As meditation has increased in popularity over the years, scientists have studied its benefits rigorously. They have realized how the practice positively affects the brain and improves the well-being of many individuals.
Apart from boosting self-awareness, meditation can improve your physical, mental, and emotional state in several ways. Even though how some of these benefits are attained is still not yet discovered, clinical trials plus testimonials of meditators confirm the many advantages of meditation.
Read on to discover sixteen benefits of meditation, how long it takes to notice results, and some meditation types you can try to find the perfect one for you.
Meditation Boosts Concentration
Any meditation requires focus. Therefore the mere act of pausing life for 10 minutes to meditate improves your concentration on the practice and can extend throughout all areas of your life.
Giuseppe Pagnoni, a neuroscientist at Emory University, studied two peer groups: one practiced meditation, and the other did not. He discovered that meditators had a more stable ventral posteromedial cortex than non-meditators. Since this part of the brain is responsible for wandering thoughts, the study concluded that meditation boosts focus. (Source: Live Science)
Scientists even claim that you can improve your attention span with only four days of mindfulness meditation. This further shows how effective this practice can be for reducing inattention and impulsivity issues reinforced into your subconscious by rushing life. (Source: Science Direct)
With regular meditation, snapping back from distractions and avoiding them altogether becomes easier. And the more you train your mind to do this during sessions, the more you become automatically able to maintain focus.
Meditation Combats Stress
Stress is the source of several problems in human lives. Meditation can help alleviate stress and develop shock absorbers for stressors. That’s why avid meditators seem calm even when they’re under lots of pressure.
Studies show that mindfulness meditation reduces the cortisol hormone, also known as the stress hormone. This kind of meditation involves observing thoughts without judgment. When you’re stressed, cortisol levels are high, but if you practice meditation, they’ll likely decrease, and you’ll feel relieved. (Source: PubMed)
Today, many scientists advise medical professionals to suggest meditation for patients exposed to psychological stress. No wonder more than a quarter of people who get into meditation are looking to overcome stress. (Source: Compare Camp)
You can release stress through meditation by:
- Repeating a mantra to help you move your focus away from the stress and remind you of your purpose, identity, or anything else that brings a positive perspective.
- Using a quiet setting to silence stressful thoughts and provoke self-reflection.
- Opening up your mind to observe thoughts for a better understanding.
- Relaxing your breathing so that you can slow down your body and mind.
- Focusing on objects associated with positive thoughts like love and gratitude.
Meditation Helps with Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression affect more than 40 million adults in the United States alone. But science suggests that you can fight such issues using meditation. (Sources: ADAA)
John Hopkins University researchers went through almost 19,000 meditation studies and discovered trials that successfully addressed these issues. They published their findings, which concluded that meditation practices, especially mindfulness meditation, can help with anxiety and depression. (Sources: JAMA Internal Medicine)
While other meditation types can help alleviate nervousness and mild depression, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is more effective. Most recorded studies credit their success to this technique.
When the MBSR methods were applied to patients with chronic illnesses, researchers discovered that they coped better with their circumstances. (Source: Journal of Medical Sciences) This way, post-traumatic anxiety disorders can be avoided, and people can develop more resilience.
Meditation Enhances Self-Awareness
Meditation provides a chance to go deeper and understand how you view yourself. Mindfulness is especially helpful for this purpose. It helps you observe and evaluate your thoughts and feelings objectively to know who you are and how you relate to people and things around you.
Here are ways meditation boosts self-awareness:
- It helps you to identify your thoughts and feelings through tactics like self-interrogation.
- It provides a chance to identify thought patterns.
- You can pinpoint emotional triggers by playing out your experiences in your head.
For instance, you might have this story in your head, “I am worthless, My whole life has been filled with mistakes, and no one cares whether I am okay.” But when you meditate, you’ll start thinking about your past more clearly, and details you’ve been suppressing with the negative narrative will come back to you.
You might realize the lessons those mistakes taught you, people who cared that you’ve pushed away, and, most importantly, how far you’ve come. This might prompt you to question your other beliefs, and gradually, you’ll move on to positivity and improve yourself.
Meditation Assists Pain Management
Pain stresses your body and mind and reduces your quality of life. While some people endure a few moments of pain, some have to go through the agony for long periods due to illness. Whether you are dealing with short-term or long-term pain, meditation can help.
Since your perception of pain is heightened in traumatic situations, you can use meditation to control it. This was made evident by a recent study where patients who meditated felt less pain than those who didn’t even though they were all subjected to the same pain trigger. (Source: JAMA Internal Medicine)
But this doesn’t mean that you won’t feel the pain like with anesthesia. You would feel the pain, but it won’t trouble you the way it did before meditating. This practice merely helps you stay strong amid painful experiences — one of the greatest benefits of meditation.
Meditation Provokes Compassion
Meditation not only improves how you view yourself but also enhances positivity towards others. However, if you want to get such results, choosing loving-kindness meditation techniques would be more fitting.
This meditation method enables you to be kinder to yourself by developing more positive thoughts and feelings of self. After some exercises, you can spread that love to others, starting with loved ones and acquaintances, then adversaries. Other types of meditation can also improve your awareness of other people’s feelings and enhance empathy. (Source: PLOS One)
After an extensive study on loving-kindness meditation effects, researchers concluded that the positive outcomes accumulate over time and could be a solution to unhappiness. (Source: Health and Human Services (HHS) journal)
You can check out this Loving-Kindness Meditation Exercise by researcher and science director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion, Altruism Research and Education, Emma Seppala.
Meditation Helps with Addiction Recovery
Addiction makes one dependent on a certain substance to achieve a high. It stimulates the prefrontal cortex, which is highly involved in pleasure, emotions, awareness, and self-control. Fortunately, meditation provides a natural high that can replace the need for an addictive substance.
According to a study led by a Harvard neuroscientist, Sara Lazar, meditation increases the neural density and activity in the prefrontal cortex. This manifests in heightened awareness, self-control, and feelings of pleasure. (Source: HHS journal)
Here’s a breakdown of the different ways meditation helps with addiction recovery:
- It provokes the discipline you need to overcome addiction. Instead of subconsciously giving in to cravings, you can develop an awareness of the urge so you can take charge of your choice to use. And that’s where self-control comes in.
- The practice enhances your ability to say no when you need to. Since you’re conscious of your actions, one choice to deny a craving can lead to another that can enable a series of recovery steps. That’s why meditators feel more in charge of their lives than non-meditators.
- It can help you determine the cause of your substance abuse. Whether it’s depression, boredom, avoidance, or any other reason, you can decode it by breaking down the experiences that led to consistent use. While this may require you to involve a professional, you can deal with the cause effectively and change your life.
Even if you went through a treatment program and stopped abusing a substance, meditation can help to prevent relapse. A study on alcoholics in recovery revealed that those who went through meditation could control their cravings better than those who didn’t. (Source: HHS)
Meditation May Slow Down Memory Loss
Meditation can reduce age-related memory loss caused by conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia. The practice mostly involves active thinking, which keeps the mind alert and stimulated. Moreover, the exploration of past and present experiences helps keep thoughts updated.
Although most meditations help reduce memory loss, the Kirtan Kriya technique is considered the most effective. It involves singing particular sounds plus repetitively moving fingers. This method stimulates the brain, specifically memory receptors.
Kirtan Kriya is recommended for improving the memory of Alzheimer’s patients, people with dementia, and anyone with age-related memory loss. Since it also reduces stress, caregivers benefit from the meditation exercise as well.
Meditation Provides Better Sleep
Almost half of the adults around the world experience insomnia. Most sleep difficulties are a result of stress and poor sleep cycles.
Since meditation can help minimize stress, it can also help with insomnia. Moreover, the practice promotes a healthy lifestyle through awareness, so you’ll find yourself avoiding any causes of a poor sleep cycle.
Meditation also promotes good sleep in the following ways:
- It reduces beta waves, which originate from active thinking, and increases theta waves, which are associated with relaxation.
- It increases melatonin and serotonin hormones to boost sleeping brain conditions.
- It reduces blood pressure and, subsequently, the heart rate to prompt rest.
In mindfulness meditation studies on insomnia, it was discovered that those who meditated fell asleep earlier and stayed asleep longer. Therefore, scientists recommend the practice for insomnia treatment programs. (Source: PubMed)
Meditation Promotes Healthy Blood Pressure Levels
High blood pressure affects many people around the world. It affects the heart, making it work harder than it should when healthy — and it mainly stems from stress.
However, meditation can relax blood vessels and nerves to promote normal blood pressure. And the best part is, it doesn’t only happen during meditation. The effects benefit the body over time, especially with regular practice. This helps prevent critical conditions like heart disease.
(Source: Harvard Health Publishing)
Meditation Boosts Creativity
Meditation promotes cognitive flexibility, which helps you think about different concepts simultaneously, making connections that may lead to innovative solutions. Although all types of meditation benefit creativity, visualization meditation impacts it most.
When you let your mind imagine whatever you want it to, you’ll reach many depths of stored information, unearthing brilliant ideas you never knew existed in you. You can also use those ideas to inspire “what ifs.”
Most people claim they began having more helpful ideas when they started meditating regularly. Even company executives have reported that meditation helps them open up doors to newer thoughts whenever they hit a snag. (Source: Harvard Business Review)
Meditation Enhances Patience
You’ll always want things in life, and patience helps you get them. This virtue is vital in relationships, executing life goals, and dealing with daily situations.
Meditation helps you pause running thoughts to understand them so that you can make choices rationally. While some stressful circumstances prompt a fight or flight response, this practice encourages patience. It can help you pause before doing something for instant gratification.
Since meditation boosts self-awareness and compassion, you’ll be more patient with yourself and others. This way, you can support others and foster healthier relationships.
Meditation Can Boost Immunity
Several healthy practices can boost your body’s immunity. But scientists marveled when they discovered that meditation could increase T-cells and antibodies, some of the main components of your immune system. Meditation indeed benefits your immune system.
Researchers from the University of California conducted a study on HIV individuals where they noticed that their T-cell decline stopped after mindfulness meditation sessions. By the time the 8-week study ended, the number of T-cells had risen significantly for every individual taking the sessions. (Source: HHS journal)
To prove further that meditation boosts immunity, researchers from the University of Wisconsin carried out a study on healthy employees for eight weeks. They discovered that mindfulness meditators had a stronger antibody response to a flu vaccine than non-meditators. (Source: Pubmed)
Apart from direct effects on your immunity, meditation helps alleviate stress and other problems that positively impact your well-being. It restores the body to its most healthy state in multiple processes that scientists have failed to decode. That’s why some people use meditation for natural healing.
Meditation Reduces ADHD Symptoms
According to studies carried out on adults with ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), meditation can help treat some of its symptoms. Although most ADHD treatments focus on treating hyperactivity issues, meditation can help reduce emotional dysregulation, which affects many other symptoms.
After some weeks of group therapy lessons led by a clinical psychologist, the researchers found high attendance, treatment acceptability, and average homework compliance with their ADHD patients. These positive results after meditation interventions showed them that this practice could be used to treat ADHD symptoms. (Source: Sage Journals)
Through mindfulness meditation, a person with ADHD can:
- Boost emotional regulation
- Develop social skills
- Enhance attention
- Increase self-awareness and esteem
- Promote relaxation
- Manage anger and other ADHD behaviors
If you have time management issues, for instance, instead of getting defensive every time you’re late due to shame, you can be honest and improve yourself. Resources like The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD, a book written by Dr. Lydia Zylowska, can help.
Meditation May Slow Down Skin Aging
Many people want to look younger. Although many slow-aging creams keep coming up, quests to find natural hacks are never-ending. Fortunately, meditation can benefit your skin by deactivating the NF-κB protein, hence rejuvenating the skin.
Here are two studies that back up slow-aging through deactivation of the NF-κB protein:
- The discovery that turning off NF-kB would slow skin aging was made by Dr. Howard Chang and other Stanford University scientists. They applied a concoction on mice’s skin, which deactivated the NF-kB protein. They noticed their skins getting thicker and firmer, featuring less aging and inflammation. (Source: Genes and Development (G&D)).
- In 2013, UCLA researchers evaluated the results of an 8-week meditation program on dementia patients. They realized many benefits of meditation, and skin rejuvenation was one of them. They stated in their conclusion,“A brief daily yogic meditation intervention may reverse the pattern of increased NF-κB-related transcription of pro-inflammatory cytokines…” (Source: Pubmed)
Additionally, since stress is one of the causes of inflammation — an aging cause itself — you can easily conclude that meditation slows aging by alleviating stress.
This reveals the reason why most regular meditators seem to be defying aging. While this concept still feels like a fable to many people, research proves that meditation may slow skin aging.
Meditation Can Boost Confidence
Lack of confidence originates from the mind. When you make devaluing references and let people’s negative remarks linger in your thoughts, you start losing confidence. However, since meditation helps alleviate anxieties and enhances self-awareness, you can increase your confidence in every session.
After a 4-year study on college students, results revealed that their overall psychological health, including social confidence, increased with meditation practices. This wasn’t accompanied by changes in social desirability, though. (Source: Institute of Education Sciences)
This practice can help you minimize negative self-talk through techniques like mindfulness, self-interrogation, and reciting loving-kindness mantras, among others.
How Long Does It Take to See the Benefits of Meditation
You can notice some benefits of meditation after just one session. However, studies show that regular meditation can cause changes in our brains after eight weeks.
Short-Term Benefits of Meditation
You can notice the changes in meditation after one session, but a more reasonable timeline would be after a week. This estimation follows a highly controlled study on stress resilience caused by meditation that showed results after four days. (Source: Frontiers)
Many people get into meditation wanting to prove it can work within as little as one session. While that’s possible, challenges like correcting your meditation practices are common. If you’re a novice, it’ll be difficult to manifest the results without successfully mastering meditation first.
If you are meditating correctly, you might experience these immediate benefits:
- Enhanced moods
- Stress relief
- Increased creativity
- Improved self-awareness
- Boosted memory
But even to reap the short term perks, you have to be consistent. Meditating for 10 minutes every other day won’t give you the results you’re looking for — especially if you’re a novice. And even if you do everything right and don’t notice any improvements, it’s best to stick to consistency for long-term benefits.
Long-Term Benefits of Meditation
Most studies included in the short-term benefits section were carried out for eight weeks. Since this allowed time for short-term and long-term rewards to show, they were able to notice complex changes like skin rejuvenation and slowed-down memory loss.
All short-term benefits lead to long-term ones. As you consistently practice meditation for weeks, you will begin to experience the following:
- Stress relief will lead to better heart, skin, and mental health and overall improved well-being.
- Memory boosting will slow down any big losses of memory, improve your IQ, among other bigger-brain effects.
- Your heightened awareness will enable you to fix tough behavioral patterns and, subsequently, help with numerous challenges in your life.
- Your better moods will reflect in your positive viewpoints, how you treat yourself, and how you treat others as well.
Meditation is like a workout — the more you do it, the more cognitive muscle you develop. The small changes you noticed at first will extend to impact major areas of your life positively. And you can notice these benefits in as little as two months of regular meditation.
Types of Meditation and Their Benefits
Different types of meditation help people with varying needs. While you can use any meditation type to start meditating, identifying what’s most effective for you is essential. Consider the reason you are looking into beginning a meditation routine, and look through the following types of meditation to find the one that’s right for you.
Here’s a table showing a summary of the main forms of meditation:
|Meditation Type||Unique Practices|
|Mindfulness meditation||This technique focuses on creating awareness by objectively observing thoughts and feelings to identify any significant patterns. It helps you avoid dwelling on negativity and instead note and learn from it. It can be practiced anywhere and without guidance. That’s why it’s applied in other forms of meditation.|
|Loving-Kindness meditation||Also known as metta meditation, it aims at enabling love and kindness for oneself, others, and even stressful experiences. It helps you replace a destructive personal narrative, anger, resentment, and other negative feelings with a positive attitude.|
|Body Scan meditation||Also known as progressive meditation, its main benefit is to help you relieve tension. When practicing it, you scan your body, identify areas with tension, and either tense and relax muscles or imagine a wave flushing the body to release the tension. You can use it to relax, alleviate pain, or help with sleep difficulties.|
|Transcendental meditation||This meditation type uses mantras to manifest the feeling or thoughts you want to have. It mainly helps to alleviate anxiety and change patterns reinforced into the subconscious. You can use it with other meditation practices.|
|Walking meditation||Just like the way you use breath as the focus for mindfulness meditation and mantras for transcendental meditation, in this case, you’ll use your footsteps as your focus to ensure you’re present. It alleviates stress and stress-related issues.|
|Visualization meditation||In this method, you imagine that something, whether a goal or an object, is your reality. You’ll experience everything from how you’ll feel to the reality you see developing. This technique boosts creativity and eliminates unwanted mental activity.|
|Chakra meditation||This form of meditation involves relaxation methods that balance your chakras (energy centers of the body). They connect your physical, emotional, and spiritual energies to improve your overall well-being.|
|Yoga meditation||With varied postures and breathing techniques, you can use this meditation to enhance physical agility and improve your mental state.|
|Sound Bath meditation||This technique uses special vibrations to relax your mind and body, leading you into deep contemplation.|
|Vipassana meditation||This type of meditation involves deep scrutiny of the realities in and around you to gain perspective that’ll lead to transformation.|
There are numerous benefits associated with meditation, both short-term and long-term. All you have to do is master the type of meditation you need for your purpose and keep practicing consistently. Whether you are trying to relieve a bit of stress, slow down the aging process, or completely overhaul your life, there is a meditation that is perfect for you.