51 Benefits of Meditation
Whenever someone asks me what the real benefits of meditation are, I never know where to start. There is so much to say and so much to tell about this ancient practice that entire treatises could be written about its beneficial effects alone.
As far as experts can make it clear just how wrong this line of thinking is, they are often asked for scientific evidence to back up their explanations.
Science and meditation
Believe it or not, there are over 3,000 scientific studies on the benefits of meditation to date. Giovanni Dienstmann patiently collected them on his blog and we have translated them on this page.
These studies are based on different types of meditation – you will find details on the technique employed when relevant. Some effects, such as increased compassion and sociability, are more evident following specific meditation techniques (such as loving-kindness, which is a Buddhist meditation).
However, generally speaking, any type of authentic meditation includes most of these benefits in one way or another.
Some of the studies have indicated that meditating as little as 20 minutes a day for a couple of weeks is already enough to start experiencing the benefits of this practice.
I sincerely hope that this article will help you even more to understand the profound changes that meditation can bring to our lives. Feel free to spread it, especially for those who still believe that there is no scientific evidence about it!
51 Benefits of Meditation Proven by Scientific Research
1. Benefits for Meditation on Brain and Mental Health
Mindfulness meditation alleviates and fights depression
In a study conducted at five middle schools in Belgium involving around 400 students aged between 13 and 20, Professor Filip Raes concluded that “students who take mindfulness classes during school hours exhibit a reduced tendency towards depression. , anxiety and stress up to six months later. Furthermore, these students were less likely to develop marked symptoms of depression. “
Another study, conducted at the University of California on a sample of patients who have suffered from depression in the past, concluded that mindfulness meditation significantly decreases mental rumination and dysfunctional thoughts.
A latest study concludes that mindfulness meditation may be effective in treating depression to a similar degree to antidepressant therapy.
Mindfulness meditation helps fight postpartum depression
Pregnant women who took a ten-week yoga and mindfulness training course experienced a significant reduction in depressive symptoms, according to a pilot study done by the University of Michigan. Mothers-to-be also showed a more intense bond with the babies they were carrying. The results were published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice .
Practicing meditation regulates mood disorders and reduces anxiety
This is the conclusion of more than 20 controlled studies drawn from the PubMed, involving techniques of meditation, meditative prayer, yoga and relaxation response.
An ‘ Other research concludes that mindfulness meditation can be effective in treating anxiety to a level similar to antidepressant drugs based therapy .
Meditation reduces stress and anxiety in general
A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison observed how “Open Monitoring” or open monitoring meditation practices (such as Vipassana ) reduce gray matter density in areas of the brain related to anxiety and stress. The meditator was able to “follow the flow of stimuli to which the group was subjected moment by moment and showed a lower inclination to ‘get stuck’ on any stimulus. “
Open Monitoring meditation involves non-reactive monitoring of the meditation experience from moment to moment, and is used primarily as a means of recognizing the nature of emotional and cognitive patterns.
Meditation helps reduce the symptoms of panic attacks
In research published in the Journal of Psychiatry, 22 patients diagnosed with anxiety disorder or panic disorder underwent 3-month training in meditation and relaxation. For 20 of these patients, the effects of panic and anxiety were substantially reduced, and the benefits persisted over time as confirmed by subsequent follow-up visits.
Meditation increases the concentration of gray matter in the brain
A group of Harvard neuroscientists conducted an experiment in which 16 individuals underwent an eight-week mindfulness course, using guided meditations and integrating awareness into their daily activities.
At the end of the experiment, magnetic resonances showed an increase in the concentration of gray matter in the areas of the brain involved in learning and memory, and in those that regulate emotions, sense of self and perspective.
Other studies similarly show an increase in gray matter in the hippocampus and frontal lobe in people who meditate regularly.
Meditation significantly improves psychomotor alertness and can decrease the need for sleep
In research conducted by the University of Kentucky, participants were tested on four different conditions: control (C), sleep (N), meditation (M), and sleep deprivation with meditation. Both non-meditators and novice meditators and experienced meditators took part in the experiment. The results suggest that:
Meditation provides short-term performance enhancement, even in novice meditators. For more experienced meditators, more hours spent in meditation are associated with a significant decrease in total sleep time when compared with individuals of the same sex and age who do not practice meditation. Whether or not meditation actually replaces a portion of sleep or a sleep debt is under further investigation.
Long-term meditation improves the ability to generate gamma waves in the brain
In a study conducted by neuroscientist Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin involving a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks along with novice meditators, it was found that inexperienced meditators “showed a slight increase in gamma activity, but most of monks showed huge increases never seen before in the neuroscientific literature ” .
Meditation helps reduce alcoholism and drug addiction
Three studies on Vipassana meditation conducted on a group of inmates have suggested that this practice can help reduce alcohol and drug abuse.
2. Benefits for Meditation for increased Concentration and reduce Stress
Meditation improves concentration, attention and the ability to work under stress
A study conducted by Katherine MacLean of the University of California observed that during and after a meditation session, subjects subjected to it were more likely to keep the attention threshold high, particularly on repetitive and boring activities.
Another study showed that, even with just 20 minutes a day of practice, students were able to improve their performance on cognitive skills tests , in some cases even performing 10 times better than the non-meditating group. Similar results were also seen in carrying out tasks that required information processing and that were designed to induce impending deadline stress.
The experiment showed that meditators had a thicker prefrontal cortex, concluding that meditation could compensate for the loss of cognition that comes with old age.
Meditation improves information processing and decision making
Eileen Luders , an assistant professor at UCLA’s Neuro Imaging Laboratory, discovered with colleagues that long-term meditators possess large amounts of gyrification (“bending” of the cerebral cortex, which can allow the brain to process more information). quickly) than people who don’t meditate.
Scientists suspect gyrification is responsible for better information processing, decision making, memory formation, and improved attention.
Meditation gives mental strength, resilience and emotional intelligence
Psychotherapist Dr. Ron Alexander reports in his book Wise Mind, Open Mind that the mind control process that occurs through meditation increases mental strength, resilience and emotional intelligence.
Meditation makes you stronger in painful situations
A research team at the University of Montreal exposed 13 Zen masters and 13 non-practitioners to the same degree of painful heat by measuring their brain activity in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner. What they found was that Zen (zazen) meditation practitioners reported less pain.
To be more specific, Zen masters reported less pain than their neurological output indicated by fMRI. In practice, even though their brains received the same amount of input, less pain was recorded in their mind.
Meditation relieves pain better than morphine
In an experiment conducted by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, 15 healthy volunteers who were new to meditation participated in four 20-minute lessons to learn it, focusing on the breath.
Both before and after the meditative practice, study participants’ brain activity was examined using MRI, while pain was inflicted on them using heat.
Dr Fadel Zeidan , lead author of the study, explains that:
This is the first study to show that just over an hour of meditation can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and the activation of pain-related areas of the brain. (…) We found a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain-related unpleasantness. Meditation produced a reduction in painful stimulus that was even greater than morphine or other pain relievers, which typically reduce pain by about 25 percent.
Meditation helps manage attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome (ADHD)
In a study of 50 ADHD patients, the group that underwent MBCT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) demonstrated reduced hyperactivity, a reduction in impulsivity and an increase in the ability to act with awareness, contributing to a overall improvement in symptoms of inattention .
Meditation increases the ability to stay focused despite distractions
A study conducted by Emory University in Atlanta showed that participants with more meditation experience show greater connectivity within the areas of the brain that control attention .
These neural relationships can be involved in the development of cognitive skills, such as maintaining attention and disengaging from distraction. In addition, the benefits of practicing in a normal state of consciousness during the day, which transfers cognitive abilities outside of meditation sessions into daily life, were also observed.
The practice of meditation was examined by focusing attention on the breath .
Meditation improves learning, memory and self-awareness
Practicing long-term meditation increases gray matter density in areas of the brain associated with learning, memory, self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.
Meditation improves memory
According to Catherine Kerr of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Diagnostics and the Osher Research Center, “mindfulness meditation can improve numerous mental abilities, including quick recall of memories . “
Meditation improves mood and psychological well-being
Researchers from Nottingham Trent University in the UK found that when a group of people with stress and depression issues underwent a meditation practice, all participants experienced improvements in psychological well-being.
Meditation keeps you from falling into the trap of multitasking too often
The multitasking is not just a myth of productivity, but it is also a source of stress. Changing focus all the time is one of the most strenuous activities for the brain, and induces feelings of distraction and dissatisfaction with the work being done.
In research conducted by the University of Washington and the University of Arizona, human resources staff underwent 8 weeks of training in both mindfulness meditation and body relaxation techniques, and participants took a very stressful multitasking test both before and after training. The group of staff who practiced meditation reported lower stress levels and showed better memory for the tasks they had done; they also jumped from task to task less often and stayed focused on longer tasks.
Meditation helps us to distribute limited brain resources
When the brain is presented with two different targets to pay attention to one after the other in a very short time (half a second difference), the second object is often ignored. This phenomenon is called “attentional-blink” .
In an experiment conducted by the University of California, a stream of random letters in rapid succession was shown on a computer screen. For each session, a white screen appeared randomly between letters. Participants were then asked, immediately after the flow ended, to type in the numbers they had seen. He was also asked if they thought he was being shown a blank screen.
Subjects who had practiced 3 months of intense vipassana meditation were shown to have better control over the distribution of attention and perception of resources. They showed a lower allocation of brain resources for each letter shown, which resulted in reduced attention-blink.
Meditation improves visuospatial processing and working memory
Research showed that even after just four mindfulness meditation sessions, participants had significantly improved visuospatial processing, working memory and executive functions.
Meditation prepares us to better deal with stressful events
A study by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, conducted on 32 adults who had never practiced meditation before, showed that if meditation is practiced before a stressful event, the negative effects of stress are mitigated.
Meditation increases the awareness of the unconscious mind
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK has found that people who practice mindfulness meditation experience a more extended pause between unconscious impulses and action, and are also less prone to hypnosis.
Mindfulness meditation stimulates creativity
Research from the University of Leiden (The Netherlands) has shown that the practice of “Open Monitoring” meditation or open monitoring (non-reactive monitoring of the experience moment by moment) has positive effects on creativity and divergent thinking. Participants who had experimented with meditation showed better results in a task in which they were asked to think creatively by proposing new ideas.
3. Benefits for Meditation on Health
Meditation reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke
The heart disease reap more victims than any other disease.
In a study published in late 2012, a group of more than 200 high-risk individuals were asked to take a health education class that promoted exercise and a healthier diet, or to take part in a transcendental meditation class . Over the next 5 years, researchers following the participants’ progress found that those who attended the meditation course experienced a 48% reduction in their risk of heart attack, stroke and death.
Meditation was found to have “significantly reduced the risk of mortality, myocardial infarction and stroke in patients with coronary heart disease. These changes have been associated with lower blood pressure and psychosocial stressors ”.
Other research in the same field has led to similar conclusions.
Meditation affects the genes that control stress and immunity
A Harvard Medical School study showed that after practicing yoga and meditation, the individuals tested had improved mitochondrial energy production, consumption, and endurance. This improvement develops the immune system and allows for greater resistance to stress.
Meditation reduces blood pressure
Clinical research has shown that the practice of Zen meditation (also known as “Zazen”) reduces stress and solves high blood pressure problems.
Another experiment, this time conducted with a technique called the “relaxation response”, yielded similar results. 2/3 of the patients suffering from high blood pressure showed significant drops in blood pressure after 3 months of meditation and, consequently, less need for medication. This is because relaxation results in the formation of nitric oxide, which opens up the blood vessels.
Mindfulness decreases inflammatory disorders
A study conducted in France and Spain at the UW-Madison Waisman Center indicates that the practice of mindfulness meditation produces a range of genetic and molecular effects on participants. More precisely, there were reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn led to a faster recovery of the body from a stressful situation.
Mindfulness decreases inflammation on a cellular level
In the three studies below, the group that embarked on mindfulness meditation performed better at preventing inflammation at the cellular level than the control groups.
Practicing mindfulness helps prevent asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease
In research conducted by a group of neuroscientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, two groups of people were exposed to different methods of stress control .
Some of them received mindfulness meditation training, while the other group underwent therapy that included nutrition education, exercise, and music. The study concluded that mindfulness was more effective in relieving inflammatory symptoms than other wellness-promoting activities.
Meditation and meditative prayer help soothe the symptoms of menopause and PMS
This is the conclusion of over 20 control studies from PubMed, which involved various techniques of meditation, meditative prayer, yoga and relaxation response.
Mindfulness reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and premature death
The results of recent research, published online in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity , state that just 30 minutes of meditation a day not only reduces the sense of loneliness, but also the risk of heart disease, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and even premature death.
Learning mindfulness is helpful for patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia
In a study published in PubMed, 11 participants who suffered from fibromyalgia underwent 8-week mindfulness training. As a result, the researchers found a significant improvement in the participants’ overall health status and symptoms of stiffness, anxiety and depression.
Significant improvements were also seen in the reported number of days that participants felt well and were not forced to skip work due to fibromyalgia.
Meditation helps manage heart rate and respiratory rate
In a study published by the Korean Association of Genuine Traditional Medicine, practitioners of the Integrated Amrita Meditation Technique IAM showed a significant decrease in heart rate and respiratory rate for up to 8 months after the training period.
Meditation can make us live longer
The telomeres are an essential part of human cells that influence their aging process. Although the associated research is not yet conclusive, some data suggest that:
Some forms of meditation can have healthful effects on telomere length, reducing cognitive stress and increasing positive moods, hormonal factors that can help maintain telomeres.
Meditation helps manage psoriasis
The psychological stress is a powerful trigger for inflammation. A stress-reduction intervention based on mindfulness meditation and administered in an audio cassette during ultraviolet light therapy helped to stem the injuries of psoriasis patients more quickly.
The health benefits of transcendental meditation
There is an abundance of studies on the benefits that transcendental meditation can bring to our bodies. Science has proven that this type of meditation is capable of:
- Reduce metabolic syndrome (American Medical Association of Internal Medicine Archives, June 2006)
- Helping manage the effects of trauma (Hindustan Times)
- Extend longevity (American Journal of Cardiology, May 2005)
- Reduce Blood Pressure in At-Risk Teens (American Journal of Hypertension, April 2004; and DoctorsOnTM)
- Limiting Atherosclerosis (American Journal of Cardiology, April 2002)
- Reduce the thickening of the coronary arteries (Stroke, March 2000)
- Limit myocardial ischemia (American Journal of Cardiology, May 1996)
- Help manage and prevent anxiety
- Help reduce cholesterol
- Contribute to the treatment of epilepsy
- Helping Quit Smoking
- Creating a state of deep rest in the body and mind (Hypertension 26: 820-827, 1995)
- Increase Skin Resistance (Physiology & Behavior 35: 591-595, 1985)
- Increase clarity of thought (Perceptual and fine motor skills 39: 1031-1034, 1974)
4. Benefits for Meditation for Relationships
Loving-kindness meditation improves empathy and relationships
In Buddhist traditions there is a practice called metta , translated by us as loving-kindness meditation , in which the practitioner focuses on developing a sense of kindness and care towards all living beings. According to a study conducted by Emory University, such exercises effectively increase the ability to empathize with others by reading their facial expressions.
Another study points out that developing positive emotions through compassion makes us accumulate several personal resources, including:
An attitude of love towards oneself and neighbor, which includes self-acceptance, social support received, and positive relationships with others “ , as well as awakens the ” feeling of control over one’s life “ and includes ” paths of thinking, environmental mastery, a sense of purpose in life, and resilience.
Loving-kindness meditation also reduces social isolation
In a study published by the American Psychological Association, subjects who practiced “even a few minutes of this meditation manifested a greater sense of social connection and positivity towards others, both at explicit and implicit levels. These results suggest that this easy-to-implement technique can help increase positive social emotions and decrease social isolation ”.
Meditation increases our feelings of compassion and decreases worries
After being assigned 9 weeks of Compassion Development Training (CCT), individuals undergoing an experiment showed significant improvements in all three areas of compassion – compassion for others, receiving compassion from others, and self-compassion. In a similar situation, practitioners also experienced decreased levels of worry and emotional suppression.
Mindfulness reduces the feeling of loneliness
A study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University indicates that mindfulness is helpful in reducing feelings of loneliness . Consequently, it mitigates the risk of obesity, mortality and the expression of pro-inflammatory genes.
Meditation reduces emotional hunger
Scientists believe that transcendental meditation helps manage the emotional hunger that causes obesity.
5. Benefits for Meditation for Kids
As part of a huge collection of studies carried out on meditation and mindfulness in schools, the MindfulnessInSchools.org portal presented the results of research that has scientifically found the following benefits on children who have practiced these practices:
- reduction of symptoms of depression
- reduction of somatic stress
- reduced hostility and conflicts with peers
- reduction of anxiety
- reduced reactivity
- reduced use of substances
- memory improvement
- greater self-care
- optimism and positive emotions
- higher self-esteem
- increased feelings of happiness and well-being
- improvement of social skills
- sleep improvement
- better self-awareness
- better academic performance
6. Benefits for Meditation for Teachers
There have also been numerous reports of benefits for teachers and staff, including:
- increased personal qualities, as well as greater open-mindedness, curiosity, kindness, empathy, compassion, acceptance, trust, patience, and the ability to focus
- improvement in physical and mental health after following the dictates of mindfulness, including a marked improvement in conditions particularly relevant to the teaching profession such as stress and nervous breakdown
- better effectiveness in teaching
- improvement of physical health
- increased ability to provide more adequate support for students, as a result of being more motivated and autonomous
- decreased stress
- increased motivation to work
- improvement of spatial memory, working memory and attention
6. Other benefits of meditation
To conclude, here are some interesting facts and benefits of meditation not mentioned in the previous paragraphs:
- Repeating the “om” mantra before surgery helps in preparation and post-operative recovery
- Meditators are better able to impact the reality around us at the quantum level
- Mindfulness can improve our sex life
- Meditation reduces competitiveness and age bias
Simply put, science confirms the experience of millions of practitioners. Meditation will keep you healthy, help prevent disease, make you happier, and improve your performance in just about any task, be it physical or mental.
However, in order to experience most of these benefits it is necessary to practice meditation consistently (every day).
If you’ve learned any lessons from this article, we’d love to hear from you to let us know we’re on the right track.
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Have a good journey inside yourself!