35 Benefits of Meditation for Mental and Physical Health

If you’ve been searching for a way to help manage your stress and manage your thoughts, meditation may be a helpful tool for your health and wellness. 

Research shows that meditation has many different benefits for the body and mind. And the good news is you don’t have to be able to sit in a crossed-legged position to see those benefits. 

35 Benefits of Meditation for Mental and Physical Health

What is meditation?

Meditation is the practice of increasing your awareness of your mind and body. Multiple forms of meditation have been around for thousands of years from cultures and religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.

Here are some popular types of meditation:

  • Mindfulness training
  • Transcendental meditation
  • Loving-kindness meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Body scan
  • Visualization

There has been a growing interest in meditation for its benefits for health and well-being. There is now research to back some of these benefits up. 

Top 10 health benefits of meditation

Training the mind has some powerful effects on the body, both for mental and physical health. The research supporting the benefits of meditation training continues to grow as more studies dive into how it affects the brain and body.

1. Reduces stress

Leading a stressful life can actually have an impact on the health of your brain. Research shows that stress can increase cortisol levels and weaken areas of the brain involved in memory and learning, like the amygdala and hippocampus (Yaribeygi, 2017). This makes finding strategies to reduce stress important for your health. Research shows meditation practices help to lower stress levels (Janssen, 2018).  

2. Increases creativity and productivity

Some forms of mindfulness meditation, like visualization, have you practice picturing images in your mind. Practices that help you think in different ways to visualize objects, tasks, and goals can help to boost creativity. 

Meditation has also been studied for how it can help in the workplace. One study showed, in addition to increasing creativity, meditation also increased productivity and improved colleague relationships (Kersemaekers, 2018). 

3. Helps manage anxiety and depression

Practicing mindfulness and meditation helps to lower anxiety levels. One study showed it could help lower symptoms of depression, and these effects lasted for six months after completing meditation therapy (Saeed, 2019). 

Another study looked at transcendental meditation techniques and found that the practice helped lower anxiety in people with chronic anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (Orme-Johnson, 2014).

4. Increases attention and concentration

Just like lifting weights helps muscles become stronger, meditation can help your brain tissue grow. 

Meditation practices involve focusing your attention on specific actions, thoughts, or things. The prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula are areas of the brain that play a role in attention. Research shows that meditation practices increase the thickness in these areas of the brain, helping to improve attention, concentration, and self-awareness (Lazar, 2005). 

These changes in the brain last, suggesting that practicing mindfulness can have a long-term impact on your mental health (though more research is needed to confirm this).

5. Reduces memory loss

Meditation may also protect your mind from age-related changes, memory loss, and dementia. Neuroscience research studies have explored how mindfulness meditation practices affect the hippocampus (a part of your brain that plays a role in your memory). One study showed that Vipassana meditation, a type of introspective mindfulness meditation, could help increase hippocampus connections and have long-term effects on memory. They reported that meditation could be an important piece in helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease (Lardone, 2018). 

6. Improves mood

A meditation practice could also help to boost your mood. Controlling racing thoughts while reducing anxiety and stress can have a significant impact on your emotional well-being. Research shows that meditation practices help some people process emotions better. It helps you control how intense your emotions feel, recognize that they don’t last forever, and spend less time dwelling on negative emotions (Wu, 2019). 

7. Helps you sleep better

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70 million people in the U.S. have sleep problems (CDC, 2017).  Meditation could offer a solution to ending your insomnia without medications. One study showed that mindfulness-based therapy helped reduce insomnia symptoms and time spent awake, and it helped to end some people’s insomnia completely (Ong, 2014). 

8. Lowers blood pressure

A regular meditation practice may help lower heart disease risk by helping to manage blood pressure. One study showed that participants had lower blood pressure after just eight weeks of using mindfulness meditation techniques than the control group (Ponte Marquez, 2019).  

9. Reduces pain

Managing chronic pain can be challenging, especially for people who would like to avoid taking pain medications. 

Your thoughts about pain can change how you perceive your pain. Types of meditation that practice noticing sensations and pain in your body without judging or reacting to it may help control pain. A review of 30 studies suggested that practicing mindfulness may help to reduce pain and improve quality of life (Hilton, 2017). 

10. Improves IBS symptoms

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be a complex disease to manage because the cause of it isn’t always clear. It can be affected by stress levels, the foods you eat, sleep, inflammation, and other factors. 

Research shows that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) training may help to reduce IBS symptoms. The improved symptoms may be from lowering stress levels or increasing the awareness of your body, making it easier to find the triggers for your symptoms (Naliboff, 2020).

11. More peace of mind

With meditation, the practitioner gains clarity. This clarity helps the practitioner in realizing the importance of his or her real-world possessions, relationships and meaning of life from different perspectives. These perspectives help in analysing different situations and infer different meanings which brings peace of mind as it brings the complete truth.

12. Problems become smaller

We have emphasized how meditation makes the mind filled with clarity and rationality. With this, the problems are addressed by the mind in a different way than usual. The mind analyses the problems from a different point of views and deduces the pros and cons of the situation. This helps in better understanding of the problem, and with more knowledge and understanding of the problems, they become smaller.

13. Improves focus

Meditation sharpens the mind and also makes it more focused as proven by a study. It improves the analytical abilities of the mind and increases the ability to take a crucial decision at the right moment. 

14. Increases concentration

Meditation helps in focusing on the mind, which leads to better concentration. With improved cognitive abilities achieved through meditation, the practitioner can keep his or her concentration for longer duration time in anything productive. It also helps in keeping the mind shielded from distractions which can interrupt the concentration.

15. Causes mind expansion

Meditation allows the mind the venture into different aspects of life, and as mentioned before, to different planes of realities, gain different perspectives, have extra-ordinary experiences which opens up the mind to truth and new realities. This reduces tension, frustration and anger over mundane things of life which we make a mountain out of a molehill.

16. Expanded consciousness-

Meditation leads to expanded consciousness as the mind begins to sense the reality in a better way; the subconscious mind becomes active. The sharpness of mind also increases, which increases the chances of the practitioner of progress and taking actions in meaningful causes. 

17. Increases self-awareness

Everyone has blind spots when it comes down to emotions, thoughts, and behaviours, but meditation can assist in conquering this particular ignorance. Meditation involves paying attention to current experience and doing so in quite a non-judgemental way which assists the practitioner to overcome the most daunting roadblock in self-awareness, which is, not knowing their own weakness and shortcomings.

18. Lowers stress levels

Lowered stress is among the most important benefits of meditation. Meditation actually assists in lowering the body’s cortisol levels, which is stress hormone. Meditation helps in achieving higher levels of focus on the present and lower cortisol levels. The stress relief occurs within a few months of practicing meditation, even though the effects start showing earlier. Few days of meditation makes the practitioner calm while doing a stressful task. 

19. It decreases loneliness

Daily meditation assists in staving off the feelings of loneliness. Studies have shown that meditation helps in reducing inflammation levels in the practitioners meaning they were at much lower risk of developing any serious illness, and these results are due to stress-relieving benefits of meditation since stress actually enhances loneliness as well as increases inflammation. A study has shown that meditation assists in reducing inflammation.

20. Increase compassion

Meditation isn’t about feeling good, but becoming a better person. After a few weeks of meditation, a practitioner becomes more aware of problems of others and empathy increases or appears. Meditation assists in becoming much more compassionate as well as experience love for all of the sentient beings.

21. Decreases hyperactivity

While a lot of people suffer from inactivity, depression, emotional instability etc. there are some people who are hyperactive. This hyperactivity makes them take irrational decision all of a sudden, often bringing troubles to them or others. Meditation helps in calming the mind of such people. As a practitioner meditates, his or her mind becomes much more relaxed and starts to view actions in rational ways. This brings in a new perspective and positive feeling of concern of fruits of his or her action. The practitioner becomes much more aware of how his or her actions are going to affect himself or herself or the others. Hence, the practitioner becomes careful in taking a decision, stops acting on whimsical thoughts and avoid irrational acts. A study has also proven the impact of meditation on reducing hyperactivity and even impulsivity.

22. Controls racing thoughts

A lot of people suffer from a condition which is common in bipolar disorder, which is racing of thoughts. Even if a person is not suffering from this disease, he or she might have to deal with racing of thoughts. It is a state when a person jumps from one thought to another, without any logical connection or purpose. Meditation helps in controlling the thought process. As a practitioner starts to learn on focusing on one thought and then try to achieve thoughtlessness, the control on the thoughts increases. This reduces the problem of racing of thoughts as the practitioner can control it at his or her whim. This helps a lot as racing of thoughts often lead to inactivity or hyperactivity, swing between these extreme states, that is not beneficial for anyone. 

Spiritual Benefits of Meditation

Meditation doesn’t have any particular religion and can easily be practiced by anyone regardless of his or faith they follow. However, the roots of meditation lie in Indian or Hindu culture, Buddhist culture, but the practised is offered to anyone who wishes to achieve semblance in life along with a balance. There are few spiritual benefits of meditation which are as follows.

23. The transition from someone to part of cosmic entity

Meditation helps in the effortless transition from a person to merge with the infinite. As we have mentioned earlier, meditation takes the practitioner to new planes of realities and introduces him or her to unknown spaces of the mind. Meditation helps the practitioner in recognizing himself or herself as an inseparable part of the entire cosmos. This connection creates a sense of understanding of morality within the practitioner and makes him or her consider himself or herself as part of the ever-expanding universe.

24. Achieving harmony with nature

As a practitioner gets into a meditative state, he or she enters in the space of huge vastness, joy and calmness. This is what the practitioner emits into the environment too. This process brings harmony to the planet or the world. As the practitioner becomes a contributor to harmony in nature, he or she achieves the same harmony with nature himself or herself.

25. Brings personal transformation

As the practitioner of meditation becomes more calm, rational, self-aware, focused etc. a true personal transformation happens. As the practitioner learns more about himself or herself, he or she starts discovering about himself or herself naturally and even love himself or herself. This personal transformation starts from within and reflects on outside later. People start noticing the change in the practitioner and wonder about the reason.

Professional Life Benefits of Meditation

If your professional life is marred with stress, low morale, or emotional health issues, you should practice meditation. Meditation has a plethora of wellness and amazing benefits for working professionals, and it impacts positively on them. Let’s look at some of the professional life benefits of meditation.

26. Relief from workplace stress

Workplace stress affects most of the professionals. Almost everyone feels stress on the job, and a lot of professional seeks help to learn how to manage this stress. When this stress is left untreated, it can certainly lead to chronic stress and even burnout. Both of these can cause mental and physical consequences. Meditation is quite a simple way to reduce workplace stress and tension quickly in the workplace. A few minute meditation practices can assist professionals in clearing their minds and also feel more relaxed.

27. Improves work relationships

Social interaction, along with work relationships are certainly important aspects of professional health as well as wellness. Practicing meditation with other people in a group can easily promote social interaction and build a sense of unity. Also, practicing meditation helps in improving a working professional’s ability to manage healthy professional relationships by means of fostering a more positive attitude and outlook.

28. Improves decision-making

Since meditation assists in relieving built-up workplace stress and tension, it can boost a professional’s decision-making skills. Practicing meditation actually teaches the brain to focus better and concentrate on the present moment that can assist the professional to make more rational decisions. Also, the thought process becomes more clear, and the professional can look at the problems from different perspectives which help him or her in making better decisions. It also helps in improving leadership skills by increasing self-awareness, emotional intelligence as well as positivity.

29. Increases resiliency

Meditation helps in building resiliency. Meditation can assist in making a professional more resilient. By learning stress coping as well as management skills like as daily meditation helps the professionals learn how to effectively and efficiently deal with different emotional triggers or workplace stress. This is explained in detail in the book Wise Mind, Open Mind by renowned psychotherapist, Dr. Ron Alexander.

30. Enhances memory

Studies have found a link between memory and meditation. Meditation directly affects the structure and function of the brain and changes it in such ways that it appears to increase attention span, improve memory and sharpen focus. Also, according to a study, grey matter concentration actually increases due to meditation in the different areas of the brain which are essentially involved in learning as well as the memory, even regulating emotions, also a sense of self and having a perspective. 

Other Benefits of Meditation

31. Helps to fight against addiction

The mental discipline which is developed through meditation may actually help you in breaking the dependencies by means of increasing self-control and awareness of different triggers for the addictive behaviours. As per research, the meditation may assist the people in learning to redirect their own attention as well as increase their willpower and even control their emotions and impulses along with increase their own understanding of the different causes behind their own addictive behaviours. It has been found that recovering alcoholics been taught meditation resulted in the participants who received better training got much better at controlling their cravings as well as craving-related stress. Meditation also assists in controlling food cravings. Studies have found that meditation assists in practitioner to reduce the emotional as well as binge eating. Hence, it helps in reducing body weight and fat and avoid certain diseases like diabetes, heart disease etc. 

Meditation develops willpower and mental discipline, which can help the practitioner to avoid triggers for any unwanted impulses. This can certainly assist in recovering from addiction, along with losing weight as well as redirect other unproductive, unwanted habits.

32. Improves sleep

Millions of people in the world struggle and suffer from insomnia at some point. However, meditation helps the practitioner to fall asleep sooner as well as stay asleep longer. Also, becoming a skilled practitioner of meditation assist the practitioner in controlling or even redirecting the racing thoughts, discussed earlier, which often lead to insomnia. Along with this, it can easily assist in relaxing the body, releasing the tension and even placing the practitioner in a peaceful state in which he or she is more likely to fall asleep. A plethora of meditation techniques can assist the practitioner in relaxing and controlling the racing thoughts which interfere with the sleep. This can certainly shorten the time it actually takes to fall asleep as well as increase sleep quality.

33. Helps in controlling pain

The perception of pain is essentially connected to the state of mind, and it can certainly be elevated in case of stressful conditions. For instance, a study was done to use functional MRO techniques in order to observe the brain activity of the participants as they were given a painful stimulus. Some participants had gone through a few days of meditation training while others not. The meditating patients show increased activity in the centres of the brain known to control pain. They also reported significantly less sensitivity to pain. An additional study of patients that practiced meditation and were suffering from mental illness found that it helped in mitigating chronic pain at the end of their life. 

In both of these scenarios, the meditators, as well as the non-meditators, experienced the similar causes of pain but the practitioners of meditation showed a much greater ability to cope with their own pain and even experienced a significant reduction in the sensation of pain. 

34. Improves athletic abilities

Some of the key benefits of meditation can potentially impact the workouts of the practitioners. People who tend to practice transcendental meditation actually have similar brain functioning to the professional, elite athletes. Sitting in silence every day doesn’t actually mean you are ready to win a marathon but it can certainly help you in developing the required mental grit as well as traits of the top athletes. Also, it can help you in pushing your body through pain.

35. Helps in coping with illness

Dealing with diagnoses of illness can be unimaginably rough. However, meditation can help in this regard. In a study, it was found that when women with breast cancer practiced meditation along with art therapy, their entire stress, as well as anxiety-related activity, changed.  Meditation also helps patients in rheumatoid arthritis, combating the stress as well as the fatigue associated with this disease, as per a recent study.

Getting started with meditation

Now that you know the benefits of practicing mindfulness, you may be wondering how to get started practicing. There are many apps, videos, and classes available to help guide you through meditations. 

When you’re getting started, it’s recommended to practice daily meditation in a quiet, distraction-free environment to help you focus and prevent the mind from wandering. But you can practice these techniques anywhere, like walking meditation or doing a few breathing exercises before a meeting. 

REFERENCES

Dr Rohit Bhaskar, Physio
Dr Rohit Bhaskar, Physio Dr. Rohit Bhaskar, Physio is Founder of Bhaskar Health and Physiotherapy and is also a consulting physiotherapist. He completed his Graduation in Physiotherapy from Uttar Pradesh University of Medical Sciences. His clinical interests are in Chest Physiotherapy, stroke rehab, parkinson’s and head injury rehab. Bhaskar Health is dedicated to readers, doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. Bhaskar Health audience is the reason I feel so passionate about this project, so thanks for reading and sharing Bhaskar Health.

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