In case you haven’t heard, meditation can be a hugely beneficial practice for a wide variety of reasons. Research has shown that a regular mindful meditation practice can improve your mental, physical and emotional health in several different ways, and science is still just uncovering the tip of the iceberg in this area. Even if you’re still skeptical about the benefits of meditation, there’s really no downside to adding a short session or two to your daily schedule.
Meditation is free, relatively easy to learn, and it doesn’t require any equipment or costly upfront financial investment — unlike so many other gimmicky wellness trends out there today.
The Proven Benefits of Meditation
Whether you’re hoping to sharpen your ability to focus, strengthen your cardiovascular health, or simply let go of stress, meditation can be an incredibly powerful tool to keep in your arsenal.
The list of positive impacts you can enjoy from meditating seems to be truly endless, but here are just five science-backed benefits of meditation:
1. Stress Reduction
Time and time again, studies have shown that practicing meditation can help people decrease and manage their stress levels. Meditation is proven to be one of the best stress relievers for adults and even just paying attention to your breathing for a few moments will relieve stress quickly. A comprehensive meta-analysis of 209 studies found that mindfulness-based therapy (MBT), which includes meditation training, could help to treat several psychological conditions, but especially anxiety, stress and depression.
2. Decreased Blood Pressure
Some studies have suggested that practicing meditation may lead to slight reductions in blood pressure. Research has shown that there’s a strong link between our state of mind and physical reactions within the body like blood pressure, so using meditation to help calm the mind could be a huge help for people with hypertension or prehypertension.
3. Improved Sleep
Desperate to catch some quality shut eye? Meditation might help do the trick. A 2015 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that a “standardized mindful awareness practices (MAPs) intervention” produced significant improvements in sleep quality for adults with sleep disturbances. The improvements even carried over into their day-to-day waking lives, helping to reduce “daytime impairment” from poor sleep quality.
4. Heart Health
One of the benefits of meditation is that it can positively impact heart health overall, potentially even leading to a lower resting heart rate. In general, a lower resting heart rate is a good sign because it means your heart isn’t working too hard to deliver blood throughout your body. A higher resting heart rate could potentially raise your chances of heart disease, which is why it’s important to keep an eye on it.
5. Improved Learning, Memory and Cognition
Studies have also shown that regular meditation can increase the amount of gray matter in your brain, which could lead to improvements in your memory, cognition abilities and learning skills. So not only does meditation have the power to improve your physical and emotional health, but it can also help you stay sharp at work or during any other intellectual pursuits.
Getting Started With Meditation
If you’re ready to see the benefits of meditation, download one of the best meditation apps on the market like Insight Timer or simply search guided meditations on YouTube or Spotify. If guided meditations don’t appeal to you, try sitting in silence for a few minutes each day, paying attention to your breathing and any other bodily sensations you might notice. For those who can’t sit still, you may want to try a walking meditation, which has its own proven health benefits.
There are many different types of meditation practices out there, so it’s always best to experiment with as many techniques and styles as you can to find what works for you.
Lead graphic by OlgaStrelnikova/Adobe Stock.