Meditation is something I’ve heard a lot about, but never really thought about doing because I had no idea it had so many health benefits! Especially after researching all of the health benefits of meditation, I can’t believe that such a simple practice can help the body in so many ways. Meditation can help improve your immune system, reduce pain and even improve insomnia! Now that I not only learned the benefits of meditation but also the research behind the benefits which prove that it really works, I’ve made meditation a priority and a part of my daily routine.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is mostly well known for helping promote relaxation and calmness, but it also does much more than that. It is described as the practice of inducing a mode of consciousness. Meditation can be viewed as concentrating on something or imagining something that creates peace for us.
There are several different types of meditation. Most involve being in a quiet spot where you’re comfortable and focus on something (your breathing, sensations/what you’re feeling, or visualizing).
For example, you may meditate by focusing on the present, being aware of where you are and what you’re feeling in the moment. Not focusing on the past or future.
10 Health Benefits of Meditation:
1. Improves Your Immune System
Practicing meditation significantly increases your immune system. One study from 2013, found that participants who meditated regularly had an increase in their immune system function. This was particularly noted in patients with suppressed immune systems and those with cancer or HIV. Another study found that people who meditated had an increase in antibodies in the blood that fight viruses such as the flu and infections.
2. Reduces Stress and Cortisol
Meditation is one of the best and simplest ways to help reduce stress, lower cortisol, and promote relaxation. Studies have found that if you practice meditation for as little as 10 minutes a day, you can significantly reduce stress and decrease anxiety. One study found that people that meditated for an hour one time a week for seven weeks effectively decreased mood disturbance in both males and females of all ages.
Another study found that participating in just a 4 day meditation program resulted in a lower serum cortisol level in the blood, which signifies a decrease in stress.
Ever since I started meditating, I’ve definitely noticed that I feel more relaxed and less stressed.
3. Reduces Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
There’s quite a bit of research supporting the effectiveness of meditation for reducing anxiety and depression. Meditation is very relaxing and calming. It involves training your mind in a level of awareness and focusing on the present where you don’t worry about day to day things. It gives your mind a break from the worry and stress.
A review study at Johns Hopkins University found that meditation resulted in a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression similar to that of antidepressants!
Studies have even shown that those who participate in an 8 work course in meditation see results in reducing anxiety and depression even for years after the course is over.
A specific type of meditation called mindfulness meditation has also been found to help relieve symptoms of social anxiety.
4. Reduces Inflammation in the Body
This is one of the most surprising benefits of meditation I learned about when researching. Meditation is effective at reducing inflammation in your body. A study found that those who participated in an 8 week course of mindfulness meditation training saw a reduction in stress-induced inflammation better than those that altered their diet and exercise level.
5. Lowers Blood Pressure
One study found that meditation was so effective for 40 out of 60 patients with high blood pressure, that they could stop taking blood pressure medicine.
Meditation helps promote relaxation and is very calming. Practicing meditation helps blood vessels to open and improves blood flow, which aids in decreasing blood pressure.
6. Reduces symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Ulcerative Colitis
Meditation can help alleviate symptoms of both Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). Many researchers are unsure of exactly how it works for these conditions are unknown, but the results are undeniable.
When a group of patients with IBS practiced meditation for 8 weeks, more than 38% reported a significant improvement in symptoms.
Meditation may help reduce the frequency of flare-ups with IBS and IBD related to stress.
7. Helps Improve Sleep and Reduce Insomnia
A doctor from Harvard University describes meditation as one of the best ways to trigger a “relaxation response”. Those that have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep through the night often see a great improvement by meditating daily. One study found that adults who practiced mindfulness meditation 6 times noted improved sleep and less insomnia.
Meditation was also found to help those with insomnia to fall asleep twice as fast on days they mediated compared to before.
The results appear to also last long term. 91% of people that participated in a meditation course who were on medication due to sleeping difficulty, reported reducing their medication dose or completely stopping the medication.
8. Improves Mood and Makes You Happy
Meditation increases serotonin (the happy chemical) which makes you feel good and boosts your mood. Those that are under high stress or dealing with depression often have low levels of serotonin.
Meditation has been found to result in changes in brain circuits that are crucial in regulating emotions.
9. Reduces Pain
This is another very interesting benefit of meditation. I never would have guessed that meditation could help relieve pain. Practicing meditation has been found to help reduce pain from common headaches to pain associated with fibromyalgia. This study showed that meditation can help reduce pain from headaches.
Another study found that meditation reduced the symptoms of muscle pain and fatigue for individuals with fibromyalgia.
10. Helps Your Heart – Lowers Heart Rate and Improves Blood Circulation
Meditation is very relaxing and helps lower your stress hormones produced in the body which in turn lowers your heart rate. It’s been found that those who meditate have lower heart rates, better blood circulation and lower levels of lipid peroxide (which can lead to atherosclerosis).
Even just meditating one time for 10 minutes can lower your blood pressure immediately.
How to Meditate:
There are different types of meditation you can use to get the benefits. The 2 most common are guided meditation and mindfulness meditation.
- Guided meditation generally involves listening to a tape/teacher and visualizing certain places or experiences.
- Mindfulness meditation involves being fully aware at the present moment. You may focus on noises you hear in nature if you’re outside or you can focus on just your breathing.
To learn more about how to mediate, I found this site to have some helpful tips.
How Often Should You Meditate?
Meditating for just 10 minutes every day has be shown to provide many the health benefits mentioned above. When you’re just starting out with meditating and getting used to it, you may want to start with one or two minutes as you’re learning to do it.
Have you ever tried meditation? Let us know what benefits you’ve noticed from doing it.