Proper meditation offers a variety of health benefits. There are many scientific reports showing that meditation has beneficial effects on health and psychological well-being. The meditation practice emphasizes mainly on improving focused attention, calming the mind or developing mindfulness. Some of the studies concluded that meditating even 20 minutes per day is enough to experience the positive results. Besides calming the mind, meditation reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, improves concentration and much more.
Some meditative practices are categorized into a complex emotional and attention regulatory strategies developed to attain well-being and emotional balance. These strategies are found to be helpful in coping with anxiety, depression and other emotional stress. In fact, meditation can be just as effective to treat anxiety to a similar degree as an antidepressant drug therapy.
StressThe studies have shown that if people meditate even for a brief period of time during the day, their stress level decreases. If meditation was practiced before the stressful event, the individuals experience less or no stress at all. In addition, meditation reduces activity in the ‘me’ centers of the brain enhancing connectivity between the brain regions. The similar research found that regular practices help to stabilize grey matter volume in the brain.
If for the period of meditation wandering thoughts preoccupy your mind, try to focus on the breathing instead. The breathing will also make you calmer, relaxed and happy. A study from Harvard Medical School has shown that mitochondrial energy production, resiliency, and consumption were improved for those individuals who have practiced meditation. As a result, the immunity and resilience to stress were much better than in those who didn’t practice meditation.
DepressionAccording to the study conducted by the University of California, mindfulness meditation decreases dysfunctional beliefs and negative thinking. Those individuals who followed a mindfulness program for at least 6 months reported that their depression symptoms decreased, anxiety and stress levels have lowered. Mindfulness meditation is recognized to be an effective solution to overcome depression with a similar effect as antidepressant drug therapy.
The future mothers who suffer from depression during pregnancy can also benefit. According to the Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice report, the high-risk pregnant women who completed ten-week mindfulness meditation training had reduced their depressive symptoms significantly.
AnxietyMore than 20 randomized controlled studies were published on the benefits of meditation in PsychInfo, PubMed and the Cochrane Database. Because of their increasingly widespread use and appeal, scientists conducted a concise and thorough review of the current state of scientific knowledge of these practices as medical interventions. They saw a potential in the meditation to use it in medical therapies as it helps regulate anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. Patients who cope with medical and psychological problems are using meditative techniques frequently. Even a single meditation session is proven to be beneficial for managing anxiety symptoms.
The similar research involving 9-week compassion cultivation training (CCT) showed an improvement for individuals in all three types of compassion: for others, receiving compassion from others, and self-compassion. In addition, participants experienced a decreased level of worry and an emotional imbalance.
Some types of meditation practices allow mediators to non-reactively monitor their experience from moment-to-moment. The open monitoring meditation, for example, allows them to view the nature of cognitive and emotional patterns of their behavior. There are many mechanisms of neuroplasticity of the brain including the growth of new connections and the creation of new neurons. For the period of meditation, the neuroplasticity is changing in response to experience. As a result, it reduces the grey-matter density in areas of the brain related to anxiety and stress.
Meditation was found to decrease symptoms of panic disorder according to the American Journal of Psychiatry. In the research, 22 patients diagnosed with anxiety or panic disorder went through the 3 months meditation training. At the end of the training, the effects of panic and anxiety were reduced substantially for the 20 of these patients.
Additional reading about mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention: The Official Journal of ADAA, Science Direct, APA PsycNet, Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, Medical News Today and CCARE.
Blood PressureMeditation is linked to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. Individuals with high blood pressure were able to lower it by practicing relaxation techniques and thinking pleasant thoughts. Those who practiced meditation daily were able to reduce possible side effects caused by hypertension drugs. During the experiment, a “relaxation response” technique was used. In the end, the stress and high blood pressure were reduced after 3 months of meditation. As a result, these individuals needed fewer medications. The relaxation techniques resulted in the formation of nitric oxide, which can open blood vessels.
Information ProcessingMeditation is also good for your memory, attention, thought processing and consciousness. Long-term meditation releases larger amounts of gyrification (“folding” of the cortex) that contributes to faster information processing. The amount of gyrification handles the brain better at information processing, forming memories, improving attention and making decisions. After the many years of meditation, the connection between the brain cells strengthens and enhances neural processing.
According to a new study, even 10 minutes of meditation already turbocharges the brain and increases concentration in the grey matter. Even a short-term meditation improves mental performance and concentration. In the experiment conducted at Harvard University, the neuroscientists observed 16 people submitted to an eight-week mindfulness course. Guided meditation and mindfulness were integrated into everyday activities. At the end of the course, MRI scans revealed an increase in grey matter concentration in the areas of the brain involved in memory and learning, sense of self and emotion regulation.
Other studies discovered that those who meditated long-term had larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of the grey matter. Besides improved information processing, mindfulness meditation improves rapid memory recall. Researchers have discovered that this type of meditation enhances many mental abilities, including rapid memory recall.
Alcohol and Substance AbuseA growing number of studies show that meditation helps to stabilize self-control regions of the brain and it can be very effective in helping people recover from various types of drugs or alcohol addiction. Three of these studies were done on some type of meditation concluding that it is a very effective method to reduce alcohol and substance abuse.
InsomniaMeditation can be helpful for individuals who suffer from insomnia due to racing thoughts. Sometimes it is hard to force yourself back to sleep and the harder you try the longer it takes. Use this awake time to meditate and calm the mind to fall asleep faster.
Pain RelieveThe research conducted by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre studied 15 volunteers who have started meditation training in 20-minute classes practicing breathing techniques. The participants’ brain was examined using ASL MRI before and after the meditation session. The pain was inflicted in them by using heat. The research concluded that only a little over an hour of meditation training was able to dramatically reduce both the pain experience and pain-related brain activation. The researchers found about 40% reduction in pain intensity and 57% reduction in pain discomfort. Some of the individuals confirmed that meditation relieves pain better than morphine or any other pain relievers.
Reduced Risk of Heart Diseases and StrokeHeart disease is one of a leading cause of death worldwide. In a study published on Transcendental meditation, 200 high-risk individuals asked to take a class. It took approximately 5 years of research and the end result was a 48% reduction of their risk of heart attack, stroke, and mortality in coronary heart disease patients. The results were also depended on how low their blood pressure was and other psychosocial stress factors.
Meditation is beneficial not only for adults but also for kids. MindfulnessInSchools.org has good compilations of studies about mindfulness in schools as well as of good research evidence of its many benefits.
Scientific research finds meditation beneficial for health support and disease prevention. It improves brain performance, emotional balance and brings more happiness in general. To get the most out of meditation, the person needs to practice meditation as often as possible by devoting to it a few hours daily.
Health Benefits of Meditation
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