10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Meditation
Oct 27, 2022
By: Ashley Welch
A meditation practice can improve your physical, mental, and emotional health in a number of ways.
Meditation is an ancient practice dating back thousands of years. It’s a technique used to bring attention and awareness to the mind to create a sense of grounding.
While people all over the world have enjoyed the numerous health benefits of meditation for millenia, modern medicine is only just catching up with quantifying its many positive impacts on the mind and body.
Whether you have an established practice or are a complete novice, take a look at all these scientifically-backed ways meditation can benefit your health.
1. Stress Relief
Many people find their way to meditation as a means to manage stress. A number of studies show that the practice lives up to its reputation as a stress reliever.
When we become stressed, our bodies release the hormone cortisol, which is responsible for the “fight-or-flight” response. Chronic levels of stress means consistently elevated levels of cortisol, which can lead to chronic low-grade inflammation. Over time, this can have a ripple effect and contribute to chronic illnesses, including heightened blood pressure, disturbed sleep, and an increased risk of depression and anxiety.
Research shows meditation can help mitigate the effects of stress on our bodies. One study found an 8-week meditation program led to a reduction in the inflammatory response brought on by stress.
2. Anxiety Management
Stress and anxiety often go hand-in-hand, and research has shown meditation can play an important role in controlling anxiety, as well.
One study involving 93 people with generalized anxiety disorder found that 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation led to a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms.
What’s more, having a steady practice over time can lead to long-term mental health benefits. According to one study, people with anxiety disorders who regularly practiced meditation over a three-year period had significant improvements in their mental health throughout this time.
3. Regulation of Mood and Emotion
Meditation can help regulate emotions, boost mood, and even reduce symptoms of depression.
One study found that a 13-minute mindfulness meditation session practiced daily for 8 weeks corresponded to better mood, as well as enhanced memory and attention and lower anxiety levels.
Another study that followed 38 adults on a 3-month yoga and meditation retreat found that participants experienced a significant reduction in depression symptoms at the end of the program.
4. Chronic Pain Management
One of the many goals of meditation is to help you accept what you cannot control and empower you to redirect how you respond to thoughts and feelings.
An emerging area of scientific research is focusing on how meditation can help people cope with the physical sensation of pain.
Some studies even suggest that mindfulness meditation can actually influence the way the brain responds to pain. Researchers analyzing MRI scans have found that people who completed an 8-week meditation course experienced structural changes in the regions of the brain responsible for pain sensitivity.
Other research has found that meditation can help ease other health issues that often occur in people with chronic pain, including depression and anxiety.
If you live with pain, you’ll want to pay attention to your posture while meditating. The Float Meditation Cushion is ergonomically designed to help you find the proper posture for meditation, allowing you to focus on your inner journey.
5. Better Concentration
Since the goal of mindfulness meditation is to bring awareness to the present moment, it only makes sense that the practice would help improve focus and concentration. A number of scientific studies back that up.
One study of novice meditation practitioners found that listening to a brief 10-minute meditation led to better attention and accuracy while completing a task compared to those who did not listen to the meditation.
Similar research found that people who meditated regularly over a number of years had a longer attention span and performed better on a visual task than participants who had never practiced before.
Studies using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at the brain have found that meditation may even help reverse brain patterns that are associated with worrying, mind-wandering, and inattention.
6. Improved Sleep
Oftentimes at night our minds wander and our thoughts begin to race, ruminating about the past or worrying about the future, making it difficult to fall asleep. Meditation can help you redirect these thoughts and bring you back to the present moment. This, along with the state of relaxation that meditation can induce, can help you fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep.
One research review found evidence that meditation can improve sleep quality in people with significant sleep disturbances, including those who have been diagnosed with insomnia.
Another study found meditation significantly reduced the amount of time people with insomnia were awakened during the night.
7. Lowered Blood Pressure
Meditation also has a number of physical health benefits.
Stress is a major contributing factor to high blood pressure, so if meditation can help reduce stress, it can in turn impact your blood pressure readings.
One review of nine trials found that meditation has the potential to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (the numbers on the top and bottom of blood pressure readings, respectively.)
Another review determined meditation is particularly helpful for blood pressure management in older adults, those with already high blood pressure levels, and women.
8. Gastrointestinal Disorders
The mind and the gut are closely linked and many people with gastrointestinal disorders also suffer from mental health issues like depression and anxiety. The co-occuring conditions often affect one another in a circular pattern.
Research shows that a meditation practice can help improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea), ease anxiety associated with the condition, and improve quality of life of those affected.
9. Aids Weight Loss
Some research suggests practicing mindfulness meditation can lead to weight loss by helping people stay motivated and focused on their goals.
Mindful eating can also have an impact. This meditative technique involves purposefully paying attention to our food and the experience of eating, including tastes, colors, smells, and textures. It also means paying attention to your hunger and satiety cues. In other words, you eat when you feel hungry and stop when you feel full. While the purpose of mindful eating is not to lose weight, many people find they do when they adopt this way of experiencing food.
10. Addiction Management
The self-awareness and learned impulse control that comes with a meditation practice makes it a powerful tool for addiction management.
Emerging scientific research suggests that meditation may help people reduce cravings and addictive behaviors.
One study found that a daily meditation practice among people with alcohol use disorder was associated with lower levels of psychological distress, alcohol cravings, and alcohol use after three months.
To reap the health benefits of meditation, you’ll want to establish a regular routine. If you’re new to meditation, check out this guide on how to get started with your practice.