Meditation is a process of training your mind to focus on a single object, and mindfulness is the ability to stay aware of the present moment without judgment or indulgence. These terms are becoming increasingly popular as more people discover reasons why meditation is crucial for a healthier, calmer mind. New scientific studies continue to explore the countless benefits of meditation.
In this article, we’ll talk about 20 reasons why meditation is important for a joyful life. You may know some of these benefits of meditation, but you will discover some extra ones that’ll motivate you to build a steady meditation practice. Use the table of contents to navigate through the article.
So here are 20 science-based benefits of meditation:
- 1. Meditation makes you more creative
- 2. Meditation sharpens your mind
- 3. Meditation makes you more compassionate
- 4. Meditation controls anxiety
- 5. Meditation helps relieve depression
- 6. Meditation improves sleep
- 7. Meditation reduces blood pressure
- 8. Meditation helps control pain
- 9. Meditation helps with PTSD
- 10. Meditation helps eating disorder recovery
- 11. Meditation enhances emotional intelligence
- 12. Meditation lengthens your attention span
- 13. Meditation helps fight addictions
- 14. Meditation improves focus
- 15. Meditation improves relationships
- 16. Meditation improves working memory
- 17. Meditation reduces stress
- 18. Meditation enhances your immune system
- 19. Meditation improves physical health
- 20. Meditation can reduce brain aging
- Final thoughts
1. Meditation makes you more creative
A study, published in the journal Mindfulness, suggests that meditation promotes creative thinking. 40 people were asked to meditate for 25 minutes before doing their thinking tasks. The group contained both experienced and novice meditators. The researchers concluded that meditation enhances convergent and divergent thinking – two major ingredients of creativity.
Also, you don’t have to be an experienced meditator to profit from meditation. Another study conducted on 129 students reveals that even short, 10-minute sessions make us more creative. It was the first time that these participants had meditated, which shows that you can enjoy the benefits of meditation even if you’ve never done it before.
2. Meditation sharpens your mind
Breathing is a key element in meditation. There are two types of breath-focused practices: one that requires you to focus on the sensations of your breath without controlling it (Mindfulness) and another that emphasizes controlled breathing (Pranayama).
Research conducted at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity studied the neurophysiological relationship between breathing and attention or sharpness of mind. The researchers found that our breathing directly affects the levels of noradrenaline in this brain. Noradrenaline is a chemical messenger that’s released when we are focused, challenged, or curious. If produced at the right levels, it helps the brain grow new, powerful connections.
The study concludes that the ancient Yogis and Buddhist masters were correct in proclaiming that meditation and other breath-focused practices make the mind healthier. These practices increase your attention span and enhance reaction times, making you smarter.
3. Meditation makes you more compassionate
A study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, reveals that people who practice mindfulness meditation are better at regulating their thoughts and emotions. The research shows that, as a result, meditators are kinder and more empathetic, even to strangers.
Another study, published in Psychological Science, included two groups of students who had never meditated before. The first group completed an eight-week mindfulness meditation course, while the second group was placed on a waitlist for the same course.
After eight weeks, researchers placed the participants in a situation where they had the chance to give up their seat for a stranger in pain. Only 16% of the non-meditators offered their chair to the woman on crutches, whereas half of the meditators immediately and spontaneously offered their seat.
4. Meditation controls anxiety
Anxiety occurs when we’re not able to regulate our emotions. It’s the body’s physical response to stress and fear. Research shows that regular meditation practice creates new neural pathways in the brain, improving our ability to regulate emotions.
A review of nearly 19,000 meditation studies, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, also reveals that meditation and other mindfulness practices ease psychological stresses like depression, pain, and anxiety. People with anxiety have difficulties distinguishing between problem-solving thoughts and worrying thoughts that have no benefit. Meditation teaches us to recognize, understand, and let go of anxiety-inducing thoughts.
Mindfulness meditation also reduces the size of a region in our brain called the amygdala. It’s the “fight or flight” center of the brain that controls anger and fearfulness. The smaller the size of the amygdala, the less fearful, aggressive, and anxious you’ll be.
5. Meditation helps relieve depression
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is an approach to psychotherapy that includes mindfulness practices. A study published in 2016 suggests that MBCT lowers your chances of relapsing into depression.
In another study, a group of university students took part in a six-week meditation training. Upon completion of the course, they showed a reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms. The researchers then followed up after 6 and 12 months. They found that the students who continued their meditation practice scored low when tested for symptoms of depression. This shows that the more you incorporate it into your daily life, the more benefits of meditation you’ll see.
You may have heard that physical exercise relieves depression symptoms. But a study published in 2017 observed the effects of exercise and meditation on 181 nursing students and found that meditation could be even more beneficial for managing depression.
Also read: Does Meditation Make You Happy?
6. Meditation improves sleep
If you have difficulties falling asleep, you’re not alone. Globally, around 35 to 50 percent of adults experience insomnia symptoms regularly. Meditation can help you sleep better by calming the mind and body. When you meditate before bedtime, it may help you fall asleep easily.
In a 2015 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, 49 adults who had trouble sleeping were randomly divided into two groups. The members of the first group were assigned six weeks of meditation practice and the others were taught ways to improve their sleep habits. The mindfulness group experienced fewer insomnia symptoms and less fatigue and depression after six weeks compared with the people in the sleep education group.
Apart from helping you fall asleep quickly, meditation also elevates your mood. It reduces stress and keeps the mind calmer through the day, which further helps you get a good night’s sleep.
7. Meditation reduces blood pressure
High blood pressure is very common among people of all ages. Long-term hypertension leads to poor heart function and even heart attacks and strokes. Meditation also improves our physical health as it lowers the blood pressure and reduces strain on the heart.
A study observed the effects of transcendental meditation on 996 participants. They found that during meditation, the blood pressure of volunteers reduced by around five points, on average. The research also suggests that it was more effective for older participants and those who had higher blood pressure before the study.
A review also concluded that several types of meditation practices are beneficial for the cardiovascular system and blood pressure control.
8. Meditation helps control pain
When we face stress, the body triggers the release of stress hormones, which causes inflammation and pain to already irritated parts of our body. Meditation shifts our attention to something quiet. When we do that, the body doesn’t release stress hormones into the bloodstream. Instead, meditation can help the brain release endorphins, which are natural pain reliever.
A 2011 study observed the effects of brief mindfulness sessions on 15 healthy participants. They induced pain and performed MRI scans of their brains. In the next four days, they were taught the basics of mindfulness meditation. On the fifth day, the researchers again induced pain and scanned the participants twice, once while meditating and another time while not meditating. Their findings revealed around 40% reduction in pain intensity ratings during meditation.
Related article: 6 Enjoyable Ways to Meditate When You’re Sick
9. Meditation helps with PTSD
Transcendental meditation is a form of meditation that involves the silent repetition of a mantra to achieve a quieter state of mind. Research suggests that it can help reduce the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A study, published in the journal Military Medicine, observed the effects of transcendental meditation on 74 active-duty service members with anxiety disorders or PTSD. The researchers concluded that meditation may enable people battling PTSD to reduce, or even eliminate, their use of medications and to better control PTSD symptoms.
Another study in Lancet Psychiatry suggests that transcendental meditation is a viable option for decreasing symptoms of PTSD in veterans.
It’s not just transcendental meditation; a recent review of several studies found that mindfulness-based programs such as Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) may also provide relief from PTSD symptoms, such as sleep disturbance and anxiety.
10. Meditation helps eating disorder recovery
Stress or emotional eating is when our bodies react with cravings for high-fat and high-sugar foods in response to stress. Practicing meditation can calm your mind by triggering the relaxation response in the body. Being relaxed allows you to take a step back and not give in to the food cravings.
We’ve already seen how meditation helps you cultivate self-compassion. So you’ll be able to reframe your negative thoughts in a stressful situation and respond more healthily, knowing what’s best for you.
A review of 14 studies investigated the link between mindfulness and binge eating. The researchers concluded that mindfulness meditation decreases emotional and binge eating tendencies in people.
Another small study reveals that mindfulness works to enhance self-awareness and eating behavior when it’s added to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
11. Meditation enhances emotional intelligence
A study included 96 central-office staff to study the effects of transcendental meditation on their emotional intelligence. The researchers concluded that the people who practiced meditation showed a significant increase in emotional intelligence and a considerable decrease in perceived stress. There was a noteworthy increase in stress management, intrapersonal awareness, adaptability, and general mood as well.
Mindfulness meditation also strengthens connections between two parts of the brain that help improve a person’s empathy: The insula and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. The insula manages how you understand someone else’s state of mind, while the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex is linked to your perspective. This stronger connection helps you become more socially aware.
Apart from that, meditation also enhances self-management and self-control by weakening neural connections in the amygdala – responsible for fear and anger – and strengthening connections in the prefrontal cortex – responsible for logic and rational thought.
12. Meditation lengthens your attention span
Concentrative meditation, where you focus your attention on an object, is like weight lifting for your attention span. It strengthens your attention.
There have been various studies exploring the relationship between meditation and attention span. One such study found that an eight-week mindfulness meditation course enhanced volunteers’ ability to maintain and reorient their attention. Meditation may also reverse patterns in the brain that contribute to poor attention, worrying, and restlessness of the mind.
A similar study revealed that human resource workers who regularly meditated could keep the details of their tasks better than those who didn’t meditate. They also stayed focused on a task for longer and were better able to ward off distractions.
As with many of the benefits of meditation listed here, you don’t have to become a meditation expert to experience them. Even four days of meditation practice can increase attention span.
Also read: 10 Reasons Why You Should Not Meditate
13. Meditation helps fight addictions
A study by researchers at the University of Washington shows that meditation reduces relapse rates among recovering addicts. In another research, 19 recovering alcoholics were taught to meditate, and the researchers found that they got better at controlling their cravings.
Like other benefits of meditation, you don’t have to become an expert in meditation to feel the change within you. One study shows that if you meditate around 30 minutes per day for eight weeks, the gray matter in your brain associated with anxiety and stress will decrease and the gray matter linked to memory, learning, and introspection will increase.
What does it have to do with fighting addiction? Your bodies may respond to stress and anxiety with food or other cravings. The mental discipline developed through meditation can help you increase your self-control and be more aware of the triggers for addictive behaviors. When you’re more mindful and disciplined, you’ll make wise choices instead of giving in to your urges.
14. Meditation improves focus
It’s easy to imagine how training your mind to observe the breath increases your focus and attention. Just as you can increase your stamina and endurance by training the body, you can also increase your concentration and productivity by training the mind.
Research suggests that meditation practice results in improved cognition and increased ability to perform tasks that require focus. You don’t have to meditate for years and become an expert to experience these benefits of meditation. The researchers found that only four days of mindfulness practice increases a person’s focus and attention.
Another study tested the effectiveness of different types of meditation techniques, including Sufi Meditation, Vipassana, Transcendental Meditation, Tibetan Buddhist Meditation, and Hindu Meditation. The researchers concluded that all of these practices improve focus by varying degrees.
Related: Are Meditation and Prayer the Same?
15. Meditation improves relationships
Meditation makes us more peaceful beings. It increases our emotional stability, rational thinking, positivity, and gratitude. We’re able to understand and regulate our emotions, making us more tolerant toward other people. We’ve also seen how mindfulness makes us more compassionate, creative and improves our emotional intelligence.
It’s easy to imagine how these things contribute to healthier and more fulfilling relationships. When we’re calm and mindful, we can respond intelligently instead of getting triggered by situations and people. When we’re on friendly terms with ourselves, we can form more meaningful bonds with others.
A 2007 study explored the link between mindfulness and marital quality. It concluded that meditation enhances a person’s ability to identify and communicate emotions, leading to healthier connections between individuals. Another similar study revealed the same results.
16. Meditation improves working memory
Do you keep things somewhere, and, hours later, can’t remember where that somewhere is? If yes, then your short-term or working memory is not at its peak. It can be a challenge for people suffering from mental illness or older people. The good news is that meditation is a simple way to improve our short-term memory.
A study, published in the journal Psychological Science, included 48 undergraduate students and divided them into two groups: one taking a mindfulness class and the other taking a nutrition class, both for two weeks.
The researchers concluded that the meditation group improved their scores, but not the nutrition-trained group. Their average GRE verbal score went from 460 to 520 in two weeks. They also performed better on tests of focus and working memory, which means they had fewer wandering thoughts.
Another study suggests that mindfulness meditation improves our short-term memory. Here, the researchers also found that the better people performed on memory tasks, the more their hippocampus volume increased.
17. Meditation reduces stress
Stress is something many of us face in our day-to-day lives. Our bodies respond to stress by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. This is known as the fight-or-flight or stress response of the body. If we continue to experience these agitations for a prolonged period, it can cause physical damage to parts of the body.
Naturally, stress reduction is one of the most common reasons people turn to meditation. There has been a lot of scientific research exploring how meditation can help us become stress-free.
One such study observed the effects of meditation on over 3500 adults and found that it plays a significant role in stress reduction. Another eight-week study found that the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program reduces the stress-evoked cortisol responses. Researchers have also found that these effects of meditation are strongest in people with the highest levels of stress.
18. Meditation enhances your immune system
Whenever your body faces stress, it jumps into the “fight or flight” mode, controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. As soon as you’re in this mode, your body automatically suppresses the immune system. Why? If there’s an immediate threat to your life, running away from a dog about to bite you takes precedence over preventing a cold.
The problem is, we’re stressed pretty much all the time. The news, social media, work, relationships, all contribute to our stress. And it doesn’t matter whether a dog is chasing you or you’re worried about your boss; it’s all the same to your body – real or imaginary.
So we never really give our bodies the chance to repair itself as it’s always under threat. Meditation works to change this situation. It breaks the stress cycle by calming the mind and body. When we’re stress-free, the “rest and digest” system kicks in and the body starts to repair itself.
19. Meditation improves physical health
Turns out, we can really worry ourselves sick. When we’re distressed or overwhelmed, the body abandons certain functions to divert the energy elsewhere. The body can abandon immune, digestion, growth, and reproduction systems in case of immediate danger. Meditation works to calm the mind, which in turn, calms the body.
All types of meditation techniques contribute to our physical well-being in different ways. Meditation reduces stress and anxiety, which can damage different parts of the body. It also lowers blood pressure, improves sleep, makes the heart healthier, decreases inflammation, and increases immunity – all of which directly affect our physical health.
20. Meditation can reduce brain aging
Usually, the performance of both body and mind declines as we age. We know that physical exercise can help us stay fit even when we get old, and meditation has the same benefit for the mind. For decades, scientific studies have been proving that meditation literally changes our brain structure for the better.
A 2005 study examined the effects of meditation on the brains of volunteers who had been meditating around 40 minutes a day for a long time. The researchers concluded that these serious meditators had more gray matter in several crucial areas of the brain as compared to similarly aged non-meditators.
Gray matter typically shrinks with age, but this study shows that 50-year-old meditators had as much gray matter as 25-year-old individuals.
Again, you don’t have to meditate for years to start seeing results. Another study published in 2011 revealed that meditating for just eight weeks thickens the brain in several key areas. These parts include the temporoparietal junction, responsible for processing empathy and compassion, and the hippocampus which is associated with memory and learning.
Meditation is something everyone can do in the comfort of their home. It doesn’t require any special equipment and can be done anywhere. Building a daily meditation routine is one of the best things you can do for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
I hope this article gave you 20 convincing reasons to meditate. If you want to make meditation a part of your life, start here – Mindfulness Meditation: Everything You Need to Know.
Good luck and happy meditating! 🙂