I think we all know relaxation is good for us. Exactly how much is debatable though and many of us can’t imagine taking on a ritual of meditation. It’s been used for thousands of years in Asia to heal, but there’d have to be serious science to convince us of anything that’s new age. (Image via Lifescape Solutions)

Well, it just so happens that lots of research is starting to be done in this area and the results support meditation as an activity that’s part of a healthy lifestyle. Here are six benefits of meditation and three ways we might be able to foster the habit.

1. Focus: It appears that a few minutes meditating could well be worth the time spent when it comes to what we get done each day. Of course we’d expect better focus when we’re calmer and relaxed, but it also helps prioritize and single-task when we return from a sabbatical. How do I know? I tried some meditation right before writing this. (Image via Focus Features)

2. Increased Immunity: Think of meditation, when properly achieved as giving the body a break from being on constant watch. When we’re not dodging imminent danger, caring for someone else or even having to be on point at a social occasion, our body has more bandwidth for tasks like fighting disease and infection. Several studies have proven the link, whether it’s something like the common cold or the rate of cancer recurrence. (Image via Reverse Aging Institute)

3. Emotional Balance: You know when we’re so exhausted we aren’t being reasonable? Small inconveniences are calamities and we have the perspective of a small child. Sometimes it’s not even that we’re tired, but we just have way too many things going on. Meditation helps us here too. By getting away, even for a few minutes, we’re less likely to be angry, irritated with others and will be generally more optimistic. The best part is we do everyone we interact with a favor. (Image via Picwals)

4. Brain Changes: Normally we think of the brain as a use it or lose it organ, but much like when we sleep, it doesn’t shut down. It’s fascinating that time spent meditating actually changes our brain’s structure (for the better). University of Oregon researchers found that meditation can trigger increased signaled connections and density in certain parts of the brain. It’s one way we think the body protects the brain and maybe even the reason meditation can boost creativity. (Image via Psychology One)

5. Telomere Defense: Telomeres are like body armor for our DNA. Long telomeres are a sign of graceful aging, but if they erode completely, lots of things can start to go wrong. In studies looking at the enzymes that help us build telomeres, meditators has much higher levels, which is a great indication of longer and heartier telomeres. (Image via Huffington Post)

6. Less Pain: This sounds almost too good to be true, but pain reduction from meditation has sometimes been shown to exceed that of morphine, which is some pretty powerful stuff. Meditation appears to desensitize our pain by reducing activity in that part of the brain. (Image via Psychiatric News)

So we’ve talked about what weget from meditation, but it’s actually very difficult for many of us to let go. Modern life (and all its magic) has seen to that. However, here are three approaches to consider if you’d like to develop the habit. Just remember it’s like any skill. You probably won’t be that great at first, (so don’t be discouraged) but the real rewards will come to those who put in the time.

1. How to Meditate from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

2. Four-Square Breathing

3. Informal Meditation Options

Got any pro tips on meditations you’d like to share? Let’s hear it in the comments!