7 Benefits of Meditation for Your Mental and Physical Health

 

 


Meditation is the habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. The popularity of meditation is increasing as more people discover its many health benefits. You can use it to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Many people think of it as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration. People also use the practice to develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns, and even increased pain tolerance.



## 1. Reduces stress


Stress reduction is one of the most common reasons people try meditation. One review concluded that meditation lives up to its reputation for stress reduction¹. Normally, mental and physical stress cause increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This produces many of the harmful effects of stress, such as the release of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. These effects can disrupt sleep, promote depression and anxiety, increase blood pressure, and contribute to fatigue and cloudy thinking.


In an 8-week study, a meditation style called “mindfulness meditation” reduced the inflammation response caused by stress². Furthermore, research has shown that meditation may also improve symptoms of stress-related conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fibromyalgia³  .


## 2. Controls anxiety


Meditation can reduce stress levels, which translates to less anxiety. A meta-analysis including nearly 1,300 adults found that meditation may decrease anxiety. Notably, this effect was strongest in those with the highest levels of anxiety. Also, one study found that 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation helped reduce anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder, along with increasing positive self-statements and improving stress reactivity and coping.


Another study in 47 people with chronic pain found that completing an 8-week meditation program led to noticeable improvements in depression, anxiety, and pain over 1 year. What’s more, some research suggests that a variety of mindfulness and meditation exercises may reduce anxiety levels. For example, yoga has been shown to help people reduce anxiety. This is likely due to benefits from both meditative practice and physical activity.


Meditation may also help control job-related anxiety. One study found that employees who used a mindfulness meditation app for 8 weeks experienced improved feelings of well-being and decreased distress and job strain, compared with those in a control group.


## 3. Enhances self-awareness


Some forms of meditation may help you develop a stronger understanding of yourself, helping you grow into your best self. For example, self-inquiry meditation explicitly aims to help you develop a greater understanding of yourself and how you relate to those around you.


Other forms teach you to recognize thoughts that may be harmful or self-defeating. The idea is that as you gain greater awareness of your thought habits, you can steer them toward more constructive patterns. A study of 21 women fighting breast cancer found that when they took part in a tai chi program, their self-esteem improved more than it did than in those who received social support sessions.


In another study, 40 senior men and women who took a mindfulness meditation program experienced reduced feelings of loneliness compared with a control group that had been placed on a wait list for the program. Also, experience in meditation may cultivate more creative problem-solving.


## 4. Lengthens attention span


Focused-attention meditation is like weight lifting for your attention span. It helps increase the strength and endurance of your attention.


For example, a study looked at the effects of an 8-week mindfulness meditation course and found it improved participants' ability to reorient and maintain their attention. A similar study showed that human resource workers who regularly practiced mindfulness meditation stayed focused on a task for longer.


These workers also remembered details of their tasks better than their peers who did not practice meditation. Moreover, one review concluded that meditation may even reverse patterns in the brain that contribute to mind-wandering, worrying, and poor attention.


Even meditating for a short period may benefit you. One study found that four days of practicing meditation for only 20 minutes peršŸ¤©day improved participants' ability to sustain attention.


## 5. May reduce age-related memory loss


Improvements in attention and clarity of thinking may help keep your mind young. Kirtan Kriya is a method of meditation that combines a mantra or chant with repetitive motion of the fingers to focus thoughts. It improved participants' ability to perform memory tasks in multiple studies of age-related memory loss.


Furthermore, a review of 12 studies found that multiple meditation styles increased attention, memory, and mental quickness in older volunteers. In addition to fighting normal age-related memory loss, meditation can at least partially improve memory in patients with dementia. It can also help control stress and improve coping in those caring for family members with dementia.


## 6. Generates kindness


Some types of meditation may particularly increase positive feelings and actions toward yourself and others. Metta, a type of meditation also known as loving-kindness meditation, begins with developing kind thoughts and feelings toward yourself.


Through practice, people learn to extend this kindness and forgiveness externally, first to friends, then acquaintances, and ultimately enemies. Twenty-two studies of this form of meditation have demonstrated its ability to increase peoples' compassion toward themselves and others.


One study of 100 adults randomly assigned to a program that included loving-kindness meditation found that these benefits were dose-dependent. In other words, the more effort people put into Metta meditation, the more positive feelings they experienced.


Another group of studies showed the positive feelings people develop through Metta meditation can improve social anxiety, reduce marriage conflict, and help anger management. These benefits also appear to accumulate over time with the practice of loving-kindness meditation.


## 7. May help fight addictions


The mental discipline you can develop through meditation may help you break dependencies by increasing your self-control and awareness of triggers for addictive behaviors.


Research has shown that meditation may help people learn to redirect their attention, increase their willpower, control their emotions and impulses, and increase their understanding of the causes behind their addictive behaviors.


One study that taught 19 recovering alcoholics how to meditate found that participants who received the training got better at controlling their cravings and craving-related stress. Meditation may also help you control food cravings. A review of 14 studies found mindfulness meditation helped participants reduce emotional and binge eating.


Source: Conversation with Bing, 4/19/2023

(1) 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation - Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation.

(2) 20+ Health Benefits of Meditation According to Science. https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-meditation/.

(3) Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress - Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858.


Source: Conversation with Bing, 4/19/2023

(1) 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation - Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation.

(2) 20+ Health Benefits of Meditation According to Science. https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-meditation/.

(3) Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress - Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858.

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