10 Science-Backed Benefits Of Meditation ~ Forbes Magazine Article


When feeling overwhelmed by anxiety or stress, it can be hard to ground yourself or focus on a task. Although stress and anxiety are normal—and biologically necessary responses in certain situations—experiencing them on a regular basis can pose a risk to your health.


Meditation, though, can help. Read on to learn more about what meditation is and what health benefits it can provide.


What Is Meditation?

Meditation is a mind-body practice in which your attention is focused on being mindful of the present, your breath, and your mind to promote awareness, cultivate well-being and reduce stress and anxiety. It comes in many forms and can be practiced almost anywhere, so long as you can be aware of your body and surroundings.


Types of meditation vary throughout each person’s practice and can include breathing-based meditation, mindfulness practices, nature-based visualization, mantra, and spiritual meditation.


“There is no right or wrong way to do meditation. Any activity can be meditative if we’re fully present,” says Sarah Meyer Tapia, a meditation coach, associate director of Health & Human Performance, and head of Wellness Education at Stanford University. “Meditation is to be present and know what we are doing, while we are doing it.”


Meditation tends to be something we feel we have to make time for, she adds, and instead, recommends taking as little or as much time as your mental energy allows to pivot away from distractions.

Health Benefits of Meditation

Meditation can improve your quality of life thanks to its many psychological and physical benefits.


Here are 10 science-backed benefits of meditation:


Stress Reduction

Mindfulness-based interventions, such as meditation, have been shown to improve mental health, specifically in the area of stress, according to a study in the Clinical Psychology Review. When faced with a difficult or stressful moment, our bodies create cortisol, the steroid hormone responsible for regulating stress and our natural fight-or-flight response, among many other functions. Chronic stress can cause sustained and elevated levels of cortisol, which can lead to other negative effects on your health, including cardiovascular and immune systems and gut health. Meditation, which focuses on calming the mind and regulating emotion, can help to reduce chronic stress in the body and lower the risk of its side effects.


Anxiety Management

Meditation can help counter the effects of anxiety—often noted as overwhelming feelings of fear, worry, and tension—by slowing down racing thoughts and regulating breathing, which calms the nervous system. Physical symptoms of anxiety can include sweating, dizziness, or a rapid heart rate, caused by overthinking past or future outcomes. People with anxiety who regularly practiced meditation over the course of three years saw positive, long-term impacts on their mental health, according to a study in General Hospital Psychiatry.


Depression Management

Meditation can also help reduce the symptoms of depression through mindfulness and emotional regulation. One study observing individuals on a three-month-long yoga and meditation retreat found that participants showed significant improvements in depression after the retreat, as well as enhanced stress resilience and well-being.


Lowers Blood Pressure

Hypertension—also known as high blood pressure—is estimated to affect one billion people worldwide and about half the people in the U.S. Meditation has been noted to potentially provide promising results in decreasing high blood pressure, especially when paired with healthy lifestyle habits like a balanced diet and exercise. However, while evidence has been found to support the use of meditation for lowering blood pressure, additional research is needed to see the specific impacts across varying types of meditation.


Strengthens Immune System Health

Meditation has also been found to be an effective behavioral treatment for various conditions associated with a weakened immune system. Consistent meditation has been shown to reduce the body’s stress response, resulting in less inflammation and decreased risk of conditions such as chronic pain, fatigue, and heart disease.


Improves Memory

While meditation is best known to help ease stress and anxiety, it can also improve your brain structure. When you practice meditation, your brain is able to produce more gray matter, researchers found in one study. Gray matter is crucial for healthy brain cognition, as it protects the hippocampus, the part of our brain connected to memory. It’s also crucial for basic human functions, including our ability to control movement and emotions. The same study found that meditating for 30 minutes a day for eight weeks can increase how much gray matter your body produces.


Regulates Mood

When practiced over time, meditation has the ability to change how you emotionally react to situations. Elements of meditation, which generally include mindfulness and controlled breathing, can lead to less impulsive reactions. This means instead of reacting from a heightened emotional state such as anger or panic, people who practice regular meditation may gain the ability to regulate their mood.


Increases Self-Awareness

Meditation increases self-awareness by creating a habit of focusing on the present, allowing you to notice your thoughts as they come up, says Meyer-Tapia. Research shows that practicing meditation can help develop self-awareness, as well as improve impulse control and a person’s relationship with themselves and others.


Helps With Addiction Management

Meditation’s ability to increase a sense of calm, presence, and reduced stress can help people with substance use disorders manage triggers or even avoid relapse. Meditation has also been shown to encourage maintenance in abstinence for those suffering from substance use disorder, and curb inclinations or cravings for a substance as a way to deal with other mental health outcomes like anxiety or stress.


Improves Sleep

Research suggests meditation can improve a person’s ability to sleep and quality of sleep. “When most of us are struggling to sleep, it’s because our minds are ruminating over the day, or worrying about tomorrow,” says Meyer Tapia. While further research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of meditation as a long-term sleep aid, its effects have been shown to help with insomnia, as well as daytime sleep-related issues, such as fatigue.



https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/benefits-of-meditation/


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