Meditation has become my non-negotiable morning practice. I admit, there are some days I don’t do yoga. It happens.

But for the past few years, there are no days I don’t meditate. And it’s hard to pin down the reason for this total commitment to a practice that I’ve only been doing regularly for a handful of years.

All I can say is that, I can’t imagine my life without it.

It’s a spiritual discipline I’ve grown to love, with obvious benefits of meditation abound: decreased stress and anxiety, increased present moment attention, and a clearer mind—these are some of the most common reasons people meditate. But what about some of the more surprising side effects of a steady meditation practice?

Meditation gets even more interesting when you realize some of its fringe benefits. Let’s take a look at a few...

Meditation Fosters Emotional IQ

I could also call this one meditation decreases off the cuff reactivity. You get the point.

The more we meditate, the more we reside in the pause between cause and effect.

Here’s an example: Your spouse says something that really gets your goat, so to speak. Instead of going haywire and reacting with an emotionally unreasonable response, you pause. You see that he or she is saying whatever it is, for whatever reason. You don’t take it personally. You realize they’re only human, with the same crazy monkey mind as you. (Learn more in Get Your 'Monkey Mind' to Unwind Using These 4 Methods.)

You respond with grace and poise. While this may not be the case for overwhelming, sleep-deprived days that happen from time to time, it will be the case for most interactions the more you meditate.

Meditation Helps You Trust Life

I have to say, that one of the most positive benefits of my meditation practice is that I’ve been much more secure in the fact that I can trust that the Universe will lead me exactly where I need to go—especially when I pay attention to the signs around me.

And meditation helps me pay attention.

It helps me trust that all is happening for a greater purpose. And that there is such a thing as divine timing. Meditation helps me to adapt to the pace of nature and a profound trust in the natural rhythm of life. Patience and presence are two characteristics of nature, which become much more a fabric of my own character the more I meditate.

With this awareness, I trust that all will be well. (Learn more in Guided Meditation for Finding Your Life's Purpose.)

Meditation Improves Cardiovascular Health

Most people don’t begin a meditation practice to prevent cardiovascular disease—not yet, anyway. As more and more scientific studies are done, and as meditation continues to make its way to the masses, this will likely change.

At the moment, however, improved cardio health is definitely a fringe benefit of meditation. Studies have been done on seasoned meditation practitioners that have found these meditators have a decreased risk of heart disease compared to their non-meditating counterparts.

Research supports that meditation actually improves the heart’s function, while decreasing blood pressure and also improving our mental perspective on life in general. This positive outlook often leads to healthier habits that further support heart health.

Sleep Improves When You Meditate Regularly

Yet another delightful fringe benefit of meditation is better sleep at night. One reason for this has to do with the awareness of thoughts that meditation brings about.

Rather than ruminating at night, I’m better at seeing my thoughts for what they are—just thoughts—no more no less. When I’m able to witness my thoughts, without getting lost in them, sleep becomes much easier to fall into.

What’s more, studies support that meditators not only fall asleep faster, they also stay asleep longer. If that’s not a reason to begin meditating, I don’t know what is! This particular fringe benefit is truly timely, given that in this day and age, it’s said that nearly half the world’s population will suffer from insomnia during at least one phase of their lives.

Meditation Decreases Physical Pain

Here’s an interesting tidbit: your experience of pain is directly related to your perception of it. I’ve noticed this firsthand. I also heard of a story about a monk, who had some kind of painful eye operation, during which a needle was stuck into his eye without anesthesia. He experienced little or no pain, so that story goes by my former meditation teacher.

It makes sense though, given the fact that the way you perceive pain depends upon your mental state.

I’ve noticed how I’m way less attached to physical pains these days, whereas before, I was more apt to get caught up in pain and even ruminate about it. And, the deeper you go with meditation, the more you’ll realize how you’re so much more than your physical body anyway. This decrease in identification with your physical body naturally lessens your experience of physical pain. (Learn more in Exhaling Muscle Pain & Tension: 3 Benefits of Yogic Breathing (Plus a Sample Exercise).)

May you all find time to meditate not only for mediation’s obvious benefits, but also for its more obscure ones!