Find more Zen: 7 ways meditation can boost your wellbeing

If you believe meditation is only about finding inner peace, think again. Research shows there are plenty of surprising perks to carving out some quiet time.

From reducing stress to improving mental health and happiness, millions of people worldwide have adopted the ancient practice of meditation as an antidote to hectic modern life.

A growing body of scientific evidence suggests the benefits go beyond finding inner peace.

Here are eight unexpected advantages to opening your mind to meditation.

Meditation can help you find more time

Mahatma Gandhi once said, I have so much to accomplish today I must meditate for two hours instead of one”.

That may sound counter-intuitive, but experts agree setting aside time to meditate will boost your productivity and help you avoid distraction.

Quiet Mind Meditation teacher Sarah Fletcher calls this phenomenon ‘Buddha time’.

“By pausing to stop the frenetic activity, you free up your mind space and come back to your day to discover you have more than enough time to get everything done,” she says.

Meditation helps boost brainpower

A compelling study by Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar found meditation increases the size of areas of the brain responsible for cognitive function.

Neurological studies have also shown a link between meditation and memory.

Meditation Association of Australia board member Zoe Kanat, who teaches mindfulness to first-year Monash University medical students, says it’s a powerful tool to help information absorption.

“Mindfulness can really help to improve learning,” she says.

Meditation may help reduce mistakes

Just 20 minutes of meditation can alter brain activity to help you recognise errors, according to a Michigan State University study.

Zoe says mindfulness can actually help you make fewer mistakes in the first place.

“We’re so distracted, we’re not paying attention in our daily lives,” she says.

“Mindfulness trains us to focus.”

Meditation may help control cravings

If mindless eating is sabotaging your diet goals, a spot of meditation could help.

Experts believe meditation can help us make healthier food choices.

“When you are calm and mindful you make better choices in all aspects of your life, including what you eat,” Sarah says.

Meditation may help banish colds

There’s increasing evidence to suggest meditation might help you kiss the sniffles goodbye.

A Psychosomatic Medicine study showed mindfulness strengthens the immune system, while in 2012, 150 over-50s took part in research that demonstrated meditation could help stave off acute respiratory infection.

Meditation may improve your sex life

Many experts believe meditation enables you to better connect with your own body and boost your sex life.

A 2016 study even found practising mindfulness can increase sexual arousal.

Sarah says most people are disconnected from their own bodies, which canhave a negative impact on sex.”

Meditation can help you be open-minded

Meditation is also believed to reduce prejudice, with several recent studies exploring the idea that mindfulness makes us more accepting of others.

“In meditation, we come face-to-face with our judgment,” Sarah says.

“Through meditation we learn we have to be kind, to ourselves and to others.”

Written by Dimity Barber.