Most people like to think they continually strive to be better than they were the day before, and volumes of books have been written on a variety of techniques for self-improvement. For some, the path to self-improvement is littered with steep hurdles that are too difficult to jump, and this is usually the case with those who suffer from any sort of addiction or mental illness. One of the simplest ways to help you overcome your own vices and to improve yourself is through the practice of meditation.

What Is Meditation?

Historians believe that mediation was first developed in India 3,000 to 4,000 years ago, and over the centuries the practice was refined by spiritualists seeking a deeper understanding of themselves, others, and the world around them. Meditation became the central practice in Buddhism, and Buddhists believe it is an essential element in achieving the highest state of mind possible. In this state of mind, you shed all worldly concerns and fears and become one with the universe.
One mistake commonly made by those unfamiliar with meditation is to assume there is only one way it is done, but there are dozens of meditation methods available today that focus on self-improvement. Some types have you sitting still and letting go of all conscious thought until you simply exist undisturbed. Other types require chanting certain sounds or calmly repeating phrases aimed to help you relax and focus on specific goals.
Whichever type of meditation you practice, the goal is always the same: to bring about a change in your consciousness that rises above the chatter of your busy mind, which includes your worries and fears. The primary object of meditation is mindfulness, to be mindful of your own body, your own thoughts, the actions and intentions of other people and the state of your environment.

The Practice of Mindfulness

Meditation is the art of mindfulness. We live in a busy world, and lead such busy lives that we rarely have a chance to think about what we are doing at the time we are doing them. We rush from one task to the next, juggling several items of importance and our minds race from one topic to the next, imagining all the worst possibilities and pitfalls.
Through meditation, you can learn to quiet your mind when it is busy thinking about the future, worrying about horrible events that will never happen, thinking about the past, or regretting all your bad decisions. Meditation can help keep you in the present moment so you understand exactly what it is you are doing and how you feel about it.
Once you reach a state of mindfulness, you stand to benefit in a number of ways that will eventually lead to self-improvement. When you practice meditation regularly, you will soon realize the following psychological benefits:

• Your attitude about yourself and your life will change. You will be more content with what you have, but you will also want to strive to be the best person you can be.
• You will begin to take pleasure in all your daily activities no matter how unpleasant they seemed in the past. You will understand that improvement takes work, and work can be very satisfying.
• All of the worries you have had about the future and all of the regrets you hold about the past will begin to fade and disappear as you engage completely in the moment, at the task at hand. Your self-esteem will improve, and you will realize your full potential and capabilities.

Meditation also helps with your physical health. Doctors and medical scientists have verified that meditation and mindfulness can improve your health in the following ways:

• Relieve stress
• Lower blood pressure
• Provide restful sleep
• Improve digestion
• Improve circulation

Medical researchers studying meditation have discovered that those who practice it are capable of overcoming many psychological disorders, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, and other forms of addiction. Meditation is now regularly used in conjunction with traditional forms of therapy, such as those provided at behavioral health clinics or addiction treatment centers like The Lakes Treatment Center in California.

Getting Started with Meditation

It is simple to get started with meditation. Anyone of any age or mindset can begin to meditate with only a few basic instructions. First, you will want to find a quiet and comfortable place to sit. Take a few deep breaths, paying close attention as you inhale and exhale. Notice all the sensations you are feeling in each part of your body, from your fingertips to your toes. Be aware of all the sensory input you are experiencing: the sights, sounds, and smells. Allow yourself to reflect on your emotions without judging them or yourself.
Give yourself fifteen minutes to thirty minutes to remain in this state, then stand up and go about your business. You will find that some of this mindfulness is carried with you throughout the day.

Meditation is a great way to improve yourself and get yourself into a position where you are satisfied with your life. It can be very helpful for addiction because as you stay in the present, you will allow your cravings to pass without the need to fulfill them. Rather than simply wishing the cravings to go away, you will be certain that they will subside.

Author's Bio: 

Eileen O'Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking. Check out her Twitter @eileenoshanassy.