Meditation has become prevalent in Western society. Yet meditation is an ancient art dating back centuries. Historians date meditation back to 5,000 BCE, and it has religious ties to Sikhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Meditation’s global spread began with the invention of the Silk Road between five or six centuries BCE. But it wasn’t until the 20th century that Western cultures embraced it. Today, economists value the meditation industry at over 1 billion in the USA. Read on to learn all about the incredible health benefits of meditation!
Here are some statistics on the popularity of meditation today:
- An estimated 200 to 500 million people meditate worldwide
- Around 66% of American Buddhists meditate once per week
- Approximately 14% of U.S adults have meditated at least once
- Meditation decreases your anxiety 60% of the time
- Meditation boosts employees productivity by 120%
- Around 52% of employers offered mindfulness classes and training to their employees
- Popular meditation app, Headspace, has received over 40 million downloads
- Over 35 million Americans have considered trying meditation
- 5.4% of American kids have tried meditation at school or home
- 13% of adults over 65 have tried meditation
The popularity of meditation has increased as society has become aware of its vast health benefits. Today, everyone can practice meditation regardless of their current surroundings. Here are some of meditation’s vast benefits:
- Decreased anxiety
- Reduced stress
- Can help with depression
- Improved sleep
- Decreased blood pressure
- Those suffering from chronic pain
- Increase self-awareness
- Help beat addiction
- Increase your focus
- Improve your immune system
- Reduce age-related memory loss
In this article, we will give you a detailed insight into the health benefits of meditation and why it’s becoming so popular around the world.
The 11 Health Benefits of Meditation
1. Meditation Can Decrease Your Anxiety
Anxiety has become a growing problem worldwide for decades. But the COVID-19 pandemic increased anxiety levels in U.S adults. Studies suggest a fifth of U.S. adults are witnessing psychological stress due to the pandemic.
Nonetheless, scientists have proven meditation is an excellent way to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Studies found that following a meditation program leads to a 73% reduction in PTSD symptoms. Meditation reduces depression relapses by 12%. And 8 months of meditation reduces symptoms in people suffering from a generalized anxiety disorder.
Meditation is also superb for controlling job-related anxiety. That has affected millions of people during the COVID-19 pandemic. One study found that employees who used a mindfulness meditation app for two months experienced reduced stress levels. They also enjoyed increased emotional well-being.
2. Meditation Can Reduce Stress
The pandemic caused untold stress for billions of people worldwide. Even during 2021, Americans were reporting similar stress levels to early-2020 and the start of the pandemic. Meditation is the best way to reduce stress in your life. Stress reduction is the most common reason for people wanting to try meditation.
In fact, one recent review concluded meditation does indeed reduce stress in many circumstances. In one 8-week study, mindfulness meditation reduced the inflammatory response caused by stress. Meditation can also improve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and irritable bowel syndrome. These are all common byproducts of stress.
3. Meditation Can Help With Depression
Depression is a common problem throughout the world. Meditation won’t cure depression, but it can help you with the battle. One study of treatments given to 3,500 adults found meditation improves symptoms of depression. A similar study found people who’ve completed meditation experience fewer negative thoughts.
Another bonus of meditating to combat depression is decreasing levels of cytokines. These are stress-induced inflammatory chemicals released when we become stressed. They often contribute to feelings of depression, so it’s important we try to reduce them. Meditation is one of the best ways to do so. What’s more, meditation can decrease stress and anxiety—two common side effects of depression.
4. Meditation Can Improve Your Sleep
One of the most significant health benefits of meditation is improving your sleep. Almost half of the U.S. population will struggle with insomnia at some point in their lives. Poor sleep can lead to increased stress, reduced attention span, lack of energy, mood changes, and slowed thinking.
Furthermore, poor sleep reduces the likelihood of contracting diabetes and heart disease.
But meditation is superb for increasing your sleep levels. That’s because meditation reduces your heart rate by igniting the parasympathetic nervous system. This helps to promote slow breathing. As a result, you’ll experience longer nights of sleep and less disruption during sleep. Research shows meditation improves sleep quality, how quickly you fall asleep, and how long you can stay awake during the day.
5. Meditation Can Decrease Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can be a significant issue for millions of people worldwide. Over time, high blood pressure makes your heart perform harder to pump blood through the body. That often leads to heart attacks or strokes because of the narrowing of your arteries.
A meta-analysis of 12 studies found meditation can reduce blood pressure. Although meditation was more effective at reducing blood pressure in older people, it still works for people of all ages. What’s more, one review found various types of meditation delivered similar improvements in blood pressure.
6. Meditation Helps You Battle Chronic Pain
A study from 2019 found 20.4% of adults in the United States suffered from chronic pain. Even worse, 7.4% of adults suffering from chronic pain had to limit daily activities. Chronic pain often affects Americans over 65. But although there are various chronic pain treatments—meditation is one of the best options.
A study of meditation in 2018 found meditation and mindfulness can change the structure of your brain in the long term. The change in some areas of your brain results in cortical thickness; this helps to make you less pain-sensitive.
Meditation induces the body’s own opioid system which helps to decrease pain. A study from 2016 used a placebo or the opioid blocker naloxone and studied pain reduction with meditation. The study found the group with the placebo felt less pain than the group who used the opioid blocker naloxone.
A 2012 study found people who regularly practiced meditation reduced their pain by 22% and anticipatory anxiety by 29%. A 2017 review of nonpharmacological treatments found meditation can reduce back pain. The results lasted a year after treatment. But a study from 2014 said there was “insufficient evidence” to suggest meditation reduces pain intensity. Yet the same study found meditation decreases depression in people with chronic pain.
So scientists have proven there’s a clear link between people meditating and reducing their pain levels. Although it depends on the person, meditation is something anyone suffering from pain should try.
7. Meditation Can Boost Your Self-Awareness
One of the keys to finding happiness and inner peace is achieving self-awareness. Most people who attend therapy sessions are trying to build their self-awareness. Various studies have found meditation can boost your self-awareness. This leads to improved mental and physical health in the short and long term.
Meditation is excellent at slowing our thoughts down because it encourages relaxation. When we have a clearer mind, we’re able to understand our thought patterns more clearly. Once we understand our thought patterns, we can start making positive changes in our lives.
One study found 153 adults who used a mindfulness meditation app for two weeks decreased feelings of loneliness. They also boosted their social contact compared to those in a control group. A review of 24 studies found that tai chi can improve self-awareness. Tai chi is a Chinese martial art that places a huge emphasis on mindfulness.
8. Meditation May Help You Battle Addiction
Addiction is one of the worst problems in the United States. According to statistics, almost 21 million Americans have at least 1 addiction. But only 10% of those people receive any treatment. Alcohol and drug addiction cost the U.S. economy 600 billion yearly. Also, 20% of Americans with depression or anxiety suffer from an addiction. Addiction doesn’t have to be class-A drugs; it can mean an unhealthy diet or a caffeine addiction.
But scientists have found meditation helps fight addiction. One study found the mental discipline acquired through meditation increased your self-control. It also increases awareness of addiction. Research also found that meditation can help people learn to redirect their attention away from addictive substances.
Another study of 60 people receiving treatment for alcohol addiction found excellent meditation benefits. The study found transcendental meditation decreases alcohol cravings after 3 months. A review of 14 studies also determined mindfulness meditation reduces emotional and binge eating.
All in all, if you feel you’re suffering from addictions of any type, you should try meditation. Research suggests it’s effective at rewiring the brain to control addiction. But reducing addiction through meditation takes consistency and discipline over time.
9. Meditation Can Increase Your Immune System
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has focused on our immune systems. Without robust immense systems, we’re prone to catching diseases. Meditation is excellent at boosting your immune system for various reasons.
For example, when we’re stressed, it reduces our immune system’s ability to fight off antigens. The stress hormone corticosteroid quells your immune system because it lowers your lymphocytes. But meditation will decrease stress and improve your emotional health.
Another study from Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found people who meditate had more flu antibodies after a flu vaccine. He conducted this study over an 8-week period.
In addition, the University of Florida conducted a study on meditation and the immune system. Their findings suggested 8-days of robust meditation causes an activation of the immune system. They conducted their research on a group spending time in a meditation retreat.
The genomic analysis discovered that several immune-related and other cellular pathways changed after the meditation retreat. That includes genes linked with interferon signaling, a critical part of the body’s anti-virus and anti-cancer immune responses.
Age-related memory loss is a major worry for billions of people worldwide. In the United States, scientists suggest 40% of people over 65 have age-associated memory impairment. That equates to around 16 million people. In 1% of those cases, it will lead to dementia. Additionally, one in nine U.S. adults over 45 report memory loss issues.
But meditation can reduce age-related memory loss. One study found evidence that various meditation styles increase memory and mental quickness. Meditation may help people suffering from dementia; that’s something that affects over 5.8 million Americans.
11. Meditation Can Boost Your Focus and Attention Span
If you want to achieve success in your career, you’ll need focus and concentration. That goes without saying. But the business of everyday life can damage our focus and concentration. Poor attention span is often a byproduct of stress, epilepsy, insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or ADHD. But meditation is an excellent way to overcome that.
For example, one study found people listening to a meditation tape saw improved attention. Additionally, those in a control group experienced low levels of concentration without meditation. A similar study showed people who regularly meditate have greater attention spans than those who don’t.
Moreover, a review found meditation can reverse negative thought patterns. These include worrying and mind-wandering. But you don’t even need to meditate for long periods. Another report suggests 13 minutes of meditation daily can increase memory and attention span. So it’s possible to incorporate meditation into your morning routine.
Final Thoughts on the Health Benefits of Meditation
Meditation isn’t a fad. It’s been a tried and tested method for thousands of years that’s helped people’s mental and physical health. Meditation isn’t easy. It can take weeks or months to begin to master it. But once you master it, all the physical and mental health benefits will start to become clear.
Most importantly, you don’t even need to spend hours meditating. A simple 10 minutes every couple of days is an excellent way to start achieving levels of mindfulness. If you decide to start meditation, you should be patient and diligent. The results will come in the end. And when the results come, they can change your life forever.