The health benefits of meditation have been documented for a number of years. Meditation has long been used by practitioners and gurus to quiet the mind and achieve higher states of consciousness. Practiced for over 5,000 years by Taoists and Buddhists across Asia, the earliest documented texts on meditation appear in the ancient Indian teachings of the Vedas. Today, over 600,000 people from around the world participate in Oprah and Deepak’s widely popular 21-Day Meditation Experience™. And thanks to celebrity endorsers like Hugh Jackman, Russell Simmons and Ellen DeGeneres, secular meditation or meditation devoid of religious context has gained mainstream appeal.
BRANCHES OF MEDITATION
Steeped in eastern mysticism and rooted in Southeast Asian culture, different branches of meditation sprung from various Zen and Buddhist traditions. These branches include:
- Zen meditation: stemming from Chinese Zen Buddhism (Ch’an), this type requires practitioners to focus all their attention on the movement of their breath. The main objective of zen meditation is to remain as rooted in the present moment as possible.
- Mindfulness meditation: comes from the Buddhist practice of Vipassana or insight meditation. Practitioners focus on accepting the present moment, making sure to pay attention to any sensations, thoughts, and emotions that may arise, but doing so non-judgmentally.
- Taoist meditation: focuses on improving health and longevity by uniting the body and spirit.
- Mantra/Om meditation: uses a mantra, a syllable or word, to focus the mind.
- Transcendental meditation: a specific type of mantra meditation focused on promoting self-realization, as was first introduced to the west during the 1960s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
TECHNOLOGY AND MEDITATION
Current advances in brain scanning technology have made it easier for scientists to track the effects of meditation on the brain. A 2015 UCLA study found that long-term meditators had better-preserved brains as they aged compared to non-meditators. Physicians nationwide have begun to accept meditation as an alternative treatment for a multitude of conditions including stress, tension headaches, and anxiety. According to Madhav Goyal, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine, “meditation appeared to provide as much relief from some anxiety and depression symptoms as what other studies have found from antidepressants.”
In recent years, the effects and health benefits of meditation on the brains of Tibetan Monks have been documented by neuroscientists. In a study conducted by Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin, Tibetan Monks showed large increases of gamma waves previously unreported in neuroscience literature.
SCIENCE AND MEDITATION
A research group from the University of Montreal found Zen masters who practiced a form of Zen meditation called zazen, experienced less pain. During the study, researchers measured the Zen Master’s brain activity while exposing them to painful heat. Though the brain experienced discomfort, the zen masters perceived it as less painful in their minds. These incredible feats by long-term meditators highlight only a few of the amazing benefits of meditation.
Harvard neuroscientists found that participants of an eight-week mindfulness course showed an increase of gray matter in the parts of the brain involved in learning and memory. Meditation has even been adopted by schools across the United States. Children who use meditative techniques have exhibited decreased symptoms of depression, anxiety, hostility and an increase in social skills and optimism.
The enormous mental, spiritual and health benefits of meditation have led many people to turn to the ancient discipline. Long-term meditators enjoy reduced stress and a heightened sense of empathy, creativity, and compassion. Experts believe that individuals who meditate for as little as 20 minutes a day can enjoy the health benefits of meditation. To help you better understand the health benefits of meditation we put together this amazing list.
30 HEALTH BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
1. LOWER HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
Daily meditation can lead to a slower heart rate and breathing, which increases blood flow to the heart. This results in lower blood pressure, reduced stress, and improved cardiovascular health.
2. REDUCE ANXIETY ATTACKS AND STRESS
Daily stress and anxiety can wreak havoc on our immune system and emotional state leaving us susceptible to disease. Developing a regular meditation practice can lower levels of blood lactate and other stress-related chemicals in the body.
3. DECREASE TENSION-RELATED PAIN
A 2011 MIT study suggests meditation may reduce a person’s response to pain. Subjects trained to focus on specific physical sensations instead of pain were able to relieve some of the discomfort associated with chronic conditions. This may be beneficial for individuals who suffer from tension headaches, muscle, and joint problems.
4. IMPROVE MOOD AND BEHAVIOR
Regular meditation increases serotonin levels resulting in a greater sense of optimism and overall positive outlook on life.
5. IMPROVE THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
There are many health benefits of meditation. Daily meditation may strengthen an individual’s immune system (and lymphatic system) by stimulating blood flow and eliminating free radicals that cause cellular damage.
6. INCREASE FOCUS
Studies suggest meditation can increase creativity, improve memory and strengthen one’s ability to focus.
7. REDUCE INSOMNIA
A study by the University of Minnesota showed patients with chronic insomnia were able to fall asleep and stay asleep more effectively after adhering to a three-month meditation program.
8. LOWER RISK OF HEART ATTACK OR STROKE
A study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes found that participants who followed a daily meditation routine experienced a 48% reduction in their overall risk of heart attack and stroke.
9. EASE COMMON MENOPAUSAL SYMPTOMS
Stress associated with menopause can lead to memory loss, osteoporosis and weight gain. Daily meditation may help relieve these symptoms resulting in greater overall health and well-being.
10. DECREASE EFFECTS OF DEMENTIA
Studies suggest that meditating daily improves the memory and cognitive processes of people suffering from dementia.
11. HELP MANAGE ADHD
Adult ADHD patients submitted to Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy displayed reduced hyperactivity and impulsivity, and increased the ability to “act-with-awareness.”
12. IMPROVE RELATIONSHIPS
By becoming more aware of our thoughts and feelings through meditation, we are able to become more accepting of other people.
13. REDUCE INFLAMMATION
A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that mindfulness training was more effective in treating inflammatory symptoms than other activities.
14. TREAT FIBROMYALGIA
In a study published in PubMed, participants suffering from fibromyalgia experienced an improved sense of well-being following an 8-week mindfulness training program.
15. MANAGE HEART & RESPIRATORY RATE
Participants in a study published by the Korean Association of Genuine Traditional Medicine experienced a decrease in heart rate and respiratory rate for up to 8 months after practicing “Integrated Amrita Meditation Technique.”
16. DECREASED SENSE OF LONELINESS
A study by the Carnegie Mellon University found that mindfulness meditation training had been useful in decreasing feelings of loneliness.
17. REDUCE EMOTIONAL EATING
Transcendental Meditation has been effectively used to manage emotional eating.
18. INCREASED SENSE OF HAPPINESS
Studies show that meditation increases brain signals in the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for positive emotions.
19. IMPROVE CREATIVITY
Experts have found that “open monitoring” meditation is extremely beneficial in fostering creativity.
20. INCREASED SENSE OF CONNECTION
People who focus inward during meditation reportedly feel a greater sense of connection to others.
21. BUILD CONFIDENCE
During meditation, people are able to deal with negative thoughts that chip away at their self-esteem making them feel confident and self-assured.
22. INCREASED RESILIENCE
Meditation makes people more flexible and better able to handle stressful situations.
23. REDUCE THE NEED FOR SLEEP
Researchers from the University of Kentucky found that meditation provides a short-term performance improvement even for novice meditators.
24. EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Research has found that people who meditate daily show more empathy and compassion.
While the link between stress and fertility are unknown, women who participate in stress-reduction techniques were more likely to become pregnant.
26. IMPROVEMENT OF SOCIAL SKILLS
Studies show that children who use meditative techniques show improved social skills, confidence and less social anxiety.
27. IMPROVED MEMORY
The health benefits of meditation has even been used to service teaching professionals. Teachers that use meditation report having improved spatial and working memory.
28. SUPPORT CLARITY
Research from Stanford’s care project found that compassion-based meditation helps regulate emotion and support clarity of mind. This clear thinking is an effect of reacting less from ego-based thoughts.
29. ALLOW PEOPLE TO TEMPORARILY ESCAPE
Instead of abusing drugs or alcohol, meditation can be used as a healthy way to “escape” from daily stressors.
People who meditate for as little as 20 minutes a day reportedly feel more calm and rejuvenated. Focusing inward allows people to enjoy a little “me time” after a hectic day.
I hope you enjoyed the information we provided for you about the health benefits of meditation and you are now convinced that it has tremendous health benefits. More important that the health benefits of meditation can be experienced by both novice and long-term meditators. Please let us know if you have any questions and please share this article with anyone who you believe can benefit. Thank You!
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