Meditation seems to be everywhere recently. No matter if your problem is physical or mental, everyone recommends meditating.
As with many trends, it can be difficult to see through the “woo”.
Luckily there has been a lot of scientific research on the topic of meditation. So let’s have a look at the scientific benefits of meditation thanks to my guest blogger, Leo from Invisible Lioness.
What is meditation?
To understand how meditation can benefit us, let’s quickly recap what meditation actually is.
PsychologyToday defines meditation as “the practice of turning your attention to a single point of reference.”
In many practices, this means focusing on your breathing. But as the definition suggests, you could also focus on anything else. Something you hear or see, for example. Or it could be a mantra, ie some words you want to focus on.
Although this sounds very easy, don’t fool yourself! Focusing on whichever thing you picked can be quite tricky. Oftentimes our so-called “monkey-mind” – our thoughts running wild – interrupts us.
The trick is to not let them distract you. Instead, whenever you catch yourself engaging with these thoughts, simply come back to your point of focus.
The Benefits of Meditation
It may be a surprise that an exercise this simple should be a solution for so many different problems. But looking at the research, we quickly recognize how many incredible benefits meditation really offers.
Physical benefits of meditation
Let’s start by looking at the scientifically proven physical benefits of meditation! As you will read in a second, the mental benefits are a direct result of the physical benefits of meditation.
Meditation can lower blood pressure
Several randomized controlled trials found that meditation could help treat high blood pressure. Although it is still unclear how exactly, it is clear that meditation can lower your blood pressure.
Meditation benefits your immune system
When researching the effects of meditation on our immune system, researchers found a very interesting effect.
People who meditated regularly started showing more “left-sided anterior activation”. This is a brain pattern that is usually connected to positive emotions.
Directly connected to that was an increase in antibodies. The more left-sided anterior activation, the more antibodies they produced.
Meaning, they made their immune system stronger the more they meditated! Fascinating, right?
Meditation can help decrease pain
To research this, scientists measured the neural responses of meditators to pain. After only 4 days of meditation, they saw a significant decrease in feelings of pain in the test persons.
Meditation helps regulate your metabolism
Another benefit of meditation is the regulation of our metabolism. Through meditation, we activate certain areas of our brain that control metabolism.
So if you are trying to lose weight or generally regulate your metabolism, meditation is the way to go!
A regular meditation practice decreases inflammation
Meditating regularly helps to decrease inflammation on a cellular level. So when people say that meditation changed them as a person, they are factually right! It goes as deep as changing what happens to your cells.
Meditation grows “good” brain areas
While it might seem like you are doing nothing when meditating, your brain gets a proper workout!
Quite a few areas of your brain actually grow when you meditate. Those areas are related to regulating hormones, exercising self-control and helping you pay attention.
You could say that meditation is a very wholesome exercise for self-improvement.
Mental and emotional benefits of meditation
Now that we covered the physical benefits of meditation, let’s look at the consequences for our mental and emotional wellbeing.
Meditation makes you happier
While this sounds like a platitude, it is scientifically true. Meditation makes you genuinely happier. As we found out above, meditating trains the part of the brain that is responsible for positive emotions.
Meditating reduces stress
Another huge mental benefit of meditation is the reduction of stress symptoms. Let’s be honest: We all are a little stressed! Reason enough to sit down and breathe.
A meditation practice can help with anxiety and depression
Studies found that a meditation practice can do wonders for patients dealing with anxiety and depression. After some time of meditation practice, symptoms were significantly less.
Meditation makes you feel more socially connected
People who meditate feel measurably more connected to other people around them. Scientists attribute this meditation benefit to the fact that meditation makes you happier. You being happier means that you connect better with people around you.
Meditation improves your memory
There are also cognitive benefits to meditation. After only 4 days of meditation training, participants in a study clearly showed increased memory capacity. So if your working memory is leakier than you’d like – maybe try meditating!
Meditating makes you more creative
A meditation practice will work wonders for your creative thinking.
This will not come as a surprise to people working creatively. You know how when you try to force your creativity, it just doesn’t work. Instead, you need to let it do what it does.
This is basically what we do in a mindfulness meditation. We just let everything happen without interfering.
Meditation increases emotional intelligence
If you meditate regularly, you actively increase your emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is a broad term. But the mental benefits of meditation are pretty broad as well!
Meditation practitioners have reported increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support and increased life satisfaction.
Meditation increases your ability to focus
Last, but not least, meditation helps you to focus better.
Various studies show that meditators have the ability to focus better and longer than people who do not meditate.
I know we covered a lot of information about the benefits of meditation. If you want an easy overview over all the amazing things meditation can do for you, have a look at this infographic and pin it for later!
I hope by now you are thoroughly convinced to start your meditation practice. Or, if you’ve already meditated before, you are absolutely satisfied with all the good things you are achieving for yourself!
Whichever your perspective, do let me know in the comments and thank you for reading!