There are so many benefits of meditation. What many don’t realise is that it has health as well as psychological benefits. The good thing about these benefits is that they are not just “new agey” mamby pamby”, as I’ve often heard it called. Many of the benefits of meditation is proven by scientific research.
In fact, there have been over 1,400 different studies on meditation and all of them have come to the same conclusion. That meditation is beneficial! It can enhance our lives in so many ways.
In my blog, I have listed eleven widely known benefits of meditation. For some, I have included research conducted and links to their work on the subject. Hope you find it beneficial.
Meditation needs to be seen as a tool in your toolbox of health and well-being so to speak. You could have a few other things that keep you well with meditation being one of them.
As you begin to incorporate meditation as part of your routine daily practice, you may find the following changes in your life.
1. Helps to reduce your mind from wandering too much
Do you ever find that you go from one thought to another thought, then another thought? Then at the end of it you have a headache and you feel exhausted. Meditation can actually help with that.
Research from Yale University has found that meditation decreases the part of your brain that makes you do that. It is often referred to as “monkey mind”, ruminating thoughts or worrying. Meditation has a quiet effect on this.
2. Found to be just as good as anti-depressants
There is also some evidence now that meditation is just as good as medication but without any side effects. In the study From the American Journal of Nursing that is linked here, they found that meditation helped with both anxiety and depression.
The results in their study sounded low but if you consider also that it has no side effects. Also coupled with our self-help techniques, great overall improvements will be made to help you feel better. Also, the study did not look at all forms of meditation to make that comparison.
I provided a list of eight different types of mediation here in my previous blog. I know that there are hundreds of different types of meditations around the world.
3. Helps to improve your senses
There are specific types of mindfulness meditation that you can do to help you to focus on your different senses. You do this by focussing on what you hear, smell, see, touch and taste.
Sara Lazar a Neuroscientist studies the impact of yoga and meditation on various cognitive and behavioural functions. Sara Lazar found that when she compared people who meditated and people who didn’t use brain scans, she found that those who meditated brains were developed in areas such as sensory awareness, empathy and creativity.
4. Decrease in stress and depressive symptoms
Stress is found to be one of the biggest issues in the world today. The World Health Organisation identified it as this generation’s massive issue.
Stress just causes so many problems within our bodies and minds alike.
Sara Lazar carried out further research where she sent people that have never meditated on an eight-week mindfulness meditation course. She compared their brain scans before and after. She found changes in their brain structure in just eight weeks.
Their brains showed increased levels of empathy, more creativity, decrease in stress and depressive symptoms. Watch her video on it here as she describes what happened in her experiment. She start to talk about the experiment at 1:04
5. Meditation and Aging
Richard Mendius a Neurologist discusses in this interview how people who are long-term meditators have some protective effects against some of the things we see happening in aging brains in particular dementia.
The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre found that meditation plays a crucial role in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s. They compared a group that didn’t meditate against a group that meditated for 2 hours a week. Here is a link to his book here that explains it all – Buddha’s Brain The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom by Mendius, Richard
Other studies found that it helps the elderly to feel less lonely and isolated
Reduces the stress hormone cortisol which is known to increase the risk of developing dementia
It also helps with the part of the brain associated with decision-making and memory
6. Meditation and Addiction
One of the main benefits of meditation is that it will help you to train your brain to be happy and naturally high without the need for heroin, alcohol, crack, cigarettes, excess food etc. It loads your body with good hormones such as endorphins.
A study carried out by the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol abuse (Scott et al) found that one year after starting meditating 77% of the patients were still completely drug-free. Anyone that has ever worked in addictions know this is a great result.
There are so many ways you can use meditation to recover from an addiction. Meditation is a natural dopamine-releasing activity that has zero side effects. You can meditate to help you feel relaxed when managing cravings and eventually help to manage your emotions.
7. Helps you to sleep better
Meditation will not only help you to feel more relaxed but will also help you to sleep better. David Black and others carried out another study in 2015 on Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in sleep quality. This was done with older adults who then had more difficulties with sleep. They compared one group that had mindfulness training for 6 weeks against the other group that didn’t.
They found that there was an improvement in their sleep quality
The other benefit of meditation is that if you can’t sleep and you try to meditate at least you will be more relaxed. Meditation would be the next best thing to sleep.
8. Improve Memory Loss
Studies have found that meditation helps in both preventing memory loss and improving age-related memory loss.
Work by Kirtan Kriya found that with just 12 minutes a day of meditation, they saw improvements in the memory of the people in their studies. It also helped those who were supporting them who were also stressed.
They found that practices such as meditation are important for the maintenance of cognitive function alongside other things such as diet, exercise, mental stimulation, and socialising, Meditation needs to be part of a wider program.
9. Kindness to yourself and others
One thing that can come out of depression and anxiety is not caring for yourself.
There are some types of meditation that will help to increase positive feelings towards yourself and others.
Metta, a type of meditation also known as loving-kindness meditation, starts with trying to have kind thoughts and feelings towards yourself.
10. Meditation helps in dealing with ADHD
Meditation is a good way to calm your mind and improve your focus.
It strengthens your ability to control your attention and also makes you more aware of your emotions, so you are less likely to act impulsively.
11. Other Stress-related illnesses
Stress-related symptoms such as gastrointestinal symptoms, headaches, tightness in your chest, chest pain, inflammation, muscular pain etc. Also, the Congressional Prevention Coalition estimates that 90% of disease is caused or complicated by stress.
Studies have repeatedly shown that meditation is effective for reducing stress. The evidence is overwhelming. As it will help manage your stress, it will also help to manage some of the physical symptoms you are experiencing.
What to do next
It’s very important that you understand the major benefits available far outweigh the small cost of time associated with it. For me, another major benefit of Meditation is that it is free, has no side effects, and is available to anyone regardless of their social status, time available, and life circumstances. It is also a practice that you can start now without no training or experience.
It is available to all of us.