Date: 4 July 2024

7 Benefits Of Meditation, According To Science

7 Benefits Of Meditation

The multiple benefits of meditation are well-documented, encompassing mental, physical and emotional health aspects. One merit that stands out is its ability to strengthen the immune system and help you fight cancer. If you’re looking for a natural way to reinforce the disease-fighting cells in your body, improve your sleep and boost mental health, observing your breath could be the antidote. Learn below seven science-backed merits of meditation.

 

1. Boosts Sleep Quality and Duration

Poor sleep quality is one of the main reasons people try meditation, especially when pills are slow to act or no longer work. Is it effective, though? A study on 413 adults who underwent a 4-day meditation retreat proved it could be the remedy. The participants’ sleep quality score significantly improved in both quality and duration until week 26, the study concluded. 

Meditation is a natural cure for sleep problems. Explore it as an alternative to pills.

 

2. Reduces Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Mental fatigue, which stems from engaging in cognitively demanding activities over a long period, increases the perceived effort needed for your next task. The result is higher physical and cognitive distress. Meditation practitioners believe in the mind-body connection and leverage mindfulness as a way to counter these biological and psychological overloads. 

In a randomized trial, 122 students were divided into meditation and control groups. Meditators engaged in breathing exercises daily for 15 minutes each session. After four weeks, researchers found a significant reduction in the mean scores for depression, anxiety and stress in practitioners compared to nonpracticers. 

According to Dr. Gregory P. Gasic, neuroscientist and the co-founder of VMeDx,“The act of meditating helps to reduce the cortisol stress hormone, which in the majority of cases causes stress as a result of some situations. Lowering the levels of cortisol lowers the stresses that are experienced by the body and therefore, leads to improved health and overall happiness.”

Dr. Tom Ingegno, DACM, M.S.O.M., L.Ac., says, “Meditation helps your vagal tone. The vagus nerve is a key component in your autonomic nervous system response. This is your fight or flight vs. rest and digest modes. Meditation has been shown to not only reduce stress but help reset your stress response,”

These benefits of meditation make them an effective complementary therapy for people with high risk for mental health conditions. 

 

Meditation Reduces Stress Anxiety And Depression

3. Promotes Happiness and Emotional Well-Being

Meditation gurus have a light, optimistic aura that’s a source of positive vibes for others. It turns out to be one of the upsides of the practice, and there’s science-backed evidence to it. 

Researchers grouped 221 students into three — the first two practiced loving-kindness meditation and compassion meditation respectively, while the third one led the control.

Experts discovered those who meditated, regardless of the practice type, increased their overall positive emotions more than controls. They were happier and less sad. Between the two, loving-kindness meditation was more effective at evoking optimism. 

If you feel down and want an instant positive boost, just close your eyes and direct benevolent, loving energy toward yourself and others. 

 

4. Increases Attention Span

Meditation can also help fix attention span issues if you struggle to keep your mind on one thought. To prove this, researchers divided 43 older people into two — the first one did focused attention meditation while the control group listened to music.

For four weeks, the first group practiced three 20-minute guided meditation sessions weekly. Scores on Sustained Attention to Response Task were recorded to determine the difference. After the study, researchers found that meditation participants had better attention spans, as demonstrated by their higher attention scores than the control. Moreover, they improved their inhibitory control — the ability to regulate their attention, behavior, thoughts, and emotions — and exhibited better working memory performance. 

Meditation is training for the brain. Try it if you want a natural fix for productivity woes.

 

5. Keeps the Brain Sharp and Healthy

Sitting with nothing but your thoughts can be highly beneficial as it can protect you from further cognitive decline. 

Experts wanted to find out the effect of meditation on older people with mild cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer’s disease, so they divided the group into two — one control and one that started meditating for six months. 

Using special brain scans from MRI results to measure cognitive influence, they found that those who meditated showed positive changes in cortical thickness and volume of gray matter compared to those who didn’t. These merits were apparent in the frontal cortex, parietal cortex, thalamus, and hippocampus regions, which are associated with thinking, executive control and memory. 

Long-term meditation practice can help people with high risk for cognitive impairment delay the further decline of their abilities, keeping the brain sharp and well-functioning for longer.

 

Meditation Keeps The Brain Sharp And Healthy

6. Lowers Blood Pressure

Hypertension contributes to cardiovascular risk, a leading cause of fatality in the U.S. Fortunately, it’s a modifiable risk factor with lifestyle changes, including meditation or any mindfulness practice.

In a study of participants with over 120/80 blood pressure, researchers found that mindfulness awareness practice (MAP) and health promotion program (HPP) that include a healthy diet and other lifestyle shifts could be valuable as a multimodal mind–body intervention on blood pressure. 

Meditation decreased the participants’ systolic blood pressure from the start of the study to week 13 by up to 19 mmHg compared to only 7 mmHg in the HPP group. The meditation group saw a reduction of up to 12 mmHg in their diastolic blood pressure compared to only 1 mmHg in the HPP group.

Explore mindfulness as part of your lifestyle if you have a high risk for cardiovascular conditions. 

 

7. Strengthens Immune System

The simple act of focusing on your breath does wonders for your immunity. Experts at the University of Florida discovered that meditation and yoga activate multiple genes related to the immune system. 

Researchers used 388 genetic samples from 106 participants who joined the meditation retreat for eight days. During this period, they sat in silence for more than 10 hours every day, ate vegan meals and followed a regular sleep schedule. 

Through blood samples, they found meditation could alter many immune-related and other cellular pathways. They observed increased activity in 220 genes directly affecting immune response and in 68 genes associated with interferon signaling, the body’s anticancer and antiviral response. They asserted this enhanced immunity was due to meditation and unrelated to the participants’ diet or sleep pattern. What they discovered is meditation uses a network of core genes and regulators to reinforce immunity.

It can be a non-pharmaceutical approach to strengthening your body’s disease-fighting cells. 

 

Meditation Is an Excellent Lifestyle Addition

What does science tell us about meditation? The longer you engage in it, the greater the health merits. It’s also important to note that everyone is welcome to do it. It may have originated in India, but it doesn’t matter if you live in the U.S., U.K., Australia or other parts of Asia where it’s less-practiced — meditation can be learned and it benefits everyone equally. 

Your commitment and intention are the most critical factors — not your location — for an effective session. Incorporate it into your daily routine, and you’ll live healthier and happier. 

Keen to learn the many ways you can meditate? Discover 5 meditation apps HERE.

Read more health & wellness stories HERE

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