I recently gave a room of more than 400 people the secret to happiness.
Today, I'm sharing this secret with you. And it only takes about 10 minutes a day.
But first, let me explain why this secret is so important...
Fatigue, depression, muscle cramps, upset stomach, sleep problems... the physical and mental tolls of stress can wreak havoc on the body.
According to the most recent survey by the American Psychological Association, 75% of Americans experience a mental or physical symptom of stress. A staggering 20% of Americans never try to combat this stress.
But there's a simple way to improve your stress levels, hone your attention skills, and even protect your brain from aging... all in just 10 minutes a day. You simply need to meditate.
The power of meditation comes from the "relaxation response" and how it changes our physiology. During meditation, our brain waves convert to a pattern that is as deep – and in some ways deeper – than sleep.
It is also more restful and recharging than a nap. Meditation releases chemicals that are the direct opposite of the so-called "stress hormones." These chemicals and hormones trigger pathways of healing and regeneration.
Active meditation has been shown to lower your heart rate and increase both your blood's oxygen saturation and the delivery of oxygen to tissue. A Scientific American article from 1963 reported that yogis actually lowered their heart rates to one or two beats a minute by invoking this "relaxation response." Now that's what I call relaxed!
Studies that show the health benefits of meditation have piled up over the years. Earlier this year, Frontiers in Psychology – a psychology research journal – published a research paper that demonstrated that people who have practiced meditation for a long time (20 years) have more gray matter than their peers.
Although both meditators and non-meditators both showed signs of brain aging, the meditators had significantly less damage.
Two possible mechanisms are at play here. First, doing mental activities, like meditation, encourage your brain's nerve cells to branch out and create new signaling pathways. That's important because the nerve signal firing in your brain slows with age.
The second idea is that meditation fights stress. Stress causes real, measurable, physical damage to your brain cells. By engaging in a focused stress-busting activity, you reduce your inflammation and help those cells stay strong.
Protecting your brain and boosting your nerve cells can increase concentration, reduce anxiety, and fight depression by releasing serotonin.
Even better, meditating can improve your health in other ways, too:
- Increase your longevity.
- Reduce the number of visits to your doctor.
- Reduce the likelihood of an admission to the hospital.
- Reduce insomnia.
- Reduce inflammation (a key to health).
- Boost the immune system.
- Lower blood pressure.
And meditation takes less time than you think. I meditate for about 15 to 20 minutes once a week, plus an additional one or two sessions when I can. But some studies have found benefits for people who only meditate 10 minutes a day.