Meditation is an age-old practice that anyone can do. This simple technique can be practiced wherever you are and at any time. However, regular practice and devotion is needed to achieve maximum benefits.
Experts consider meditation as a type of mind-body complementary medicine that produces a deep state of relaxation and a calm mind. This enhances physical and emotional well-being.
As you advance, meditation also works as a remarkable tool to gain deeper self-awareness and release the subconscious negative thoughts.
There are different types of meditation and all share the same goal of achieving inner peace no matter what is going on around you.
Some of the popular types are guided meditation, mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation, Qi gong, Tai chi, transcendental meditation and yoga.
This practice is still developing and plenty of studies are going on to more fully understand its benefits. For best results, learn the process from an expert or a a certified instructor and practice meditation in a quiet and peaceful place for at least 10 to 15 minutes daily.
Here are the top 10 ways that meditation benefits your mind and body.
1. Eases Stress and Anxiety
Many people practice mindfulness meditation to control stress and reduce their levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
A review of studies from Johns Hopkins University researchers, published in 2014 in JAMA Internal Medicine, showed that mindfulness meditation might improve multiple negative dimensions of psychological stress.
However, further studies are needed to determine how meditation helps improve the positive dimensions of mental health and stress-related behavior.
2. Treats Insomnia
If you suffer from sleep disturbances like having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, try meditation to solve the problem.
A 2009 study presented at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies suggested that meditation might be an effective behavioral intervention in the treatment of insomnia. Meditation shows improvement in subjective sleep quality and sleep diary parameters.
Also, a 2015 study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine found that mindfulness meditation shows improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older people experiencing sleep disturbances.
3. Boosts Cognitive Function
Regular meditation also plays a key role in boosting your brainpower. It helps people learn three times faster than those who have little or no experience with meditation.
A 2013 study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, found that mindfulness training may help boost standardized test scores and improve working memory.
In addition, meditation can improve recall power and awareness. People who meditate regularly also have better control of their emotions. It even prevents decline in cognitive function later in life.
4. Lowers Blood Pressure
You can also control high blood pressure with regular meditation, and research has now proved it. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a “silent killer” because in most cases, it does not cause and noticable symptoms but does significant damage to the heart and arteries.
A 2008 study by the University of Kentucky and published in the American Journal of Hypertension shows that transcendental meditation is an effective treatment for controlling high blood pressure. It can even reduce the possible side effects and hazards of anti-hypertension drugs.
Meditation is helpful in reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
5. Improves Heart Health
Meditation can also improve your cardiovascular health and lower your risk of heart attacks and strokes.
A 2012 study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes journal highlights the fact that meditation can reduce heart attacks, strokes and even early death from heart disease, at least among African-Americans. It even helps patients lower their blood pressure, stress and anger, which can lead to heart problems.
To fight cardiovascular problems, a leading cause of death, try meditation with closed eyes for 20 minutes daily.
6. Delays Brain Aging
Mediation is also great for delaying brain aging and preventing neurodegenerative diseases like mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
With age, several parts of the brain start shrinking, leading to and Lou Gehrig’s disease. With regular meditation, you can delay brain aging by increasing the gray matter, the unmyelinated neurons and other cells of the central nervous system.
A 2015 research published in the Frontiers in Psychology journal also supported the hypothesis that meditation offers brain protective benefits.
Researchers found that among those who meditated, the volume of gray matter did not decline as much as among those who did not.
7. Boosts Immunity
Research shows that regular meditation can help boost your immune system, which is essential for the body’s proper functioning.
A 2003 study published in the Psychosomatic Medicines journal showed that mindfulness meditation causes positive alterations in brain and immune system functioning.
People who meditate regularly produce more flu-fighting antibodies as compared to those who do not meditate a lot.
A strong immune system prevents you from getting sick due to the common cold, flu, allergies and other infections.
8. Reduces Negative Moods
Meditating regularly can even help you fight negative moods. Meditation leads to higher levels of alpha brain waves, which can help reduce negative moods and feelings including anger, tension and sadness.
A 2007 study published in the Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine journal found that brief meditation training can improve perceived stress and negative moods.
It even has positive effects in reducing negative stresses like anxiety and depression. Reduction in negative moods can yield long-term health benefits.
9. Fights Loneliness
Loneliness, at least among older people, can cause many health problems. It is a well-known risk factor for morbidity and mortality in aging populations. You can reduce loneliness with meditation.
According to a 2012 study published in the Brain, Behavior and Immunity journal, a mindfulness meditation program had a positive link with reduced perception of loneliness in older adults.
10. Prevents Genetic Damage
Meditation, especially mindful meditation, can alter the expression of genes and reduce levels of pro-inflammatory genes.
This in turn promotes faster physical recovery from stressful situations. In addition, it can alter neural, behavioral and biochemical processes and prevent inflammatory diseases.
According to a 2014 study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, mindful meditation can cause rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators. The changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs.