Want to be focused, get sick less and laugh more often? Try meditation, an ancient practice that can support calm and inner peace as you grapple with the challenges of everyday life.

How does meditation work?

1. It frees your mind of clutter.  When you meditate, you practice focusing your attention on one neutral object, which helps you let go of the clutter in your mind and achieve mental clarity. Think of it as cleaning out your closet so you can see what’s in it, or turning off noisy music so you can hear what’s going on.

2. Your mind, free of clutter, works better.  Meditation gives your brain more space to process important information about your life, your job, or your family, rather than be consumed by distractions and petty, personal dramas that take away from what matters most to you. Better able to sort things out, you make smarter choices. You also have greater capacity to learn new things and be more creative when there’s more space in your mind.

3. As you get rid of clutter in your mind, you let go of stress.  Meditation reduces your heart rate and slows your breathing, which helps your body function better. Stressed out frequently or chronically, your immune system becomes depleted, and you’re ripe for every office cold. Many doctors champion stress reduction as a path to great health benefits such as restful sleep and fewer aches and pains, to name a few.

4. When you’re less stressed, you’re happier.  Just about all of us would agree that when you’re not stressed out, you laugh and smile more. Countless studies have found that our happiness depends on how well we manage our own stress, but you don’t need to turn to the experts to understand this simple truth. Try meditation and experience immediate results for yourself.

5. When you’re happier, you’re healthier.  Recently, Harvard School of Public Health researchers found that being positive and optimistic is associated with lower levels of inflammation and a lower risk of heart disease. They also found that happy people are more likely to make healthier choices, both in diet and lifestyle.

Get Started Today
There’s no need to wait. Start by trying to breathe deeply for a minute or two, and you’ll feel something right away! This will be just the beginning of what can become a life-long practice to improve your health and state of mind. There are many forms of meditation, of course, and you’ll need to find the right one for you. Whether you decide on Kundalini yoga, or the Chinese tradition of Qigong, meditation takes time and practice, but it’s worth it to live a smarter, healthier and happier life.