7 Benefits of Meditation
Practicing regular meditation can prevent or even eradicate a variety of disease when you know how to meditate. Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of meditation on physical and mental health.
Conventionally, it is not an official medical treatment against any disease. Mindfulness meditation is just a complement to traditional medicine which helps to reduce depression symptoms, anxiety, insomnia, and others.
Here are the top 5 health benefits of meditation
- Stimulate Gray Matter
Gray matter, also called grey matter, in the brain plays many vital functions. It is directly responsible for hearing, memory, seeing, impulse control, executive functions, emotions and speech. Mindfulness medication stimulates and helps it function better.
For ten years, several studies have shown that by stimulating the gray matter in different parts of the brain, mindfulness training can improve learning, memory and emotional regulation.
In a study published in 2011 on Psychiatry Research, scientists had performed brain scanning on participants who had no or little experience with mindfulness meditation. They followed a “mindfulness stress reduction training”. And then the researchers examined their brains again. The results? Their gray matter had significantly increased.
- Stay Focused
Mediation helps you to get rid of detrimental mental thoughts and images to stay focused on what is important in life. The fact of developing your attention with mindfulness training improves your overall ability to focus and sustain attention in everyday tasks.
In a study conducted in 2012 and published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, a team of US researchers examined a group of people who don’t know how to meditate; they have never done any mindfulness meditation before. Some were trained, three hours a day, for months, how to meditate correctly.
During the four months that followed, they should meditate 10 minutes each day. Ultimately, the researchers found that this group better mastered tasks that require a certain meticulousness and attention than the control group. The scientists conclude that even “small doses” of meditation can considerably alter neuronal functions linked to management of conflicting stimuli.
3. Prevent Depression and Anxiety
This is a world full of stressful and depressive situations. We constantly need a strong mental ability to face them. And this is one of the main befits of meditation.
It was recently found that mindfulness meditation could play the same role as antidepressants. In the study fifteen people who had never meditated before were examined after only four days of mindfulness training: they were much less anxious by a change of mood and cognitive control abilities.
One of the common factors to stress, anxiety and depression is the mental rumination: the tendency to mentally rehashing past events, to anticipate future situations to excess, to worry, to think of all kinds of negative things all the time. Fighting depression and anxiety is one of the many health benefits of meditation.
For instance, when we are at home, with family, for example, we mentally dwell on our bad experience if life or professional problems. Being anxious causes the mind to be always elsewhere, preoccupied with something else. Our life is spent in part without us, somewhere in a “negative before or after”, but not now. If you know how to mediate and do it regularly, you can take back control of your mental world.
- Reduce Stress and Improve Sleep
Meditating helps reduce the risk of bad stress. The results (published in 2013) of a recent study conducted by Dr. Kirk Warren Brown from the University of Richmond showed a difference in brain response between those accustomed to meditation over non-practitioners when they showed very unpleasant images. In the first group, the response was lower.
Mindfulness training therefore change the way stress-related centers in the brain are stimulated by emotions. These areas appear to be less sensitive when under pressure which makes reaction easier to regulate. Mediation also boosts the mental performance allowing the brain to be more able to face challenge.
It is also shown that meditation improves sleep quality of people who have difficulty of falling and/or staying sleep. This is even more effective if the insomnia problem is associated with overactive mind, which is very common among people practicing certain types of professions: military personnel, firefighter, airline pilot, police officer, event coordinator, health professionals, and others.
- Ease Pain
Most of the time, we just swallow an analgesic when we are in pain. But something safer with full of health benefits may not only attack the pain but also the cause. Easing pain is one of the benefits of meditation that even some practitioners do not know.
People with severe pain participated in a study conducted in 2011 by Fadel Zeidan, a neurobiologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, North Carolina. After practicing mindfulness meditation for four days, those who meditated found decreased discomfort by 57% and 40% from the intensity of the pain. Next time you are in pain try mediating first before considering drugs.
The researchers identified brain regions that appeared to be involved in pain sensation and determined how they could be modulated through meditation. By altering the scope of the pain through cognitive control and emotional regulation, mindfulness meditation can change the way we perceive pain.
- Fight against Alzheimer’s disease
Mindfulness meditation could slow brain degeneration that leads to Alzheimer’s disease. This is the result of a pilot study published in 2013 by Rebecca Erwin Wells, physician researcher at Wake Forest University. She made 2 important observations during the research.
Here is her first observation: among adults with mild cognitive impairment (a noticeable deterioration in cognitive abilities, including thinking and memory skills), those who practiced mindfulness meditation had their hippocampus (a small portion of the brain which is primarily associated with memory and spatial navigation) less atrophied compared with the control group.
In the second observation, She realized there was improvement in the connectivity of neurons in a brain area called the default mode network (also default network, or default state network), which involves in dreams, past or future thoughts. Although these results need to be confirmed by other further studies, they are very promising.
- Prevent Cold and Flu
Mindfulness meditation can help strengthen your immunity to fight against many pathogens and medical conditions such as cold and flu. The good news this is not drugs which can cause side effects. Meditating empowers the whole body to become stronger and more efficient in fighting diseases. It is free (at least paid a professional trainer to get started) and has no side effect.
A study published on annfammed.org (The Annals of Family Medicine), which was conducted on adults 50 years or older, showed that meditating was almost as effective as physical exercise to fight against acute respiratory infections such as colds and flu. These results corroborate previous studies that demonstrated the benefits of meditation in the fight against these respiratory diseases.