5 Surprising Benefits of Meditation
Whether you are new to meditation or an experienced practitioner, meditation offers numerous benefits that may surprise you. In honor of National Meditation Month in the U.S., we are sharing five science-backed benefits of meditation.
Meditation is an ancient practice dating back thousands of years. You can meditate to relax, reduce anxiety and stress, and improve overall quality of life. While experienced practitioners may already enjoy the advantages of meditation, there are five lesser-known benefits that even regular meditators may not be aware of.
- Improves Quality of Sleep
50% of adults report experiencing symptoms of insomnia, and ongoing poor sleep quality can lead to a wide range of health problems. Research has shown that meditation can improve sleep quality by reducing stress levels, and mindful meditation has been shown to reduce insomnia in adults over 55. People may use a variety of meditation styles to help them sleep, including mindfulness meditation, guided meditation, qigong, tai chi, and yoga. To maximize potential benefits, it may help to use meditation alongside other healthy sleep habits, such as keeping regular bedtimes and keeping the sleep environment cool, dark, and quiet.
- Reduces Anxiety and Depression
Over 264 million people suffer from depression worldwide. Fortunately, research shows that regular meditation can help. Studies point out that mindfulness-based stress reduction programs can improve symptoms of anxiety and depression by 30%; and, yoga and meditation can help treat the underlying risk factors and mechanisms that trigger these conditions. This makes meditation a great option for prevention and treatment when it comes to mental health stressors.
- Boosts Immune Function
Your immune system plays a critical role in keeping you healthy, and meditation is proven to help. Meditation boosts immune system function by increasing the activity of natural “killer cells” that are responsible for destroying harmful cells in the body. A study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that meditation can increase the activity of natural killer cells by up to 50%, leaving you feeling healthy, energized, and more able to take on your days.
- Increases Brain Function
Meditation can also have a positive impact on brain function. Researchers at Harvard Medical School discovered that meditation could increase the thickness of the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for decision-making, attention, and self-control. The same study also found that meditation can increase the gray matter in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory. In short, it is shown that the brains of people who meditate regularly are healthier and less likely to show age-related loss of function.
- Aids in Lowering Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a health problem that affects millions of people around the world, and meditation has been proven to ease this pain point. Meditation can relieve stress and emotional reactivity through the autonomic nervous system by reducing blood pressure and preventing stress on the heart and blood vessels. Slow, deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system (where our fight or flight response lives!), which decreases the heart rate and dilates blood vessels, reducing your overall blood pressure.
Overall, there are many benefits to maintaining a regular meditation practice beyond just relaxation. Meditation is like exercise for your brain—, the more you practice, the more efficient your mind becomes at re-focusing and remaining in the present moment.
Feeling inspired to try a meditation practice?
Head over to our Yoga for Beginners Series to try a short, guided meditation with RYT 500, Shawn J. Moore. This exercise can help you connect your body, breath, and mind. It is a practice that echoes the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, “your true home is in the here and the now.”