The Health Benefits of Meditation

Meditation relieves you of the day’s stress, bringing with it inner peace. Meditation is increasing in popularity as more people discover its health benefits. With meditation, you can increase awareness of yourself and your environment. To many people, it is a way of developing concentration and reducing stress.

In this article, Dr. Brett Berner of Foundation Chiropractic, Lutz FL, reviews some of the health benefits of meditation.

Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

What is meditation?

Meditation has been around for thousands of years. It was originally meant to create a deeper understanding of life’s sacred and mystical forces. However, in recent times, meditation is mostly used for stress reduction and relaxation.

Meditation is more of mind-body complementary medicine. It tranquilizes the mind and produces a deep state of relaxation.

When you meditate, you train your mind to focus and discard all the jumbled thoughts that may be running through your mind and causing chaos. Of course, the result will be an enhanced emotional and physical well-being.

What are the benefits of meditation?

1. Meditation reduces stress

Without a doubt, stress is the commonest reason why many people meditate. A study review found that meditation is very effective in reducing stress.

When you are physically or mentally stressed, the level of cortisol in your blood increases. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone in the human body. The increased level of cortisol produces the harmful effects of stress, including the release of cytokines, i.e., a group of inflammatory chemicals.

This high level of cytokine disrupts sleep, and also promotes anxiety and depression, high blood pressure, foggy thinking, and fatigue.

A particular 8-week study found that mindfulness meditation helped to reduce inflammation caused by stress. Several studies have shown that meditation improves post-traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and other stress-related conditions.

2. Meditation helps control anxiety

Meditation is an effective stress reliever. Stress relief translates to lowered anxiety. A meta-analysis involving 1300 adults found that meditation is effective in reducing anxiety. The researchers observed that this anti-anxiety effect was strongest in those who were overly anxious.

Another study involving 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation found that meditation caused a drastic reduction in anxiety levels in participants with generalized anxiety disorder. Mindfulness meditation also improved their reaction to stress and stress coping.

3. Meditation gives your emotional health a boost

Meditation helps one to have a more positive outlook on life. This, in turn, promotes a positive self-image.

For instance, a review of treatments administered to no less than 3,500 adults found that mindfulness meditation relieved symptoms of depression.

Another review of 18 studies showed that therapies bordering on meditation reduced the incidence of depression among participants compared with those who did not do the meditation therapy.

In another study yet still, it was found that participants who engaged in meditation therapy had fewer negative thoughts after being exposed to negative images compared with members of the control group.

In another study, it was discovered that inflammatory chemicals known as cytokines have a negative effect on mood, and may lead to depression. Cytokines are released in response to stress. A review of some studies suggests that meditation reduces the level of cytokines in the body which in turn leads to a decreased incidence of depression.

4. It reduces age-related cognitive impairment

Clarity of thinking and improved attention keeps the mind young. Meditation, specifically Kirtan Kriya, helps in achieving this.

Kirtan Kriya is a form of meditation that combines a chant or a mantra with repetitive finger motions so you can focus your thoughts. Studies involving people with age-related memory loss reports that Kirtan Kriya improves the performance of people in neuropsychological tests.

Another study found that combining multiple styles of meditation can increase memory, attention, and mental alertness in the elderly.

Apart from helping to fight or prevent age-related memory loss, meditation also improves memory in individuals with dementia. It also helps with stress control and improves the coping ability of caregivers of dementia patients.

5. It helps with fighting addictions

You see, meditation helps one to develop strong mental discipline. With this mental discipline, you will be able to break addictions and dependencies by increasing your awareness of triggers, and also by increasing self-control.

Studies have shown that meditation helps people to control their thoughts, regulate their impulses and emotions, and helps them to have a better understanding of the causes behind their addictions.

For instance, a study involving over 60 people with alcohol use disorder reported that transcendental meditation helped to lower the level of stress, alcohol cravings, alcohol use, and psychological distress in the subjects after 3 months.

Meditation also helps you to have better control over food cravings. A study review found that people who practiced mindful meditation were better able to control binge eating and emotional eating.

6. Control of pain

Here’s the thing with pain perception: it is linked to the state of your mind. And when you’re under stress, your sensitivity to pain increases.

Some studies have shown that engaging in routine meditation can help you control pain effectively.

For instance, a review of 38 studies found that mindful meditation helped to reduce pain, decrease depression symptoms in people suffering from chronic pain, and improve the quality of life.

So, what’s the takeaway?

There’s no doubt that meditation helps improve emotional and mental health. The good news is that it can be done anywhere, without any special memberships or equipment.

What’s more? There are several support groups and meditation courses everywhere. And there are many styles of meditation as well, each with its benefits and strengths.

One of the best gifts you can give yourself is trying out a style of meditation — one that suits your goals. It will help to improve the quality of life you’re living.

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