Is meditation good for your health?
The short answer is “yes”. Meditation has grown in popularity over the past several years, prompting many different people to pick up the practice in search of the noted benefits. As an exercise in training the mind, it can be very beneficial for people in high-stress jobs or circumstances. On top of that, it can also help people who practice to develop an increased awareness of both themselves and their surroundings, lowering stress levels and improving concentration.
There are many different types of meditation — some geared towards developing positive habits, others geared towards repeating mantras, and others simply focused on the breath — and nearly types all can have health benefits. People who practice meditation often report having a better mood and outlook, sleeping better, and having better concentration.
People also use the practice to develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns and even increased pain tolerance.
This article reviews 12 health benefits of meditation. We explore some of the benefits of this practice that may prompt you to give it a try.
1. Reduces anxiety & stress
One eight-week study of mindfulness meditation showed that participants were able to reduce anxiety along with other symptoms of anxiety disorders, including panic attacks. Other studies that followed participants over a longer term showed that those who continued to practice regular meditation were able to maintain lower anxiety levels over the long term.
Additionally, meditation may reduce both mental and physical stress that can be caused by cortisol. This stress hormone is responsible for the effects of stress, including chemicals called cytokines. Cytokines are inflammation-promoting chemicals that can cause poor sleep, increase depression and anxiety, and boost fatigue and foggy thinking. One eight-week study showed that a specific type of meditation referred to as "mindfulness meditation" was able to reduce the stress-related inflammation response.
2. Boosts emotional health
Meditation may help promote better self-image as well as a better outlook on life. Two studies of mindfulness meditation reported decreases in depression in more than 4,600 adults. When those who meditate are compared to those who do not, the former group displays measurable changes in brain areas related to positive thinking and optimism.
3. Promotes self-awareness
Meditation can promote better self-awareness as well as an improved awareness of one’s surroundings. Self-inquiry meditation, in particular, can help people develop a keener sense of self and a better sense of relation to others surrounding the person. Other types of meditation help people identify negative thought patterns so they might drive away from those thought patterns and towards more positive, constructive ones. In some cases, this may improve self-esteem as well as decrease feelings of loneliness. Meditation can also help people be more creative problem solvers.
4. Improves sleep
Insomnia is a problem that plagues many different segments of the population. In looking at the difference between those who meditate versus those who do not, one study found that the group that practiced meditation fell asleep faster and was able to stay asleep longer than the group that did not meditate. Part of what meditation can help with is the calming of “racing thoughts” or compulsive thinking that may lead to insomnia. Meditation also plays a role in relaxing the body, easing tension, and moving people towards a more peaceful overall state that makes falling asleep much easier.
5. Can improve attention span
Meditation can make it easier to focus for longer periods of time. Focused-attention meditation, specifically, can help work out the “brain muscles” needed to boost the endurance of your attention. Participants of mindfulness meditation courses have been found to better reorient and maintain attention. These people are also able to focus on tasks for longer periods of time and remember details about those tasks better than their non-meditating peers.
Taking advantage of meditation
One of the biggest benefits of meditation is that it can be practiced anywhere. No specific equipment is required and very little space is needed. The biggest requirement is time, though dedicating even just a few minutes to meditation has been shown to have benefits when done regularly.
People interested in trying meditation should choose which type they think will be most beneficial to them and then dedicate some time to practice each day. You may choose focused-attention meditation where you concentrate on an object, word, sound, or specific visualization. Or you may opt for open-monitoring meditation which aims to broaden awareness of one’s environment, one’s thoughts, and one’s sense of self. No matter which type of meditation you choose, know that the benefits you stand to enjoy are great.
Talk with your direct primary care doctor to see if meditating might be beneficial for you. Don’t have a direct primary care doctor or a plan that makes it easy and affordable to see your doctor? No worries. Check out our DPC-focused health plans and see if switching might make sense for you.