I briefly touched on what meditation was in an earlier blog post. Meditation has become more and more popular in the western world over the last two decades and due to this popularity spike, scientists have been keen to find out what the health benefits are, if any.
From my experience of meditation, I’ve noticed a change in my own emotional well-being and my mind has become less busy and more calm. So what are the health benefits to meditating? For thousands of years, Buddhists have claimed the long-term positives to meditating on a regular basis. Continued mindfulness contributes to less stress, less worry, increase of focus, less relationship problems, reduction in addictions and more. It also has an effect on the body so here’s a list of the most common benefits.
Improves immune systems
Long-term stress can have a bad effect on our immune systems and makes us more susceptible to illness. Numerous studies have been carried out demonstrating that mindfulness meditation helps to reduce stress on the immune system: American Psychosomatic Medicine Journal. Not only this but also chronic arthritis, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease: Medical News Today. Amazingly, researchers at UCLA have even found that it helped slow down the progression of HIV: ScienceDaily.
Reduces blood pressure
High blood pressure is on the increase with our stressful and hectic lives. Exercise can make a real difference here but we aren’t always able to go for a run when we feel stressed in the day. Regular practise in meditation, however, has been found to help reduce blood pressure: NPR News. And since this is essentially contributing to a calmer mind all round, it will last far into your day and help you cope with stressful situations a lot better.
Lessens heart problems
Stress also puts a lot of strain on our hearts and regular meditation has been found to be a prevention to cardiovascular disease. Due to lower blood pressure, the risk of stroke and mortality from other cardiovascular problems are consequently lessened: American Heart Association. Aside from this, studies have also shown that it reduces heart rate and respiratory rate for up to eight months after meditation training: KoreaScience.
Although not an outright cure, meditation has been found to reduce pain significantly. In some studies, pain has been reduced by up to 40% in individuals practising mindfulness meditation as the result of changes in certain areas of the brain: The Atlantic. These brain mechanisms are further explained in this article published in Elsevier.
Reduces risk of Alzheimer’s
Again, although not claiming to be any kind of cure for this debilitating disease, medical research has shown that meditation can help with both prevention and reduction of the progression of symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s. Of course, this also has a positive effect on the loved ones who care for Alzheimer sufferers: Hindawi.
Improves your mood and emotional well-being
Meditation is well-linked with emotional health and studies have found that regular meditation practice significantly reduces depression: Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology and research has even discovered it is more effective than pharmaceutical interventions: The Lancet. Eradicating the need and reliance on medication for certain depressions can only be a good thing.
Even though the scientific research is relatively new, Buddhist monks have been claiming meditation to be a life-giving necessity for years. To me, it’s a no-brainer. For anyone who has pre-conceived ideas about meditation and why people even bother to practise it, well, I’m inclined to say if you’re looking for ways to improve your life in mind or body or just wanting a deeper sense of contentment and happiness (and who isn’t?!) then why wouldn’t you bother? 🙂