12 science-based benefits of meditation
In recent years, meditation is increasing in popularity as more and more people are aware of its benefits. Indeed, it helps to train your mind and help you to focus and redirect your thoughts.
It helps you increase your awareness of your surroundings and yourself. A lot of people use meditation to reduce their stress levels and develop a deeper concentration. Moreover, meditation is also used by a lot of people to create other beneficial feelings and habits, like a positive outlook, healthy sleep patterns, self-discipline, and even better pain tolerance.
Here are reported 12 science-based benefits of meditation.
1. Stress Reduction
Reducing stress is one of the more frequent reasons that many people give meditation a try. A study of 3,500 adults concluded that it definitely lives up to its stress reduction reputation.
Usually, increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, is caused by physical and mental stress. Cortisol creates a lot of harmful effects of stress, like the release of the inflammation chemicals, cytokines. These harmful effects promote anxiety and depression, increased blood pressure, disruptive sleep, and can lead to fatigue and cloudy thinking.
In a recent study carried out over an eight week period, the meditation style “mindfulness meditation” gave promising results as it saw a reduced inflammation response amounts to its candidates.
Another study of 1,300 people showed that meditation can reduce stress. The effects were noticeably stronger in those individuals with the highest stress levels.
Research has gone on to show that those symptoms of stress-related conditions can also be reduced with meditation. So post-traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome can all be decreased a little with meditation.
There are lots of meditation styles that can help to reduce stress. People with stress-related medical conditions can also experience reduced symptoms with meditation.
2. Controls Anxiety
Less anxiety often translates from less stress. An example, participants of an eight-week mindfulness meditation study found that their anxiety had reduced as a result. They also found that they had reduced symptoms of anxiety disorders such as social anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
In another study, 18 participants of an eight-week meditation program were followed up three years later. The results showed that most of the volunteers carried on practising meditation and their anxiety levels were lower over the long term.
A study of 2,466 volunteers, a much larger scale, concluded that different types of meditation strategies can reduce anxiety levels. An example is yoga. The reduction is most likely because the participants benefited from both physical activity and meditation practices.
Studies also show that meditation can help job-related stress and anxiety that comes from high-pressure work environments. A group of nurses who took part in a study was found to have reduced anxiety.
Making meditation a habit makes it possible to experience reduced anxiety and lower anxiety-related mental health issues such as phobias, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and social anxiety.
3. Promotion of Emotional Health
There are some kinds of meditation that can lead to people having a more positive outlook on life and a better self-image.
Two studies of 4,600 people in total showed mindful meditation leads to decreased depression.
A study of 18 people who were followed over a three year period showed that the volunteers experienced long-term reductions in depression.
Released due to stress, inflammatory chemicals named cytokines can affect one’s mood and this can lead to depression. After reviewing several studies, the results showed that meditation might reduce depression as it aids the reduction in the inflammatory chemicals.
Another study that was controlled looked at the electrical activity between those people’s brains who practised mindful meditation, and those people’s brains who didn’t. The people who meditated showed changes in activities relating to areas like positive thinking and optimism.
There are forms of meditation that can show reduced depression and help to give a more positive outlook on life. By maintaining a meditation habit, research shows that there are long-term benefits as a result.
4. Self-Awareness Enhancement
Meditation in some forms can help you to develop better awareness and understanding of yourself. This, in turn, can help you grow to be the best version of yourself.
An example is that self-inquiry meditation clearly aims to help you better understand yourself and how you relate with other people.
Other types of meditation teach you to notice harmful or self-deprecating thoughts. The idea is that the better awareness you have of your thought habits, the easier you can steer them toward more constructive habits.
21 women fighting breast cancer took part in a study. Those that took part in tai chi were found to have better self-esteem overall than those who received social support sessions.
Another study of 40 senior men and women who took a mindful meditation program showed decreased feelings of loneliness compared with those placed on the program’s waitlist.
It has also been found that by meditating, it is possible to become more creative at problem-solving.
By taking part in self-inquiry meditation and other related styles, you can really get to “know yourself.” By choosing meditation, it can be a good starting point for making other positive changes too.
5. Attention Span Becomes Lengthened
Focused-attention meditation is great for helping to increase the endurance and strength of your attention.
A study that looked at the effects of mindfulness meditation over an eight-week course period found that the participant’s ability to maintain their attention had improved.
Similarly, a study showed that workers in human resources who continually practised meditation could stay focused on tasks for longer periods of time. These HR workers could also remember the details of their tasks much better than those colleagues who didn’t take part in meditation.
Furthermore, meditation has also been found to reverse the brain patterns that lead to worrying, poor attention, and mind-wandering.
Meditation for short time periods can even be beneficial. One recent study showed that practising meditation for four days can be enough to enhance your attention span.
There are various types of meditation that can enhance your ability to main attention and redirect. Even four days can have beneficial effects.
6. Age-Related Memory Loss May be Reduced
By improving your attention and clarity of thinking, it can help to keep your mind young.
One method of meditation called Kirtan Kriya combines a chant or mantra while the fingers make a repetitive motion aimed at controlling thoughts. The result is that participants have an enhanced ability to perform memory tasks in various age-related memory loss studies.
Moreover, following a review of 12 different studies, it was found that multiple types of meditation increase memory, attention, and mental quickness in older participants.
As well as helping to fight age-related memory loss, meditation has also been found to partially improve the memory of dementia patients. Meditation can aid with controlling stress and help to improve those coping with looking after family members suffering from dementia.
By taking part in regular meditation, you could see increased memory and mental clarity. There are increased benefits as meditation can help to fight dementia and age-related memory loss.
7. Helps to Generate Kindness
Some kinds of meditation can create more positive feelings and actions towards yourself and towards others.
Metta is a kind of meditation that also goes by the name loving-kindness meditation. It starts with developing kind feelings and thoughts toward yourself.
People can learn to extend these kinds of thoughts and feelings to others through practice. It is taught to extend to friends, acquaintances, and ultimately, enemies.
Results of 22 studies of this kind of meditation showed that it has the ability to increase people’s compassion towards themselves and others.
100 adults were assigned to a program at random. The study included Metta meditation and the results found that the benefits were dose-dependent. In other words, the more effort the participants put in, the more positive feelings they felt as a result.
A further study showed that the feelings of positivity that can be developed through Metta meditation can help to reduce marriage conflict, help with anger management, and improve social anxiety.
By practising Metta meditation over time, the benefits can accumulate too.
Loving-kindness, or Metta, meditation is practised to help develop positive feelings, initially towards yourself and then towards others. Metta can help to create positivity, empathy, and compassion towards others.
8. Can Help to Fight Addictions
Meditation can help to develop beneficial mental disciplines that can see you breaking dependencies by increasing your awareness of triggers for addictive behaviors and increasing your self-control.
Meditation can help people to redirect their attention, control their emotions and impulses, increase their understanding of what is behind their behavior, and increase their willpower.
A study of 19 recovering alcoholics, who were taught how to meditate showed that those volunteers who received meditation training, controlled their cravings better and had less craving-related stress.
A review of 14 studies showed that mindfulness meditation could also help to control your food cravings. The participants showed decreased binge and emotional eating.
Meditation develops willpower and mental discipline. It can help you to avoid triggers and unwanted impulses. Meditation can help you lose weight, recover from addiction, and change unwanted habits.
9. Improves Sleep
Insomnia, at some point or another, will affect nearly half the population.
A study looked at two mindfulness-based meditation programs that assigned participants to two different groups at random. One of the groups practised meditation, and the other didn’t.
Those who meditated fell asleep much sooner and they slept for longer. Those who didn’t meditate did not have the same result.
Meditation is a skill, and embracing and learning that skill can help you to redirect and control racing thoughts that can often result in insomnia.
In addition, your body is helped to relax, tension is released, and you are placed in a peaceful state where your body and mind are more likely to fall asleep.
There are a few meditation techniques that can help you to relax and take control of the runaway thoughts that disrupt sleep. Meditation can help to shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, along with sleep quality too.
10. Helps to Control Pain
Your pain perception is directly connected to your state of mind, and in stressful situations, pain can be elevated.
One study, for example, looked at MRI techniques to see the brain activity of the participants as they experienced a painful stimulus. Some of the volunteers had participated in a four-day mindfulness meditation program beforehand, and some had not.
Those participants who meditated showed enhanced activity in the brain centers that control pain and they also experienced less pain as a result.
A bigger study of 3,500 people researched the effects of habitual meditation. The study found that meditation helped to reduce complaints of intermittent or chronic pain.
A further study looked at patients who meditate who suffer from terminal diseases. It was found that meditation could help to alleviate pain at the end of life.
In all of these situations, meditators and non-meditators were experiencing the same cause of pain, however, those who meditate showed better pain management and in some, a reduced amount of pain.
By meditating, one can reduce the brain’s perception of pain. It can help to reduce chronic pain and can also be used as an additional supplement for physical therapy or medical care.
11. Can Decrease Blood Pressure
Meditation has been proved to help reduce strain on the heart, therefore aiding physical health.
If you suffer from high blood pressure, over time, this will make the heart work harder so it can keep pumping blood. Ultimately, it can lead to weak heart function.
High blood pressure can also add to atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries). This can lead to strokes and heart attacks.
A study of 9996 participants was undertaken, and it found that blood pressure can be reduced by around five points when meditation was concentrated on a silent mantra, so a repeated, non-spoken word. The study was found to be more effective on older participants who suffered from high blood pressure already.
A review of various studies showed that different types of meditation gave similar blood pressure improvements.
Meditation seems to control the blood pressure by relaxing the nerve signals that work with the tension in blood vessels, coordinating heart functions, and the fight or flight response that heightens in stressful scenarios.
Blood pressure can decrease by meditation, and it’s also been proved that over time, it will decrease further with habitual meditation. It can aid in reducing heart strain and help to prevent heart disease.
12. You Can Meditate Anywhere
Meditation comes in many forms, and people practice all different kinds. You don’t usually need any space or special equipment. You can choose how long you practice for each day and could choose just to practice a few minutes or longer.
If you want to begin meditating, you should choose a type of meditation that is based on the results you want to gain.
There are two main types of meditation:
- Focused-attention meditation: This style is where concentration is focused on one single object, sound, thought, or visualization. It helps by freeing your mind from distraction. It usually focuses on a mantra, breathing, or a calm-inducing sound.
- Open-monitoring meditation: This style of meditation helps to acknowledge your surroundings, your environment, sense of self, and train your thoughts. It usually includes becoming aware of your feelings, impulses, thoughts that you usually try to suppress.
To work out the meditation styles you like the best, you can check them out via UCLA and Head in the Clouds free guided meditation exercises. You can work out which is best for you and your needs.
You could also consider taking part in a class. Sometimes, with busy lives, it can be difficult to find some quiet alone time consistent with practising meditation. A class can also help your chances of success and you could also find a supportive community.
Or, why not get up a few minutes early in the morning and have some quiet time then? This could help to start your day in a positive way.
If meditation is something of interest to you for your daily routine, try out some of the various styles and work out which is best for you via the free guided meditations. Or, consider joining a class.
To Sum Up
Meditation is for everyone, if you want to improve your emotional or mental health, it is a great habit to get into.
It can be practised anywhere, without the need for memberships, lots of space, or special equipment.
Or, there are meditation classes, courses, and support communities you could join.
There are many different types of meditation, each with different benefits and strengths.
Try out the different styles which match your goals, this way, you can improve your quality of life. It only takes a few minutes each day and you could soon be seeing the benefits.