflustered is a useful life skill for anyone.

Becoming happier

The one thing that people desire for, more than anything else, is to be happy. 

In the pursuit of happiness, we amass more wealth, status markers, relationships, and possessions. The question to ask though, is what truly makes us happy.

Humans have a tendency to return to a certain baseline level of happiness, regardless of the positive or negative events in their lives. This is called the hedonic treadmill or hedonic adaptation.

However, researchers found that regular loving kindness meditation sessions had the capacity to increase daily experiences of positive emotions, which in turn increased life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms.

Meditation was found to be just the right type of intervention strategy that produces positive emotions in such a way that outpaced the hedonic treadmill effect [3].


Reducing stress and improving physical health

Stress affects both mental and physical health. It affects your body in myriad ways like causing headaches, raising blood pressure, causing chest pain, sleep issues etc.

Researchers have found that chronic stress can even cause epigenetic changes that make us susceptible to mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Mindfulness meditation is particularly effective for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

There are also other health benefits of meditation of meditation like modestly lowering blood pressure, and help with other disorders that are caused or aggravated by chronic stress.

Reasons to NOT meditate

I think it is as important to know why you should NOT meditate. So, pay attention.

Meditation is not a hack to block out thoughts and to make your mind go blank – it is simply not possible anyway. Many beginners make the mistake of thinking that they’re not meditating correctly, because their mind is still bustling with thoughts.

Meditation is not a substitute for therapy. If you have debilitating mental health issues, you must seek the help of a qualified psychologist.


Meditation is also not to be treated as an escape mechanism where you stop experiencing uncomfortable thoughts and emotions.

It helps you relax of course, but that relaxation comes from our gradually developing skill in letting go of our clinging and attachments, rather than numbing ourselves from pain.

Build the habit of meditation

At HabitStrong, our Become A Morning Person bootcamp helps you build the habit of daily meditation.

Become A Morning Person Bootcamp

For calm mornings with a daily meditation & journaling routine

Learn More

As you embark on the journey of meditation, what is important is that you stay consistent. Show up for practice every single day.

Many people make the mistake of starting with great enthusiasm, but after a few days it fizzles out.

The many benefits of meditation will start becoming apparent only when you stay with the practice for a while.

On the meditation cushion, you will have good days and bad days. Doesn’t matter. Just stay with it.

Our bootcamp is designed in such a way that it not only teaches you the technique of meditation, but it also integrates several mechanisms to help you build it as a lifelong habit.




[1] Slagter HA, Lutz A, Greischar LL, Francis AD, Nieuwenhuis S, Davis JM, Davidson RJ. Mental training affects distribution of limited brain resources. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1865565/

[2] Meditation, mindfulness and cognitive flexibility – Adam Moore, Peter Malinowski

[3] Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources

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