Up until a few decades ago, meditation was regarded as a marginal practice, and the idea it might be included in medical treatments was crazy. Nowadays things have changed, and the benefits of meditation on our body have been proved, especially with stress-related issues.
People who have already approached mediation consistently and seriously for some time likely know about its benefits on mind and emotional balance. Benefits of meditation have been backed by science more and more over the last years; science tries to verify the effects of meditation on our brain, our pain perception, work performance and stress management.
A recent study conducted in Australia proves the benefits of meditation on both mind and body. The experts concluded that people who have engaged in meditation for at least 2 years are 10% mentally healthier than those who have never approached this practice.
Benefits of meditation on mind
#1 Natural remedy for anxiety and depression
Mindful meditation is one of the best natural remedies for anxiety and depression. Thirty minutes of this meditation a day is enough to battle anxiety and depression, with even better effects than placebo or antidepressant medications. More encouraging results come from 30 to 40 minutes of daily meditation sessions. It is what came out of a study carried out at the Hopkins University School of Medicine, whose results were published on Jama Internal Medicine.
What is mindful meditation, and what are its benefits?
Mindfulness meditation is a type of meditation based on being mindful or having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment. In mindfulness meditation, you broaden your conscious awareness. You focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgment.
As sufferers of depression and anxiety will understand, many feelings of sadness, low mood or worry relate to events that have happened in the past, or events that are yet to occur in the future. By practicing mindfulness meditation, we can train our minds not to worry so much about what has already occurred or what is yet to happen, and instead focus only on the present moment. Mindfulness meditation teaches us to focus on ‘the here and now’ i.e. what we can control.
Mindful meditation increases the production of serotonin
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter or ‘chemical messenger’ that is produced in the brain and resides primarily in our digestive tract. Serotonin plays an important role in a variety of activities; specifically, serotonin.
Low serotonin levels are commonly found in people suffering from depression and/or anxiety. Regular mindfulness meditation practice has been associated with a natural increase in serotonin levels, which is particularly beneficial for stabilizing mood in people with depression or anxiety. Increased serotonin levels can result in higher quality sleep, which can lead to reduced feelings of sadness or concern throughout the day – it is no secret we are better able to cope with difficult situations when we feel rested, as opposed to when we are running on an empty tank.
#2 Mindful meditation lessens emotional reactivity
When we feel depressed or anxious, we are often likely to emotionally react to situations that make us feel upset or distressed, without giving the situation at hand much thought before reacting.
Mindfulness meditation is a fabulous tool for allowing ourselves to view our thoughts and feelings ‘from above’, or like leaves that come and go, travelling downstream
By practicing detachment from our feelings though regular mindfulness meditation, we can reduce our need to emotionally react to a situation, and instead address things cognitively beforehand. Mindfulness meditation encourages us to understand that our thoughts and feelings come and then they go again – we do not always need to react to them, and therefore feelings of depression and anxiety may be reduced.
#3 Mindful meditation reduces rumination
Rumination refers to the process of going over and over a scenario in your head, and is a very common situation when you are suffering from depression or anxiety.
Mindfulness meditation is a great tool for reducing repetitive thoughts and concerns. By practicing mindfulness meditation regularly, you are able to better focus on the task at hand (i.e. the present moment), and are less likely to repetitively worry about something that has happened in the past or something that is yet to come.
#4 Mindful meditation assists in achieving better sleep
Sleep disturbances are very common in people suffering from depression and/or anxiety, including struggling to get to sleep, insomnia (the inability to stay asleep or waking numerous times overnight), and even sleeping too much.
Mindfulness meditation can help us to both get to sleep and achieve a higher quality sleep, whether we choose to meditate throughout our day or before we go to bed (or both). A racing mind (anxiety) or feelings of sadness and low mood (depression) often worsen in the evening, or while lying in bed trying to go to sleep.
#5 Boosts memory and concentration
Not only does meditation help memory and concentration because of relaxation techniques giving the brain more clarity, but it increases grey matter as well. A study carried out at Massachusetts General Hospital measured for the first time the effect of relaxation techniques on the human brain. It was shown that 8 weeks of mediation and anti-stress practices have remarkable effects on memory and empathy.
#6 Relieves stress
A study carried out at Carnegie Mellon University showed that a few days of mindfulness meditation may relieve stress. For three days the volunteers followed the daily practice of a 25-minute meditation session. Meditation seems to help either reduce the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) or reduce stress perception, as they had described it prior to the meditative training.
#7 Aspires to happiness
A Tibetan monk is the happiest man, and it is not surprising. Matthieu Ricard has practiced meditation for decades and researchers at the University of Wisconsin wanted to analyze his brain waves, through sensors placed on his head. It was shown Matthieu Ricard’s brain produced gamma waves levels never detected before with attention, learning and memory. Also, his left brain hemisphere proved more active than the right one, which confirmed his willingness to happiness and positivity, for consistent meditation.
# 8 Increases productivity
Meditating increases productivity at work. The reason for this is easy to find out. Because of meditation, our mind learns how to focus on the present moment. By meditating, we may have our brain get used to getting maximum concentration any time, like in work situations, where focus and concentration are most needed. Scientific studies showed meditation effects on brain waves; in deep meditation brain waves shift from beta type, like in a wakeful state, to theta and delta types. This is the neuroplasticity of the brain at work: our brain can change itself based on the stimuli coming from the environment and the body.
#9 Promotes empathy
Researchers from the Northeastern University of Boston showed meditation promotes empathy among people, promotes kinder feelings, having them emerge from stressful and worrisome daily lifestyle.
Benefits of meditation on body
#10 Flu vaccine
Meditation is the best vaccine for flu. Researchers drew such conclusions after administering a 8-week test to a group made of 154 adults of both sexes. Doctor Barret, who coordinated the study, stated meditation and physical exercise may help prevent flu, pointing out vaccines are partially effective and work just for three types of flu a year. Mindfulness meditation gave 30-40% benefits, which is a remarkable find to take into account in next researches.
# 11 Reduce physical pain
Meditation helps reduce physical pain. American researchers conducted a test on 15 volunteers. After inducing pain on participants, they followed 4 meditation sessions, each one lasting 20 minutes, during which they practised concentration techniques focused on thoughts, emotions, situations and breathing. After the meditation sessions, the pain had decreased by 11% to 91%. It is an excellent result and has no side effects at all.
How to Meditate
This type of meditation focuses on the breath, not because there is anything special about it, but because the physical sensation of breathing is always there and you can use it as an anchor to the present moment. Throughout the practice you may find yourself caught up in thoughts, emotions, sounds—wherever your mind goes, simply come back again to the next breath. Even if you only come back once, that’s okay.
A Simple Meditation Practice
- Sit comfortably. Find a spot that gives you a stable, solid, comfortable seat.
- Notice what your legs are doing. If on a cushion, cross your legs comfortably in front of you. If on a chair, rest the bottoms of your feet on the floor.
- Straighten your upper body—but don’t stiffen. Your spine has natural curvature. Let it be there.
- Notice what your arms are doing. Situate your upper arms parallel to your upper body. Rest the palms of your hands on your legs wherever it feels most natural.
- Soften your gaze. Drop your chin a little and let your gaze fall gently downward. It’s not necessary to close your eyes. You can simply let what appears before your eyes be there without focusing on it.
- Feel your breath. Bring your attention to the physical sensation of breathing: the air moving through your nose or mouth, the rising and falling of your belly, or your chest.
- Notice when your mind wanders from your breath. Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander to other places. Don’t worry. There’s no need to block or eliminate thinking. When you notice your mind wandering gently return your attention to the breath.
- Be kind about your wandering mind. You may find your mind wandering constantly—that’s normal, too. Instead of wrestling with your thoughts, practice observing them without reacting. Just sit and pay attention. As hard as it is to maintain, that’s all there is. Come back to your breath over and over again, without judgment or expectation.
- When you’re ready, gently lift your gaze (if your eyes are closed, open them). Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions.
As you spend time practicing mindfulness, you’ll probably find yourself feeling kinder, calmer, and more patient. These shifts in your experience are likely to generate changes in other parts of your life as well.
Though until a few decades ago it was regarded as a marginal practice, nowadays the benefits of meditation on mind and body and scientifically backed. According to a recent study carried out in Australia, people who have engaged in meditation for at least 2 years are 10% mentally healthier than those who have never approached this practice.
Mindful meditation, which is a type of meditation based on being mindful, or having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment, seems to be one of the best natural remedies for anxiety and depression; in fact regular mindfulness meditation practice has been associated with a natural increase in serotonin levels, which is particularly beneficial for stabilising mood in people with depression or anxiety. Increased serotonin levels can result in higher quality sleep, which can lead to reduced feelings of sadness or concern throughout the day.
Not only is meditation effective to treat anxiety and depression, but it also boosts memory and concentration (as it gives the brain more clarity), reduces stress (since it reduces cortisol levels, the stress hormone), promotes the willingness to happiness and positivity, and increases productivity.
As regards the benefits of mediation on the body, practicing meditation seems to be the best vaccine for flu: researchers drew such conclusions after administering an 8-week test to a group made of 154 adults of both sexes. Doctor Barret, who coordinated the study, stated meditation and physical exercise may help prevent the flu, pointing out vaccines are partially effective and work just for three types of flu a year.
What’s more, meditation seems to help reduce physical pain.
As you spend time practicing meditation, you’ll probably find yourself feeling kinder, calmer, and more patient. These shifts in your experience are likely to generate changes in other parts of your life as well.