Meditation is becoming increasingly popular as more and more people discover its wide-ranging benefits. Although this practice has been around for centuries and mental benefits of meditation are well-known, modern science has only recently discovered a compelling link between meditation and physical well-being.
In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by thoughts and emotions. Emotional overload often results in stress and anxiety – and we all know the havoc this can wreak on our health. Nowadays, experts around the world concur that practicing a few minutes of mindfulness every day can make all the difference. The physical and mental benefits of meditation are well-documented… and very convincing. Here are six of our favorites:
Six remarkable physical & mental benefits of meditation
- A healthy heart
Studies clearly show that a daily meditation practice can improve blood circulation, lower the heart rate and help maintain a healthy heart. Psychosomatic Medicine, a trusted health publication, has published a study that indicates that frequent meditators have lower amounts of lipid peroxide than non-meditators. Lipid peroxide is a harmful compound that hardens the arteries and causes atherosclerosis. Recent studies have also indicated that practicing mindfulness meditation lowers blood pressure.
- A stronger immune system
The immune system, a crucial component of the human body, is composed of a myriad of biological processes and structures whose job is to fight disease and protect the body from foreign organisms. According to a study carried out at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003, frequent mindfulness sessions seemed to improve meditators’ immune system functions. They also produced positive, lasting changes within the brain.
- Better-controlled stress and anxiety
Stress reduction is one of the best-documented benefits of mindfulness practice. Stress and anxiety surface when we feel that the challenges and situations facing us are unmanageable. The stress hormone cortisol is released by the hypothalamus in the brain every time we get into stressful situations. Research recently showed that cortisol production decreased significantly in the brains of subjects who participated in a mindfulness program. Stress hormone levels were found to remain low hours after the meditation sessions had ended. Stress reduction contributes to more restful sleep, lower blood pressure and better discernment.
- Improved memory retention
As we age, our brain function gradually declines and memory loss is common. Based on studies with aging populations, scientists now believe that a consistent mindfulness practice can help bolster brain function and decelerate memory loss. In fact, research has shown that regular 20-minute meditation sessions can boost memory and improve brain function in those with early-stage dementia or other cognitive issues. And meditation not only supports memory and attention, it also enhances mental agility and alertness.
- Enhanced quality of sleep
Better sleep is one of the most appealing physical benefits of mindfulness practice. We all know what it’s like to toss and turn – almost half of people worldwide suffer from sleep issues of some kind and 85% of workers in the US report having lost sleep because of job-related stress. Studies show that people who practice daily meditation enjoy better, longer sleep than non-meditators. Indeed, a Dutch study cited by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine found that even ten minutes of guided meditation and other accessible practices a day for just two weeks led to an enhanced quality and duration of sleep. Note that some meditators find practice sessions so relaxing that sleeplessness isn’t the problem… sleepiness is!
- Support for women’s health
Fully 90% of all women of reproductive age report experiencing challenging physical and emotional changes during the days leading up to their menses. The symptoms range from increased irritability, difficulty concentrating and appetite changes to full-blown depression, fatigue and anxiety. Luckily, meditation has been found to help women manage their symptoms. A recent University of North Carolina study involving women who suffer from menstrually related mood disorder showed that participants who completed a mindfulness-based stress reduction course reported better pain tolerance and emotional resilience. Also, in general, it would seem that women who practice mindfulness are more aware and accepting of their bodies.
Also check out this article by meditation expert Trungram Gyalwa PhD: Benefits of Meditation for the Mind and Body.
Given the many physical and mental advantages related to meditation, there’s really no good reason not to sit and learn what meditation can do for you! Make meditation part of your life and start reaping the benefits.