What happens when you meditate for a long time? Logically you would think that if a little bit of meditation is good for you then a lot of it would be better, right? This however is not true.
Many spiritual seekers get caught up in the delusion that they can meditate themselves into a ‘permanent’ state of nirvana.
Meditating for a long time does not guarantee nirvana, enlightenment or even any spiritual awakening.
One important idea I want to convey here is that more is not necessarily better.
Better is better.
We see Yogi’s meditate for hours on end and wonder what states of exhaltation they have reached?
But, do they live life?
What is your goal? What is your intention?
Consistency, presence of mind and intention is what will help you get the most out of mediation. As you get better at quieting your mind you will be able to maintain a meditative state for longer which inevitably allows you to access higher states of consciousness.
In today’s fast-paced environment, our brains hardly get a break from working in overdrive. We rush from one task to the other, often pressured to resist slowing down in any way.
Existing in this state trains our minds to operate in fight-or-flight, treating every occurrence as a small emergency. To understand the effects of regular meditation, we can think of what happens in an opposite case:
How does your day run when you are rushed?
Are you more efficient when you wake up late, dress in a hurry, and skip breakfast to barely make the bus? Do you process things well, or do you experience the day in a reactive, volatile state? Are you at peak performance when you aren’t present?
Of course you aren’t! This is where meditation can help.
- Meditation can provide many benefits, including:
- lowering blood pressure
- reducing stress
- managing anxiety
- controlling pain
- improving attention
- strengthening memory
- improving self-image
- enhancing self-awareness
- improving sleep
- While these are all very measurable side effects, meditation has long been a spiritual practiced that allowed everyday people to make conscious contact with their own Divinity.
Through meditation, you can:
- become more enlightened
- connect with your Higher Self and your true purpose
- gain extra sensory knowledge and wisdom
- find inner peace and transcend afflictions
- Heal your mind and your body
Meditation trains our mind and body to calm down, enabling us to exist on a more peaceful vibration – a vibration that is more aligned with your true spiritual nature.
What Happens When You Meditate Every Day?
What happens when you meditate for a long time is only one piece of the enlightenment puzzle. It is also about doing it consistently.
When you meditate every day, you develop superpowers.
Okay, only half-kidding.
Every day there is a level of ‘reset’ with fresh challenges coming your way. You don’t go tp the gym for 10 hours a day and call yourself fit for life after a week.
In addition to all the incredible benefits listed above, having a daily meditation practice will lead to you having a better general sense of well-being.
It will ignite your creativity and enable you to live unshackled by fear and worry. Meditating every day makes you a happier, more productive person, who is able to process their emotions more intelligently.
Meditating every day makes you less reactive. It makes you impermeable to panic.
What Happens When You Meditate Too Long?
A lot of people wonder if it’s possible to meditate for too long. The answer, surprisingly, is yes!
Think about this mental exercise as you would lifting weights. Though a certain amount of daily strength exercise is beneficial, overdoing it can cause negative effects.
These are stiffness in the body, delusion, or withdrawal from the world.
It is important to note that though it is possible, it’s pretty difficult to meditate too long. This certainly are the downsides of what happens when you meditate for a long time.
Beginners should start with five minutes per day, and eventually, if desired, end up around thirty minutes to one hour. Five minutes every day will still allow a myriad of advantages to come into effect, though a longer meditation will enhance those effects.
The key to meditation is persistence.
Keep at it, and watch as your life lightens.
How Does Meditation Affect the Brain?
Who says you can’t change your mind? One of the things that happen when you meditate for a long time is that you start to blur the lines between ‘reality’ and the imagination.
Most of what you think is real are in fact mental constructs. A meditative state allows you to subdue all those faculties that make up your reality and you start to perceive a reality taht is more closely aligned to how life really is.
Meditation can also successfully rewire your brain.
It increases grey matter, improves concentration, decreases stress and anxiety, and reduces activity in the “me” and “fear” centers of the brain (where worry-based thoughts of the self run rampant).
What happens when you meditate for a long time at the level of your brain is astounding and you ‘make’ your brain better in almost every way conceivable.
1. Increase in Grey Matter
Our brains are made up of grey and white matter. White matter in the brain is comprised of nerve fibers, while grey matter is made of cells.
“Grey matter is important because it’s associated with memory, emotions, muscle control, speech and decision-making, among plenty of other functions.” (source)
Basically, the more grey matter there is, the better your cognitive performance. For example, people with Alzheimer’s experience a shrinkage of grey matter as they age.
Studies have shown that just 8 weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training increased the grey matter in the brain.
The resulting higher thickness of the hippocampus leads to better memory function, as well as the regulation of emotions.
2. Improved Concentration
The main goal of meditation is to clear the mind- to let go of wandering thoughts and return to an anchor, be it the breath, or a certain theme or mantra. This is why it’s no surprise that practicing meditation can greatly improve concentration in any aspect of your life.
When you become less reactive, you are more grounded. Things don’t shake you as easily. Your stress responses don’t get kicked up over small problems.
When your mental state is more stable, concentration becomes easy.
3. Decrease in Stress and Anxiety
Depression and Anxiety reside in two places in our brains. One is in the “me” center of our brain, called the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). This is the part of the brain where we process information about ourselves, like future worries and perceived mistakes of the past.
The second place stress hangs out in the brain is the amygdala. This is the site that manages fear.
The amygdala is responsible for processing fight-or-flight response, which signals the adrenal system to send out cortisol.
This stress hormone amps us up for battle, no matter how small the issue may actually be.
The dance between these two centers in our brain forces our bodies into a vicious cycle of chronic stress. We start thinking poorly about ourselves, which feeds us stress, which makes us even more wound up.
Meditation disrupts this process and actually causes the amygdala to shrink.
Once we are less attached to our triggers of stress, we are freed up to think about ourselves more reasonably.
How Does Meditation Affect the Body?
Essentially any ailment that stems from or flares with stress can be eased with meditation.
Meditation can improve heart health, strengthen the immune system, regulate natural body cycles, and decrease tension in our muscles.
What happens when you meditate for a long lime at the level of the body is that you ‘restore’ your body to its ‘original state’ which is a state of well-being and perfect balance.
1. Improved Heart Health
Meditation lowers blood pressure and has also been shown to decrease thickness in arterial walls. This decrease lowers cardiovascular risks like stroke and heart attack.
2. Strengthened Immunity
Stress is directly related to the strength of our immune systems. If we feel that we’re under attack, our bodies and brains respond accordingly.
Chronic stress makes us sick, because our bodies are working under an imbalance of constantly-firing stress hormones geared up to fight giants who only exist in our minds.
This leads to a swell in inflammation, which causes us to become ill.
3. Regulated Cycles
Once again, as meditation decreases stress response, it encourages our bodies to work in their natural cycles. Stress disrupts natural processes like menstruation and sleep.
A woman may experience a lack of menstruation if she is under a lot of mental or physical pressure. This is her body making it clear that now is no time to bring new life into the world.
Someone who’s depressed or anxious may experience insomnia. Worry keeps them awake, unable to flow in their natural circadian rhythm.
Meditation decreases the stresses that lead to these problems, and in a world quite out-of-touch with nature, we can use the help now more than ever.
4. Decreased Tension in the Muscles
Meditating is a great way to bring attention to stress stored in the body. When we enter a meditative posture, it’s a good practice to scan the body. We bring awareness to tensions of which we may have been previously unaware.
Once we are aware of this tension, we’re then able to use any number of tools to release it; this could be using the breath to deepen a stretch or performing a mental exercise to let the tension go.
Types of Meditation
There are so many different kinds of meditation. Different types of mediatation practices are easier to do for longer periods of time than others. Some are also more effective in ‘short bursts’ while others still require hours.
Here, I’ll highlight 3 for you to explore. I want to add that what happens when you meditate for a long time is that methods become less important so don’t get hung up on doing it ‘right’.
1. Mindfulness Meditation
This is probably the most popular form of meditation. In mindfulness meditation, the goal is to simply bring awareness to what you are doing. Mindfulness can happen while you’re driving to work, taking your dog for a walk, or sweeping the floor.
When we practice a formal mindfulness meditation, we often enter a meditative posture like sitting cross-legged with a straight back, or sitting upright in a chair.
We close our eyes, focus on our breath, and attempt to become fully present in the moment; not looking to the future or worrying about the past. We surrender attachment to performance.
We allow ourselves to simply be.
2. Body Scan Meditation
In this form of meditation, we direct our awareness through all the different parts of our body. We move from the crown of our heads through our littlest toes, scanning the body for tensions and reactions, addressing and allowing them to dissolve.
This is a great meditation for someone who has mental fog and is feeling physically out of touch. Our body is one of our greatest allies if we are diligent, paying attention to its messages.
3. Walking Meditation
If sitting still brings you discomfort, try a walking meditation. This is a beautiful form of meditation in which you pay attention to every… single… step.
Breathe in as you take a new step and exhale as the ball of your foot hits the earth. Imagine a lotus springing up from the ground with each stride.
The goal here is to keep the meditative state throughout the movement. When the mind begins to wander, bring focus back to the simple act of the stroll.