9 Health Benefits of Meditation

by Janet Elaine
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When done properly, meditation offers a variety of health benefits. Many scientific reports show that meditation has beneficial effects on physical health and psychological well-being. The meditation practice is essential to improve focused attention, calm the mind, improve intuition, or develop mindfulness.

Some of the studies concluded that meditating even 20 minutes per day is enough to experience positive results. Besides calming the mind, meditation reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, improves concentration, and much more.
Some meditative practices are categorized into complex emotional and attention-regulatory strategies developed to attain well-being and emotional balance. These strategies are found to be helpful in coping with anxiety, depression, and other emotional stress. In fact, meditation can be just as effective to treat anxiety to a similar degree as antidepressant drug therapy. Here you will find the nine most common health benefits of meditation.


1. Meditation Helps Managing Stress

The studies have shown that if people meditate even for a brief period of time during the day, their stress level decreases. If meditation was practiced before the stressful event, the individuals experience less or no stress at all. Meditation also reduces activity in ‘me’ centers of the brain enhancing connectivity between the brain regions. Similar research found that regular practices help to stabilize grey matter volume in the brain.

If wandering thoughts preoccupy your mind during the meditation, try to focus on breathing instead. Breathing will also make you calmer, relaxed, and happy. A study from Harvard Medical School shows that mitochondrial energy production, resiliency, and consumption were improved for those individuals who practiced meditation. As a result, the immunity and resilience to stress were much better than those who didn’t practice meditation.


2. Meditation Helps With Managing Depression

According to a study conducted by the University of California, mindfulness meditation decreases dysfunctional beliefs and negative thinking. Those individuals who followed a mindfulness program for at least 6 months reported that their depression symptoms decreased as well as anxiety and stress levels lowered. Mindfulness meditation is recognized to be an effective solution to overcome depression with a similar effect as antidepressant drug therapy.

Future mothers who suffer from depression during pregnancy can also benefit. According to the Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice report, the high-risk pregnant women who completed ten-week mindfulness meditation training have reduced their depressive symptoms significantly.


3. Meditation Helps With Managing Anxiety

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More than 20 randomized controlled studies were published on the benefits of meditation in PsychInfo, PubMed, and the Cochrane Database. Because of their increasingly widespread use and appeal, scientists conducted a concise and thorough review of the current state of scientific knowledge of these practices as medical interventions. They saw a potential in meditation to use in medical therapies as it helps regulate anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.

Patients who cope with medical and psychological problems are using meditative techniques frequently. Even a single meditation session is proven to be beneficial for managing anxiety symptoms.

Similar research involving 9-week compassion cultivation training (CCT) showed an improvement for individuals in all three types of compassion: for others, receiving compassion from others, and self-compassion. In addition, participants experienced a decreased level of worry and emotional imbalance.

Some types of meditation practices allow mediators to non-reactively monitor their experience from moment to moment. The open-monitoring meditation, for example, allows them to view the nature of cognitive and emotional patterns of their behavior.

There are many mechanisms of neuroplasticity of the brain including the growth of new connections and the creation of new neurons. For the period of meditation, neuroplasticity is changing in response to experience. As a result, it reduces the gray matter density in areas of the brain related to anxiety and stress.

Meditation was found to decrease symptoms of panic disorder, according to the American Journal of Psychiatry. In the given research, 22 patients diagnosed with anxiety or panic disorder went through three months of meditation training. At the end of the training, the effects of panic and anxiety were reduced substantially for 20 of these patients.

Additional reading about mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention: The Official Journal of ADAA, Science Direct, APA PsycNet, Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, Medical News Today, and CCARE.


4. Meditation Helps to Lower Blood Pressure

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Meditation is linked to lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. Individuals with high blood pressure were able to lower it by practicing relaxation techniques and thinking pleasant thoughts. Those who have practiced meditation daily were able to reduce possible side effects caused by hypertension drugs. During the experiment, a “relaxation response” technique was used. In the end, the stress and high blood pressure were reduced after 3 months of meditation.  As a result, these individuals needed fewer medications. The relaxation techniques resulted in the formation of nitric oxide that opens blood vessels.


5. Meditation Helps With Information Processing

Meditation is also good for your memory, attention, thought processing, and consciousness. Long-term meditation releases larger amounts of gyrification (“folding” of the cortex) that contributes to faster information processing.

The amount of gyrification handles the brain better at information processing, forming memories, improving attention, and decision making. After many years of meditation, the connection between the brain cells strengthens and enhances neural processing.

According to a new study, even 10 minutes of meditation already turbocharges the brain and increases the concentration in the grey matter. Even short-term meditation improves mental performance and concentration. In an experiment conducted at Harvard University, the neuroscientists observed 16 people who submitted to the eight-week mindfulness course.

Guided meditation and mindfulness were integrated into everyday activities. At the end of the course, MRI scans revealed an increase in grey matter concentration in the areas of the brain involved in memory and learning, a sense of self, and emotion regulation.

Other studies discovered that those who meditated long-term had larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of the grey matter. Besides improved information processing, mindfulness meditation improves rapid memory recall. Researchers have discovered that this type of meditation enhances mental abilities, including rapid memory recall.


6. Meditation Helps With Alcohol and Substance Abuse

A growing number of studies show that meditation helps to stabilize self-control regions of the brain and can be very effective in helping people recover from various types of drug or alcohol addiction. Three of these studies were done on some type of meditation concluding that it is a very effective method to reduce alcohol and substance abuse.


7. Meditation Helps With Insomnia

Meditation can be helpful for individuals who suffer from insomnia due to racing thoughts. Sometimes it is hard to force yourself back to sleep and the harder you try the longer it takes. Use this awake time to meditate and calm the mind to fall asleep faster.


8. Meditation Helps With Pain Relieve

The research conducted by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre studied 15 volunteers who have started meditation training in 20-minute classes practicing breathing techniques. The participants’ brain was examined using ASL MRI before and after the meditation session. The pain was inflicted on them by using heat.

The research concluded that only a little over an hour of meditation training was able to dramatically reduce both the pain experience and pain-related brain activation. The researchers found about a 40% reduction in pain intensity and a 57% reduction in pain discomfort. Some of the individuals confirmed that meditation relieves pain better than morphine or any other pain relievers.


9. Meditation Helps To Reduce Risk of Heart Diseases and Stroke

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Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. In a study published in Transcendental meditation, 200 high-risk individuals were asked to take a class. It took approximately 5 years of research and the end result was a 48% reduction of their risk of heart attack, stroke, and mortality in coronary heart disease patients. The results were also dependent on how low their blood pressure was and other psychosocial stress factors.

Meditation is beneficial not only for adults but also for kids. MindfulnessInSchools.org has good compilations of studies about mindfulness in schools as well as good research evidence of its many benefits.

Scientific research finds the health benefits of meditation for health support and disease prevention. It offers a variety of health benefits such as improvement of brain performance, the emotional balance that brings more happiness. To get the most out of meditation, the person needs to practice meditation as often as possible by devoting to it a few hours daily.

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