To start, Oprah mediates. Not to mention, Kobe Bryant, Arianna Huffington, and Paul McCartney all meditate, too!
During moments of stress, like before a speech, they’re able to fill their minds with a sense of calm. Actually, all it takes is a few deep breaths. Sure, they’re trained professionals, but anyone, even introverts, can tap into the power of meditation.
Thus, meditation can be truly mind-altering…literally.
By forming new connections in the brain, it can make you happier and smarter.
Here are seven of the top health benefits of meditation:
Treats anxiety and depression
Improves focus and memory
Reduces chronic pain
Now, let’s take a closer look at how meditation can enhance your life:
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is time spent training the mind for stillness. Furthermore, Mindfulness meditation is a popular form of meditation where you let your thoughts and emotions flow freely, observing them without judgement.
7 Health Benefits of Meditation
The goal of meditation is to relax and calm the mind.
As a result, stress, anxiety, and depression can make way for positive emotions and better cognitive functioning.
Here are seven of the top health benefits of meditation:
1. Reduces Stress
Many of meditation’s health benefits are linked to stress reduction.
Consequently, short periods of stress, like when you’re working under a tight deadline, are a normal part of life.
However, if you’re stressed all the time, this can lead to hormone imbalances, heart disease, and digestive issues.
Ultimately, chronic stress can trigger inflammation throughout the body.
But by reducing production of the stress hormone cortisol, meditation can support mental health.
For example, a 2013 study found that a single four-hour meditation course significantly reduced the cortisol levels of a group of medical students. (1)
But that’s just one of many studies…
Across the board, meditation takes a bite out of stress.
When the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia reviewed 45 studies on meditation and stress, here’s what they found:
“Overall, meditation practice leads to decreased physiological markers of stress in a range of populations.” (2)
Additionally, researchers found that the more you meditate, the more relaxed you become. (3)
In other words, it’s a lot like building muscle by working out, except that with meditation your building a stronger brain.
2. Treats Anxiety and Depression
Roughly 13 million adults have social anxiety disorder and 15.7 million have depression. And that’s just the United States alone! (4)
To make matters worse, it’s not uncommon for someone to suffer from both anxiety and depression.
Luckily, meditation can treat both.
Most of the studies on meditation and anxiety/depression involve patients with serious illness.
Therefore, natural treatments are especially important for these groups because their stress levels tend to be high.
For example, up to 50% of patients on hemodialysis have some form of anxiety and/or depression.
In one recent study, hemodialysis patients significantly reduced anxiety and depression by meditating just once a week for eight weeks. (5)
3. Improves Focus and Memory
It can be hard to focus when you’re distracted by stress and anxiety.
However, the worst part is that your productivity can suffer, and then you’re livelihood might be at risk.
Thankfully, a consistent mediation program can reduce negative emotions and help improve focus.
For example, a 2010 study found that mindfulness training can improve cognition with just one 20-minute session. (6)
Plus, students at the University of California Santa Barbara improved scores of memory and focus after just two weeks of daily mindfulness training. (7)
4. Enhances Creativity
According to several recent studies, meditation can improve creative thinking.
For example, a 2012 study found that, “Mindfulness improves insight problem solving.” (8)
At the same time, a second 2012 study found that, “Mindfulness practice reduces cognitive rigidity.” (9)
5. Improves Sleep
Can meditation really help you sleep better?
Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland think so…
In 2019, they reviewed all the literature on meditation and sleep, which included 3303 total records and 18 trials with 1654 participants.
Thus, they concluded that, “Mindfulness meditation may be effective in treating some aspects of sleep disturbance.” (10)
Additionally, their review also included a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. (11)
In the study, meditation reduced insomnia in older, sleep-deprived adults.
6. Increases Empathy
Want to experience deeper, more intimate relationships?
Empathy is the ability to feel emotionally connected to the people around you.
As we’ve become more connected through social media, we’ve become less connected emotionally.
At the same time, professional care-givers can get burnt out with their stressful jobs.
Luckily, meditation can enhance activity in areas of the brain linked to empathy.
For example, a 2011 study found that practicing meditation increased empathy in long-term caregivers. (12)
7. Reduces Chronic Pain
Chronic pain from autoimmune disease and osteoarthritis can be debilitating.
Thankfully, meditation may be able to take the edge off the pain.
Over time, chronic illness can train the brain to expect pain.
In the end, neurons may fire long after the original source of the pain is gone.
Yet, according to several studies, meditation may reduce the perception of pain through a common pathway. (13) (14)
Moreover, some of the most effective ways to treat chronic pain are diet and exercise, but now meditation can be added to the list.
Resources for Guided Meditation
Meditating isn’t always easy.
In fact, many people struggle with meditation at first.
Furthermore, it can be challenging to calm the mind and uncomfortable to sit still for long periods.
Thankfully, there are several high-quality meditation apps available on both iOS and Android.
Simply follow the instructor’s silky-smooth voice towards a feeling of serenity.
Some particularly outstanding apps include Waking Up by Sam Harris, Headspace, and Calm.
If you’d like more advice about meditation, feel free to contact us at Complete Care Health Centers.
We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about meditation and mental health.