Seven evidence-based reasons to start meditating yesterday

Yes, start­ing today is OK too.

I start­ed med­i­tat­ing soon after 9/11. I was liv­ing in Man­hat­tan, an already chaot­ic place, at an extreme­ly chaot­ic time. I real­ized I had no con­trol over my exter­nal envi­ron­ment. But the one place I did have a say over was my mind, through med­i­ta­tion. When I start­ed med­i­tat­ing, I did not real­ize it would also make me health­i­er, hap­pi­er, and more resilient.

Hav­ing wit­nessed the ben­e­fits, I devot­ed my PhD research at Stan­ford to study­ing the impact of med­i­ta­tion. I saw peo­ple from diverse back­grounds from col­lege stu­dents to com­bat vet­er­ans ben­e­fit. In the last 10 years, hun­dreds of stud­ies have been released.

Here are sev­en evi­dence-based rea­sons you might want to get on the band­wag­on as soon as you can:

1. It Changes Your BRAIN for the better

  • Increas­es grey mat­ter (good study here)
  • Increas­es vol­ume in areas relat­ed to emo­tion reg­u­la­tion, pos­i­tive emo­tions & self-con­trol (see here and here)
  • Increas­es cor­ti­cal thick­ness in areas relat­ed to pay­ing atten­tion (see here)

2. It Boosts Your Self-Control

  • Improves your abil­i­ty to reg­u­late your emo­tions and qui­et your mind (see here)
  • Improves your abil­i­ty to intro­spect (here)

3. It Makes You Wiser

… by giv­ing you per­spec­tive. By observ­ing your mind, you real­ize you don’t have to be slave to it. You real­ize it throws tantrums, gets grumpy, jeal­ous, hap­py and sad but that it doesn’t have to run you. Med­i­ta­tion is quite sim­ply men­tal hygiene: clear out the junk, tune your tal­ents, and get in touch with your­self. Think about it, you show­er every day and clean your body, but have you ever show­ered your mind? As a con­se­quence, you’ll feel more clear and see thing with greater per­spec­tive. We can’t con­trol what hap­pens on the out­side but we do have a say over the qual­i­ty of our mind.

Once you get to know your mind, you start to own your stuff and become more authen­tic, maybe even hum­ble. You real­ize the sto­ries and soap operas your mind puts you through and you gain some per­spec­tive on them. You real­ize most of us are caught up in a mind-dra­ma and become more com­pas­sion­ate towards others.

4. It Boosts Your Health

  • Increas­es immune func­tion (here and here)
  • Decreas­es Pain (see here)
  • Decreas­es Inflam­ma­tion at the Cel­lu­lar Lev­el (See here and here and here)

5. It Improves Your Productivity (yup, by doing “nothing”)

  • Increas­es your focus & atten­tion (hereherehere and here)
  • Improves your abil­i­ty to mul­ti­task (see here)
  • Improves your mem­o­ry (see here)
  • Improves your abil­i­ty to be cre­ative & think out­side the box (see research by J. School­er)

6. It Boosts Your Happiness

  • Increas­es Pos­i­tive Emo­tion (here and here)
  • Decreas­es Depres­sion (see here)
  • Decreas­es Anx­i­ety (herehere and here)
  • Decreas­es Stress (see here and here)

7. It Boosts Your Social Life

Think med­i­ta­tion is a soli­tary activ­i­ty? It may be–depending on how you practice–but it actu­al­ly increas­es your sense of con­nec­tion to others:

  • Increas­es social con­nec­tion & emo­tion­al intel­li­gence (see here and – by yours tru­ly – here)
  • Makes you more com­pas­sion­ate (see here and here and here)
  • Makes you feel less lone­ly (see here)

And…the more you med­i­tate, the more you seem to ben­e­fit, research stud­ies such as this one suggest.


I know: “I can’t meditate because…”

I hate sit­ting still—that’s fine, then go for a walk with­out your ear­phones, phone etc; or start with yoga; or do breath­ing exercises…give your­self time to just “be” with­out con­stant­ly “doing” something.

It’s weird—Hmm, what’s so weird about sit­ting, breath­ing and being?

I get anx­ious—that’s nor­mal, all the junk’s com­ing up, learn some breath­ing prac­tices to calm your­self down, exer­cise or do yoga before meditating.

I can’t clear my mind—no wor­ries, while you’re sit­ting there you’ll expe­ri­ence the noisy chaos of a mind that’s unwind­ing: tons of thoughts, feel­ings and emo­tions. Don’t wor­ry about how you feel dur­ing, notice how you feel after and through­out the rest of the day.

I tried and I hat­ed it—there’s not just one kind of med­i­ta­tion, there’s a whole menu out there, look for the shoe that fits: mind­ful­ness, Tran­scen­den­tal, com­pas­sion, mantra, Vipas­sana, Art of Liv­ing breath­ing prac­tices, yoga nidra, yoga, insight, lov­ing-kind­ness, tai chi etc…

I don’t have time– if you had time to read this arti­cle all the way through, you have time to med­i­tate. Think of all those min­utes you waste every day on the inter­net or oth­er­wise, you can def­i­nite­ly fit in 20 min­utes here or there to give your life a boost!

Gand­hi is quot­ed as say­ing “I have so much to accom­plish today that I must med­i­tate for two hours instead of one.”


Emma Sep­pälä, PhD, is the sci­ence direc­tor of Stan­ford University’s Cen­ter for Com­pas­sion and Altru­ism Research and Edu­ca­tion and the author of The Hap­pi­ness Track (Harper­One, 2016).

Related reading on meditation and well-being:

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

Top Articles on Brain Health and Neuroplasticity

Top 10 Brain Teasers and Illusions


Subscribe to our e-newsletter

* indicates required

Got the book?