Benefits of Meditation – Health, Mental, Performance & Other Benefits

Science backed meditation benefits

Meditation benefits range from mental health to physical to performance benefits and even now people are discovering new benefits from this ancient tradition of Meditation every day. Again all the benefits have been duly studied and backed by scientific research. In many cases, Meditation has proved to be a better alternative than medicines as it does not come with harmful side effects. 

Usually, with the word meditation, the image that comes to mind are Buddhist monks sitting cross-legged chanting Om or Aum. However, meditation is one of the most widely practiced stress management techniques worldwide. 

Stress and anxiety are unavoidable phenomena in human life. From the tasking nature of your daily job to the other events in your life that may be causing you an upheaval of emotions, there is always something tilting you towards stress.
Meditation is a fast and easy way to reduce stress. A few minutes of meditation can wipe away the day’s stress, relieve tension and worry, and restore inner peace.

Meditation is simple and does not require any complicated tools or devices; hence it is not expensive to practice.
The simplistic nature of meditation makes it possible for one to practice at any place. You can meditate in your office, at home, while riding on a bus, or even during a meeting. 

Initially, meditation was a technique created to understand the deep, sacred, and mystical forces of life and nature. But over the years, people realized that meditation could help them relieve stress and bring their mind and body to a place of tranquility. It is now considered a medicine for the mind and body. It is a medication with no adverse side effects, no matter how and when you administer it. In this piece, we will highlight some of the numerous benefits of meditation.

Health benefits of meditation
Infographics : Science Backed Health Benefits of Meditation

Meditation helps you control your own thoughts. Man has conquered space and Mount Everest. But the most difficult thing to conquer is your own mind. Even the greatest minds on Earth are not able to control their thoughts. Look at Van Gogh. He succumbed to his thoughts and ended his own life. They are not able to reject their negative thoughts and focus on the positive. However, the art of meditation teaches that not only that you can control your own thoughts, you can also reject your negative thoughts. Through meditation, you will be able to create the peace of mind that you always wanted and realize the true benefits of meditation.

Mindfulness reduces stress, depression, mood, and anxiety disorder

Medically, psychotherapy and antidepressants serve as the first line of treatment for depression. Over the years, experts have found that mindfulness can relieve depression by changing the brain’s response to anxiety and stress. Meditation helps the brain get sustained focus and trains the brain to return to that state of focus despite any emotional, physical, and negative sensations that may intrude when you become stressed. 

Scientists have found two parts of the brain responsible for depression- the Medial prefrontal cortex (Mpfc) and the Amygdala. The Mpfc is also known as the “me center.” It becomes hyperactive when one is depressed. The Mpfc recalls past events and makes one scared of the future. The Amygdala is also called the “fear center.” It is responsible for initiating the fight-or-flight response, which triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol from the adrenal glands in response to fear. 

Meditation breaks the link between these two regions of the brain. Hence, consistent mindfulness practice will train your brain to ignore the sensations of anxiety and stress. 

Meditation builds grey matter concentration in the brain

Studies have shown that Meditation increases the concentration of gray-matter density in the hippocampus of the brain. Grey-matter is essential for memory and learning and is also associated with introspection, self-awareness, and compassion. People suffering from recurrent depression have reduced grey matter, while Meditation leads to an increased grey matter volume. 

Meditation helps reduce alcohol and substance abuse

Meditation also serves as a therapy for alcohol and substance abuse. It enhances focus and redirects brain waves from regarding alcohol and other substances as a solution to mental and emotional instability. Mindfulness enhances the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is responsible for thinking and planning. Mindfulness also enhances self-control and weakens automatic alcohol motivation. Hence, by teaching how to not react to cravings, Meditation helps people overcome drug abuse. 

In 2018, an article titled Mindfulness-based treatment for addiction showed that mindfulness practices are a faster and more effective therapy for addiction and abuse of substances like opioids, nicotine, cocaine, and alcohol- when compared to some individual neuroscience-based psychotherapies. 

Psychological Benefits of Meditation

Meditation - Psychological benefits
Meditation - Psychological benefits

Meditation also teaches you detachment. It is easy to get annoyed by all the little things in life. It may be the jam to work in the morning, the rude lady that cut your queue. Every little small thing may annoy you. No matter how you try and avoid these problems, they will also keep appearing and we need to get used to do that. Meditation will help you develop detachment and also keep your mind in perspective. Through meditation, you will be able to detach yourself from all these irritating little nuisances.

The benefits of meditation are manifold. Meditation also helps you discover the purpose of life. If you are feeling empty inside, meditation allows you the time that you need to examine yourself inwardly and helps you gain a greater understanding on life. You will start to relax and you will be able to view your life from a whole different perspective.

Performance Benefits of Meditation

Recent studies and research have revealed the amazing effect of meditation on our performance, both individually or as a group. As competition is on the rise, more and more people find it difficult to focus and concentrate on their work. Even large corporations have realized the importance of meditation in productivity and mental wellness and included meditation in office routine. Below we have listed a few benefits of meditation in the field of performance-boosting.

Performance benefits of meditation
Infographics: Performance benefits of meditation
Improves focus

Meditation improves your focus and ability to work under stress

The world is a noisy place with many distractions that could prevent you from achieving your goals for the day. Meditation’s practice enhances your focus and gives you the strength to focus on your present task while relegating every other interference to the background. 

Research has shown that Transcendental Meditation can increase mental clarity and help one work under pressure. It does this by helping you focus, not on the problems you’re tackling, but on the solution, you seek. 

Meditation improves information processing and decision-making

New studies have shown that a simple 15 minutes’ focused breathing meditation can help in decision-making and information processing. People tend to make irrational decisions when they face unpleasant situations. These decisions are because people tend to focus on their present concerns when processing information and to decide what to do. Researchers have found that mindfulness meditation can clear the mind and make it resistant to making hasty decisions that may lead to losses. Mindfulness brings the sense back to self and points out the emotions, thoughts, or biases that may be clouding your judgment. By doing this, Meditation gives you the ability to see things clearly and make better decisions. 

Mental Strength

Meditation makes you stronger against pain: It relieves pain better than morphine

Neuroscientists have found that Meditation affects the brain’s autonomic functions and neurotransmitters. A study by researchers at Wake Forest Medical Center indicates that Meditation is indeed a pain reliever, and it could be more effective than morphine.   The researchers, led by Fadel Zeidan, noted a 57% decrease in pain unpleasantness and a 40% decrease in pain intensity after 15 healthy volunteers practiced focused-attention Meditation for 20 minutes. This result shows that Meditation reduces pain with more efficiency than pain relief drugs, which relieves pain by about 25%. 

Manage ADHD

Meditation helps manage ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disorder that results in attention deficit and inability to control impulsive behaviors. Studies have shown that patients with ADHD have weak prefrontal cortex circuits, especially in their brains’ right hemisphere. They also have reduced levels of dopamine. 

Meditation helps manage ADHD by thickening and strengthening the prefrontal cortex- both structurally and functionally. It also increases the dopamine levels – hence increased motor control. 

Improves Memory

Meditation improves learning, memory, and self-awareness

As we have already established above, Meditation helps the mind focus on the present task and ignore distractions. Meditation also increases the concentration of gray matter in the hippocampus, associated with self-awareness, memory, and learning. In one study, college students who practiced Meditation four times weekly for two weeks recorded increased memory capacity. 

Improves mood

Meditation improves your mood and psychological well-being

6. Meditation improves your mood and psychological well-being

Meditation works wonders on your mind and psychological well-being. Apart from increasing focus and concentration, it reduces anxiety and stress and boosts self-esteem. It gives you inner peace, which reflects a better mood and sound psychological state of mind.

Improves handling stress

Meditation prepares you to deal with stressful events

Stress is associated with increased cortisol levels. This stress hormone fills the mind with worry, jumbled thoughts, and anxiety. Meditation, on the other hand, puts the mind in a state of tranquility. When you meditate for a few minutes taking deep breaths, your vagus nerve signals the nervous system to reduce the heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels. This way, you’re able to deal with stressful events quickly.

Fosters Creativity

Mindfulness meditation fosters creativity

Mindfulness meditation opens the mind to new innovative and creative ideas. By improving attention, mindfulness meditation keeps the brain alert to think from new angles. Many CEOs have taken on mindfulness meditation as a way of managing stress and enhancing their problem-solving skills.

Physical Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation

Apart from the mental and performance benefits of meditation, there are quite a few more benefits, backed by science. It appears that both our body and mind can benefit tremendously from this age-old practice. The scientific community has given meditation due importance as of now. We have listed below five major benefits from recent findings, and we are sure you will find them interesting.

Physical benefits of meditation

1. Meditation reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke

Experts believe that Meditation protects the heart from strokes and other cardiovascular diseases by counteracting the flight-or-fight reaction. Meditation also reduces the risk of heart disease by aiding in the cessation of smoking, alcoholism, and substance abuse, which predisposes one to heart diseases.

2. Meditation reduces blood pressure

Meditation has proven to be effective in controlling blood pressure. Whether as a single treatment or used in conjunction with pharmaceutical medications, Transcendental Meditation can effectively cause a meaningful reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

3. Mindfulness practice helps prevent asthma, rheumatoid arthritis & inflammatory bowel disease.

Although allergens and environmental conditions are the primary triggers of asthma, when one has asthma due to an allergen (E.g., After visiting a pet store), they tend to have panic attacks that induce another asthmatic episode whenever they come close to that allergen. This kind of attack is called a panic-induced asthmatic attack

Meditation can reduce this panic by controlling the stress hormone levels that induce asthmatic attacks. Also, breathing in during Meditation increases airflow to the lungs. 

Also, as we have earlier established, Meditation is a potent pain reliever. It can help to ease the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Experts believe that this relief comes because Meditation changes the way your body reacts to pain. The relaxation response of mindfulness meditation has also been effective in managing irritable bowel syndrome and inflammation.  

4. Meditation and meditative prayer help treat premenstrual syndrome and menopausal symptoms

Numerous studies have shown that Meditation does a lot to calm tensed nerves and muscles and slow down the heart rate. It can help you come to terms with pains instead of trying to shut it out. Unlike during other times, meditating while having cramps can be very difficult. But once you get started, it helps you focuses away from your pain and connect you to your inner strength, which is more potent than pain.

5. Mindfulness meditation reduces the risk of Alzheimer's and premature death

Generally, physical exercise helps reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Research has shown that by reducing chronic stress, which predisposes one to cognitive disorders, Meditation can help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Also, through its loads of health benefits, mindfulness meditation helps reduce the risk of premature death by keeping one healthier and mentally alert.

Some other health benefits of Transcendental Meditation include- improved sleep, improved brain function and memory, a greater sense of clarity and productivity, etc.

6. Benefits of meditation during Pregnancy

Meditation helps in dealing with depression and anxiety, particularly during pregnancy.  It helps you quieten the mind, stay peaceful and relaxed, and cope with both mental and physical stress.  

Relationship Benefits of Meditation

Relationships thrive better when the people involved have a healthy and sound mind and body. Meditation cleanses your mind and brings it to a place of peace and tranquility, such that it begins to reflect in your relationship. Meditation impacts the part of the brain in charge of empathy, making you a more empathic person.

Furthermore, loving-kindness Meditation trains the heart to be kind, love and spread warmth towards others. It teaches the act of forgiveness and empathy and reduces the feeling of loneliness and worry. People who practice loving-kindness meditation live a socially vibrant life. They don’t get into self-isolation. Instead, they’re excited to spend time with other people. Experts have also shown that loving-kindness Meditation helps tackle emotional eating, chronic pain, and borderline personality disorder.

Benefits of Meditation for Kids

Kids Meditation help in Studies
Meditation can help in kids overall improvement

Meditation is not only for adults. It also has loads of benefits for kids and students. Meditation helps develop and strengthen the brain center in kids, improving their learning ability and memory. 

Like adults, kids are exposed to lots of information daily, and they also face challenges in school and in their interaction with their peers- challenges that could lead them into depression. Studies on Mindfulness intervention in children and young people have shown that Meditation can improve their sleeping pattern and self-esteem, reduce worry, anxiety and distress, and make them more aware and appreciative of their environment and their people. 

By training their mind and temperament, mindfulness can help kids reduce anxiety and reactivity, teach them to control their emotions, eschew violence, and improve their academic performance and creativity

With constant meditation practice, kids can stay more focused and approach situations with a fresher and clearer perspective. They also build empathy, which is a social capital when interacting with their friends.

Mindfulnessinschool.org compiled several studies that have shown the multifaceted benefits of Meditation in kids and students. In one of the studies reviewed, children between the ages of 10 and 13 years with self-reported depression and behavioral problems took part in a 10-week meditation program. At the end of the program, the pupils exhibited a significant reduction in depression and improved behavioral patterns.

By reducing depression in young people, Meditation also reduces young people’s chances of getting into substance abuse. It improves their cognitive ability, social skills, self-care, self-control, and self-awareness. 

Generally, children who start practicing mindfulness can grow up to become better adults at a very early age because they have improved brain capacity, a calm mind, controlled impulses, and see things via a clearer perspective. They make better decisions than their peers who do not perform meditation practices, and their retentive capacity makes them excel academically. 

Teachers can also gain from meditation

Teaching young children is one of the most stressful jobs out there. Knowing that you have lots of roles to play in developing these kids- training, grooming, nurturing, and building them into responsible adults- can be quite overwhelming. This task puts a lot of pressure on teachers and makes them get quickly burned out with stress.

Teachers are always on the lookout for ways to relax, burn off some steam, and relieve themselves of some of the stress they feel. This need for relaxation is the reason why Meditation is essential for teachers.

Meditation helps teachers clear their heads, achieve curious, open minds, and develop empathy, compassion, patience, trust, and attentiveness, all of which are virtues essential for interacting with young people.

Mindfulness also improves teachers’ physical and mental health, making them prepared for the teaching profession’s arduous task. It also makes them self-efficient and motivated enough for them to motivate the students under their care. The increased attention span that comes with Meditation equips the teachers to pay more attention to the individual kids under their supervision. They tend to become more compassionate and understanding of the peculiarity of every child’s unique learning needs.

What is the best way to get all the benefits of Meditation?

Regular practice is necessary to get you the result you want, and daily Meditation becomes a habit. Meditation doesn’t take as much time as other physical exercise does. A simple 20 minutes’ Meditation for beginners every day can help you achieve a calm mind and connect better with your inner self. If you do this daily, with time, Meditation becomes a part of your daily routine, and you’ll begin to see positive changes in so many aspects of your life. Within the first two months of regular daily Meditation, you will start to enjoy all the benefits. 

Consistency is the key to derive benefits out of meditation
Download Zen Lounge for Meditating

1. Consistency

Consistency is the key to success in many aspects of life. Just like weight training, you don’t start seeing all the results in one day. Instead, the more you put in efforts into hitting the gym every day, the more you’ll see your muscles becoming bulky. This same rule of consistency and payoff applies to Meditation. 

2. Eat light

 

Meditation is best done with a light or empty stomach because it lowers the body’s metabolic rate. Digestion, on the other hand, requires a high metabolic rate. Hence, it is best to practice Meditation on an empty or light stomach

3. Find a quiet place

 

If you’re a beginner, you need to find a quiet and conducive spot for your meditation practice. By the time you get accustomed to the act, you can meditate anywhere, no matter the crowd or noise around you. 

Sometimes, when meditating, some thoughts may crawl into your mind to distract you. Don’t push those thoughts away or try to resist them. Instead, observe them and watch your mind make peace with them. That way, not even negative emotions can deter you from connecting with your inner self and appreciating the beauty within you. 

Summing up - meditation and happiness

Lastly meditation leads to happiness and peace of mind. As we have pointed out before, it helps you control your thoughts. So it is out with the negative thoughts and in with the positive energy. It detaches you from little petty problems and also helps you discover the purpose of life. So try meditating today to live a better life tomorrow.

Meditation is like a seed; if you cultivate it with love, it will grow and blossom. Today is the best time to start planting and watering this seed. 

Share

About the author

You may be also interested in-
Nature and mental wellness

How does Nature Influence our Mental Wellness?

Research shows that being in green spaces can improve your psychological state by relieving stress and reducing anxiety, depression, fear, and anger. Exposure to nature contributes to our mental wellness – a pleasant state of mind and improved health by lowering heart rate and stress hormones.

Read More »