May 13, 2021
8 min read

10 benefits of meditation for mental and physical health

Regularly practicing meditation increases your awareness of your body and mind. Research shows that meditation benefits both your mental and physical health. Decreasing stress, blood pressure, and protecting your brain health are just a few of the ways meditation can help your health. Read this article to learn more about the benefits of meditation.

Disclaimer

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

If you’ve been searching for a way to help manage your stress and manage your thoughts, meditation may be a helpful tool for your health and wellness. 

Research shows that meditation has many different benefits for the body and mind. And the good news is you don’t have to be able to sit in a crossed-legged position to see those benefits. 

What is meditation?

Meditation is the practice of increasing your awareness of your mind and body. Multiple forms of meditation have been around for thousands of years from cultures and religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.

Here are some popular types of meditation:

  • Mindfulness training
  • Transcendental meditation
  • Loving-kindness meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Body scan
  • Visualization

There has been a growing interest in meditation for its benefits for health and well-being. There is now research to back some of these benefits up. 

Top 10 health benefits of meditation

Training the mind has some powerful effects on the body, both for mental and physical health. The research supporting the benefits of meditation training continues to grow as more studies dive into how it affects the brain and body.

1. Reduces stress

Leading a stressful life can actually have an impact on the health of your brain. Research shows that stress can increase cortisol levels and weaken areas of the brain involved in memory and learning, like the amygdala and hippocampus (Yaribeygi, 2017). This makes finding strategies to reduce stress important for your health. Research shows meditation practices help to lower stress levels (Janssen, 2018).  

2. Increases creativity and productivity

Some forms of mindfulness meditation, like visualization, have you practice picturing images in your mind. Practices that help you think in different ways to visualize objects, tasks, and goals can help to boost creativity. 

Meditation has also been studied for how it can help in the workplace. One study showed, in addition to increasing creativity, meditation also increased productivity and improved colleague relationships (Kersemaekers, 2018). 

3. Helps manage anxiety and depression

Practicing mindfulness and meditation helps to lower anxiety levels. One study showed it could help lower symptoms of depression, and these effects lasted for six months after completing meditation therapy (Saeed, 2019). 

Another study looked at transcendental meditation techniques and found that the practice helped lower anxiety in people with chronic anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (Orme-Johnson, 2014).

4. Increases attention and concentration

Just like lifting weights helps muscles become stronger, meditation can help your brain tissue grow. 

Meditation practices involve focusing your attention on specific actions, thoughts, or things. The prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula are areas of the brain that play a role in attention. Research shows that meditation practices increase the thickness in these areas of the brain, helping to improve attention, concentration, and self-awareness (Lazar, 2005). 

These changes in the brain last, suggesting that practicing mindfulness can have a long-term impact on your mental health (though more research is needed to confirm this).

5. Reduces memory loss

Meditation may also protect your mind from age-related changes, memory loss, and dementia. Neuroscience research studies have explored how mindfulness meditation practices affect the hippocampus (a part of your brain that plays a role in your memory). One study showed that Vipassana meditation, a type of introspective mindfulness meditation, could help increase hippocampus connections and have long-term effects on memory. They reported that meditation could be an important piece in helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease (Lardone, 2018). 

6. Improves mood

A meditation practice could also help to boost your mood. Controlling racing thoughts while reducing anxiety and stress can have a significant impact on your emotional well-being. Research shows that meditation practices help some people process emotions better. It helps you control how intense your emotions feel, recognize that they don’t last forever, and spend less time dwelling on negative emotions (Wu, 2019). 

7. Helps you sleep better

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70 million people in the U.S. have sleep problems (CDC, 2017).  Meditation could offer a solution to ending your insomnia without medications. One study showed that mindfulness-based therapy helped reduce insomnia symptoms and time spent awake, and it helped to end some people’s insomnia completely (Ong, 2014). 

8. Lowers blood pressure

A regular meditation practice may help lower heart disease risk by helping to manage blood pressure. One study showed that participants had lower blood pressure after just eight weeks of using mindfulness meditation techniques than the control group (Ponte Marquez, 2019).  

9. Reduces pain

Managing chronic pain can be challenging, especially for people who would like to avoid taking pain medications. 

Your thoughts about pain can change how you perceive your pain. Types of meditation that practice noticing sensations and pain in your body without judging or reacting to it may help control pain. A review of 30 studies suggested that practicing mindfulness may help to reduce pain and improve quality of life (Hilton, 2017). 

10. Improves IBS symptoms

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be a complex disease to manage because the cause of it isn’t always clear. It can be affected by stress levels, the foods you eat, sleep, inflammation, and other factors. 

Research shows that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) training may help to reduce IBS symptoms. The improved symptoms may be from lowering stress levels or increasing the awareness of your body, making it easier to find the triggers for your symptoms (Naliboff, 2020).

Getting started with meditation

Now that you know the benefits of practicing mindfulness, you may be wondering how to get started practicing. There are many apps, videos, and classes available to help guide you through meditations. 

When you’re getting started, it’s recommended to practice daily meditation in a quiet, distraction-free environment to help you focus and prevent the mind from wandering. But you can practice these techniques anywhere, like walking meditation or doing a few breathing exercises before a meeting. 

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control. (2017). Sleep and sleep disorders. Retrieved on May 10, 2021 from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_us.html#:~:text=About%2070%20million%20Americans%20suffer,costs%2C%20and%20lost%20work%20productivity
  2. Hilton, L., Hempel, S., Ewing, B. A., Apaydin, E., Xenakis, L., Newberry, S., et al. (2017). Mindfulness meditation for chronic pain: systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, 51(2), 199–213. doi: 10.1007/s12160-016-9844-2. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27658913/
  3. Janssen, M., Heerkens, Y., Kuijer, W., van der Heijden, B., & Engels, J. (2018). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on employees’ mental health: a systematic review. PloS one, 13(1), e0191332. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0191332. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5783379/
  4. Kersemaekers, W., Rupprecht, S., Wittmann, M., Tamdjidi, C., Falke, P., Donders, et al. (2018). A workplace mindfulness intervention may be associated with improved psychological well-being and productivity. a preliminary field study in a company setting. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 195. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00195. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5836057/
  5. Lardone, A., Liparoti, M., Sorrentino, P., Rucco, R., Jacini, F., Polverino, A., et al. (2018). Mindfulness meditation is related to long-lasting changes in hippocampal functional topology during resting state: a magnetoencephalography study. Neural plasticity, 2018, 5340717. doi: 10.1155/2018/5340717. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6312586/
  6. Lazar, S. W., Kerr, C. E., Wasserman, R. H., Gray, J. R., Greve, D. N., Treadway, M. T., et al. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport, 16(17), 1893–1897. doi: 10.1097/01.wnr.0000186598.66243.19 Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361002/
  7. Naliboff, B. D., Smith, S. R., Serpa, J. G., Laird, K. T., Stains, J., Connolly, L. S., et al. (2020). Mindfulness-based stress reduction improves irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms via specific aspects of mindfulness. Neurogastroenterology and motility : the official journal of the European Gastrointestinal Motility Society, 32(9), e13828. doi: 10.1111/nmo.13828. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32266762/
  8. Quinn, B. T., Dusek, J. A., Benson, H., Rauch, S. L., Moore, C. I., & Fischl, B. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport, 16(17), 1893–1897. doi: 10.1097/01.wnr.0000186598.66243.19. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361002/
  9. Ong JC, Manber R, Segal Z, Xia Y, Shapiro S, Wyatt JK. (2014). A randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation for chronic insomnia. Sleep; 37(9):1553-1563. doi: 10.5665/sleep.4010. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/37/9/1553/2416992
  10. Orme-Johnson, D. W., & Barnes, V. A. (2014). Effects of the transcendental meditation technique on trait anxiety: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 20(5), 330–341. doi: 10.1089/acm.2013.0204. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24107199/
  11. Ponte Márquez, P. H., Feliu-Soler, A., Solé-Villa, M. J., Matas-Pericas, L., Filella-Agullo, D., Ruiz-Herrerias, M., et al. (2019). Benefits of mindfulness meditation in reducing blood pressure and stress in patients with arterial hypertension. Journal of human hypertension, 33(3), 237–247. doi: 10.1038/s41371-018-0130-6. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30425326/
  12. Saeed, S. A., Cunningham, K., & Bloch, R. M. (2019). Depression and anxiety disorders: benefits of exercise, yoga, and meditation. American family physician, 99(10), 620–627. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31083878/
  13. Wu, R., Liu, L. L., Zhu, H., Su, W. J., Cao, Z. Y., Zhong, S. Y., et al. (2019). Brief mindfulness meditation improves emotion processing. Frontiers in neuroscience, 13, 1074. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2019.01074. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6795685/
  14. Yaribeygi, H., Panahi, Y., Sahraei, H., Johnston, T. P., & Sahebkar, A. (2017). The impact of stress on body function: a review. EXCLI journal, 16, 1057–1072. doi: 10.17179/excli2017-480. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579396/
  15. Centers for Disease Control. (2017). Sleep and sleep disorders. Retrieved on May 10, 2021 from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_us.html#:~:text=About%2070%20million%20Americans%20suffer,costs%2C%20and%20lost%20work%20productivity
  16. Hilton, L., Hempel, S., Ewing, B. A., Apaydin, E., Xenakis, L., Newberry, S., et al. (2017). Mindfulness meditation for chronic pain: systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, 51(2), 199–213. doi: 10.1007/s12160-016-9844-2. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27658913/
  17. Janssen, M., Heerkens, Y., Kuijer, W., van der Heijden, B., & Engels, J. (2018). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on employees’ mental health: a systematic review. PloS one, 13(1), e0191332. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0191332. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5783379/
  18. Kersemaekers, W., Rupprecht, S., Wittmann, M., Tamdjidi, C., Falke, P., Donders, et al. (2018). A workplace mindfulness intervention may be associated with improved psychological well-being and productivity. a preliminary field study in a company setting. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 195. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00195. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5836057/
  19. Lardone, A., Liparoti, M., Sorrentino, P., Rucco, R., Jacini, F., Polverino, A., et al. (2018). Mindfulness meditation is related to long-lasting changes in hippocampal functional topology during resting state: a magnetoencephalography study. Neural plasticity, 2018, 5340717. doi: 10.1155/2018/5340717. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6312586/
  20. Lazar, S. W., Kerr, C. E., Wasserman, R. H., Gray, J. R., Greve, D. N., Treadway, M. T., et al. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport, 16(17), 1893–1897. Doi: 10.1097/01.wnr.0000186598.66243.19 Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361002/
  21. Naliboff, B. D., Smith, S. R., Serpa, J. G., Laird, K. T., Stains, J., Connolly, L. S., et al. (2020). Mindfulness-based stress reduction improves irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms via specific aspects of mindfulness. Neurogastroenterology and motility : the official journal of the European Gastrointestinal Motility Society, 32(9), e13828. doi: 10.1111/nmo.13828. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32266762/
  22. Quinn, B. T., Dusek, J. A., Benson, H., Rauch, S. L., Moore, C. I., & Fischl, B. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport, 16(17), 1893–1897. doi: 10.1097/01.wnr.0000186598.66243.19. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361002/
  23. Ong JC, Manber R, Segal Z, Xia Y, Shapiro S, Wyatt JK. (2014). A randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation for chronic insomnia. Sleep; 37(9):1553-1563. doi: 10.5665/sleep.4010. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/37/9/1553/2416992
  24. Orme-Johnson, D. W., & Barnes, V. A. (2014). Effects of the transcendental meditation technique on trait anxiety: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 20(5), 330–341. doi: 10.1089/acm.2013.0204. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24107199/
  25. Ponte Márquez, P. H., Feliu-Soler, A., Solé-Villa, M. J., Matas-Pericas, L., Filella-Agullo, D., Ruiz-Herrerias, M., et al. (2019). Benefits of mindfulness meditation in reducing blood pressure and stress in patients with arterial hypertension. Journal of human hypertension, 33(3), 237–247. doi: 10.1038/s41371-018-0130-6. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30425326/
  26. Saeed, S. A., Cunningham, K., & Bloch, R. M. (2019). Depression and anxiety disorders: benefits of exercise, yoga, and meditation. American family physician, 99(10), 620–627. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31083878/
  27. Wu, R., Liu, L. L., Zhu, H., Su, W. J., Cao, Z. Y., Zhong, S. Y., et al. (2019). Brief mindfulness meditation improves emotion processing. Frontiers in neuroscience, 13, 1074. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2019.01074. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6795685/
  28. Yaribeygi, H., Panahi, Y., Sahraei, H., Johnston, T. P., & Sahebkar, A. (2017). The impact of stress on body function: a review. EXCLI journal, 16, 1057–1072. doi: 10.17179/excli2017-480. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579396/