Long before the internet, computers, and even mass forms of communication, we’ve understood the power and benefits of meditation. In fact, ancient Indian texts called the Vedas, dating back over 3,000 years, give detailed instructions on meditation practices.
Despite technological advances and entire civilizations dying and being born, the practice of meditation has survived.
That longevity speaks to the personal power of meditation.
Now, through scientific research, we are able to see that meditation has profound effects on our brain, body, and spirit.
In this article, we’re going to dive deep into meditation research.
We’ll show you how science has proven what we’ve known all along — meditation benefits every single part of our lives, and by instituting a meditation practice, you can vastly improve your health, your mind, your body, and your spirit.
What Does Meditation Do?
Because meditation is often seen as a spiritual practice, it can be difficult to think of it as something with proven, scientific benefits. But the reality is, meditation isn’t just about connecting with and healing your soul — meditation has real, physical effects on your mind and body.
Through meditation research, we’ve been able to discover the science of meditation and how it changes your brain. We’ve also learned that meditation doesn’t just change your brain in the moment, while you’re meditating: the benefits are long-term and lasting.
To understand the scientific benefits of meditation, you must first understand the brain because every meditation benefit comes from the effects that meditation has on the brain.
The neuroplasticity of the brain
Your brain is constantly changing. Scientists call this neuroplasticity and it works like this:
- Every thought, experience, mood, belief, emotion and action is a series of electrical impulses firing off in the brain, fed by various chemicals.
- Each time they fire off, they strengthen. So every time you repeat an action, thought, belief or emotion, you physically strengthen that connection — literally, your brain changes.
- As you strengthen connections, other connections fade away and the physical structure of your brain changes.
This neuroplasticity happens automatically, but it actually gives you a lot of power.
When you become aware of and intentional with your thoughts, you are taking control of how your brain changes.
This is why meditation is so powerful.
It doesn’t matter what type of meditation you choose to engage in. The conscious decision to be calm and mindful will physically change your brain to be more calm and mindful.
7 Ways Meditation Benefits Your Mind
Now that you understand how meditation changes the brain, let’s look at how these changes can specifically manifest themselves in your life.
#1: Meditation makes you happy
In a 2013 study, researchers used an Oxford questionnaire to determine the study participants’ level of happiness.
It turns out, 96% of the participants who practice meditation scored as “happy,” while only 56% of non-meditating participants scored the same. What’s even more interesting is the results were the same across all demographics, so age and even years of practicing meditation didn’t have an effect on the results. Only one result stood out — those who meditate are happy.
#2: Meditation can relieve symptoms Of depression
Easing the symptoms of depression is one of the most widely studied benefits of meditation.
While there are numerous studies, research completed in 2014 revealed 18 major studies, which demonstrated that meditation, in many forms, can alleviate depressive symptoms at all stages of the illness.
#3: Meditation alleviates stress
Depression is an illness, and meditation can help alleviate the symptoms, but what about depressive and stressful feelings in people who don’t suffer from depression?
It turns out that even healthy people can see great relief from everyday stress by simply practicing meditation. A 2015 study discovered 29 scientific studies that prove meditation is effective in alleviating stress in otherwise healthy people
#4: Meditation stopsanxiety and worry
Anxiety happens when we buy into our fearful thoughts and then obsess over the possible outcomes. Meditation trains your brain to step back from those thoughts, gain some distance, and, as a result, become a calmer person.
Study after study has proven this to be true, and in an analysis of 47 studies, relief from anxiety was proven over and over again.
#5: Meditation makes the healthy areas of your brain grow
Believe it or not, you can actually grow more gray matter. Gray matter is the stuff your brain is made of, and when certain parts of your brain are stimulated over a period of time, gray matter grows.
A landmark study in 2011 discovered that meditation makes your brain grow more gray matter in extremely important areas like those that control self-awareness and emotional regulation.
#6: Meditation helps you focus
Concentration, attention, and focus are so important for nearly every activity we participate in, but in our world today that’s constantly moving from one task to another, it’s difficult to improve those skills.
Enter meditation. It’s been proven time and time again that those who meditate are able to focus better, pay attention longer and concentrate more effectively.
#7: Meditation makes you creative
Creativity is an important skill that helps you come up with new ideas and solve problems more effectively. We use creativity all the time, and being more creative can help you deal with stressful situations better.
A 2012 study found that, by helping you step back from your thought processes, meditation makes you a more creative thinker.
5 Proven Health Benefits of Meditation
When you ask yourself, “what is meditation good for?” you might be able to come up with some great answers about the benefits of mediation for the mind and spirit, but what about the body?
As it turns out, meditation is extremely healthy and healing. Here’s why:
#1: Meditation reduces pain
No one likes pain, and it’s a natural response to try and alleviate pain as much as possible.
In 2011, scientists discovered that meditation is a powerful tool for alleviating pain. Not only does meditation regulate the pain centers in your brain — it helps you tolerate pain and lessen the intensity.
#2: Meditation can help you quit smoking
Nearly one-third of the entire world smokes cigarettes. Given the very real dangers of smoking, finding a cure for this addictive behavior is crucial. Thankfully, scientists have discovered that a meditation practice can significantly help you quit smoking.
In one study, participants who participated in a mindfulness meditation program were 36% more likely to quit smoking after four weeks, as compared to 15% of those who didn’t participate. Even more astonishing, 36% of the participants were still sober from cigarettes after 17 weeks, compared to 5% of those who didn’t practice meditation.
#3: Meditation can cut your risk for heart disease in half
Heart disease is the number one killer in the world. While there’s been a lot of progress in medicine towards ending heart disease, there’s still a long way to go.
Fortunately, cutting your risk in half may be as simple as practicing meditation. One study showed that participants in a transcendental meditation group reduced their heart disease risk by 48% at the end of their participation in the program.
#4: Meditation reduces inflammation
Inflammation throughout the body contributes to various autoimmune diseases and cancers. Keeping the body from experiencing unnecessary inflammation is important, and meditation can help.
In a 2016 study, scientists discovered that those who participated in a 3-day meditation retreat had significantly lower levels of an inflammatory biomarker called interleukin 6. It’s incredible that 3 days of meditation can improve your health so much!
#5: Meditation helps you fight and manage diseases
Modern medicine is constantly making attempts to cure and manage prevalent diseases that plague our world, but progress is slow.
On the other hand, meditation has been proven to be an effective treatment and even preventative measure for diseases like asthma, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, hypertension, high cholesterol, epilepsy, and psoriasis.
The Disadvantages of Meditation
When you read about new treatments that claim to alleviate symptoms of depression, reduce stress, or even cure diseases, your first thought might be, “that’s great, but what about the side effects?”
While all medications and herbal remedies have potential side effects ranging from annoying to deadly, sometimes the risk is worth it. Weighing out those risks can be stressful, and you should always speak with a medical professional when attempting a new treatment.
Fortunately, there are no risks to meditation
That’s right, meditation is scientifically proven to be an effective treatment for a variety of conditions, and there are absolutely no risks involved!
You might find it difficult or even boring, and certain meditation positions can be uncomfortable at first, but practicing meditation comes with no threats to your physical, mental or spiritual health — only benefits.
So if you’re considering starting a meditation practice, just go for it and keep in mind:
- It’s free
- It’s easy
- Anyone can do it, regardless of age, gender, or mental and physical health
- It’s scientifically proven to make you a happier, healthier person
- There are zero risks or disadvantages