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6174344321_a6b3b6aa69_bOnce considered a practice only for “granola-eating hippies,” meditation has gone completely mainstream. It’s been revered for its life-changing benefits, as well as being cited as a frequent (if not daily) practice of some of the happiest and most successful people in the world.

And it’s not just a bunch of hype. From improving our quality of sleep to our overall happiness, even science backs up the positive impact it can have on our lives. Here are five science-approved reasons to start meditating today.

You’ll Sleep Better
Sleep is essential to the function of our brains. Without enough proper rest, we can be prone to headaches, higher levels of stress, and lower productivity. However, meditation has been shown to increase our levels of melatonin, which is the chemical that helps us fall and stay asleep. In fact, the practice may even be able to help those with serious sleep disorders. A study on mindful meditation found that those who suffer with chronic insomnia were able to reduce their symptoms, with 79% maintaining a better quality of sleep six months after treatment.

You’ll Increase Your Happiness and Reduce Stress
One of the biggest reasons to meditate is that it helps us gain a clearer understanding of what’s going on in our minds. By doing so, we can more easily recognize negative thoughts and emotions, and learn how to let them go. By refusing to let negativity consume us, we can also significantly lower our dangerous levels of stress. A study conducted at Harvard Medical School found that engaging in meditation not only lowered the “fight-or-flight” response that we feel when we’re stressed or afraid, but it also had positive effects on heart rate and blood pressure.

You’ll Improve Your Relationship
Oddly enough, your private moments of meditation may just be the best thing you can do for your relationships with other people. The practice can help you better recognize your own emotions and have more compassion for those around you. These two things combined can help you feel less angry and more loving, creating lasting harmony in your relationships. A study from UC San Francisco looked at the effects of meditation on marital relationships in particular. Those who practiced meditation had a better emotional understanding of the facial expressions in their partner and were, therefore, better able to resolve conflicts and provide support.

If you would like more information on starting a personal meditation practice, please visit Shambhala

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by Nickolai Kashirin

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