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10 Science-based Benefits of Meditation

Meditation is a mindfulness practice that involves focusing on a particular object, thought, or activity. The goal is to achieve clarity and feel a sense of calm. The practice can be fairly individualized, but with the aim of fostering spiritual wellbeing and maturity. Much of meditation is linked to control and directing your mental processes in beneficial ways. Once you have mastered the art of control, you are able to achieve concentration and attract calm, joy, love, etc. Through greater awareness, you are able to achieve a clearer understanding of yourself and your relationship to the world. Recently, there has been a significant amount of research examining the psychological and physiological benefits of meditation. Health care settings are now actively including meditative practices as part of their treatment plans. 

Here are 10 Science-based Benefits:

1. Reduces Stress

Meditation is an excellent way to reduce the impact of negative stress. One study (composed of over 3,500 adults) found significant improvement in their stress levels after implementing meditation techniques.

2. Controls Anxiety

A 2014 literature review of 47 trials in 3,515 participants found a connection between practicing meditation and improving anxiety. Being able to control and calm your mind helps in anxiety-inducing situations. In a 2012 review of 36 trials, 25 of them reported improvements in symptoms of anxiety in the meditation groups compared to the control groups.

3. Enhances self-awareness

Meditation allows you to develop a better understanding of yourself. A study that took place between 21 women fighting breast cancer revealed that when they took part in a tai chi program their self-esteem improved more than those who did not participate. Improving our sense of self and confidence through meditation is effective.

4. Lengthens attention span

Focus-based meditation can greatly improve your attention span. One study found that in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program, participants’ ability to reorient and maintain attention had greatly improved. You are more likely to remember details and recall facts when implementing meditation practices.

5. Improves sleep

Getting enough sleep is something we all struggle with. A small NCCIH-founded study found that 54 adults with chronic insomnia implemented mindfulness-based stress reduction strategies and found that the meditation-based program aided with sleep significantly. Participants who practiced mindfulness and meditation fell asleep sooner and stayed asleep longer than those who did not.

6. Helps control pain

Our perception of pain is directly related to our state of mind. Another NCCIH-funded study in 2016 found that mindfulness meditation helps control pain without using the brain’s naturally occurring opiates. This suggests that the combination of meditation and pain medications would be particularly effective in reducing pain. Meditation is also incredibly effective for patients with chronic pain. One study of habitual mediation in a group of 3,500 participants saw a decrease in complaints about chronic or intermittent pain.

7. Improves brain functions

The act of meditation and giving yourself time to focus can improve your overall brain functions. A study from 2012 found that in a group of 50 adults who practiced meditation for years have more folds in the outer layer of the brand compared to the 50 who did not. This process may increase the brain’s ability to process information and function better. Research suggests that the physical changes meditation makes to the brain and body could improve many health problems while promoting healthy behaviors.

8. Reduces high blood pressure

High blood pressure can be incredibly dangerous and lead to poor heart function if left untreated. It also can result in the narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis) which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. A 2009 NCCIH-funded trial involving 298 university students found that transcendental meditation may lower the blood pressure of people at an increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

9. Can help fight addictions

Meditation creates mental discipline that can be used to break dependencies. By increasing your self-control and awareness, you are limiting your addictive behaviors. In 2015, there were 13 studies on mindfulness-based interventions for stopping smoking. The results were promising in regards to reduced cravings, smoking cessation, and relapse prevention. Combating addiction is hard enough, so taking holistic steps (such as mindfulness meditation) is very beneficial.

10. Can generate kindness

Practicing meditation can increase positive feelings and actions towards not only others, but yourself. One type of meditation (Metta) is known as loving-kindness meditation that has an emphasis on developing positive and kind thoughts towards yourself. 22 studies found that Metta meditation increased people’s compassion towards themselves and others. A 2011 NCCIH-funded study of 279 adults found that those who participated in an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program had reported changes in their spirituality towards better mental health and quality of life.

What are you waiting for? Try it!

Practicing meditation can seem silly or hopeless, but has some incredible benefits. Being able to improve brain function and manage pain through meditation is better than putting unnecessary medications in your system. As more research comes out, more health care providers will likely be implementing mindfulness strategies. The next time you have an assignment or deadline approaching, try a meditation exercise to improve concentration and attention span. If you are struggling with sleep, maybe implement an exercise before bed time to be in the most relaxed state possible. There are a variety of ways meditation can be enforced into part of your routine, and with so many advantages, look to find strategies that work for you!

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