The percentage of Americans who meditate leaped from 4.1 percent to 14.2 percent in the five years between 2012 to 2017, according to the CDC. They’ve had good reason to pick up the practice: A growing body of evidence attests to the profound value of meditation across a range of health outcomes. Wondering whether you should start meditating too? Here’s a closer look at five scientifically proven benefits associated with this wellness technique.
1. It relieves stress.
Excessive stress can irreversibly damage your health. Research conducted at Michigan Technological University indicates that meditation has profound -- and immediate -- potential to provide stress and anxiety relief.
Says the study's lead author John J. Durocher, PhD, “Our results show a clear reduction in anxiety in the first hour after the meditation session, and our preliminary results suggest that anxiety was significantly lower one week after the meditation session. Participants also had reduced mechanical stress on their arteries an hour after the session. This could help to reduce stress on organs like the brain and kidneys and help prevent conditions such as high blood pressure."
2. It boosts memory, attention span, and cognition.
If you have trouble concentrating at work or in your day-to-day life, significant evidence points to meditation's impact on brain function. For example, one study links mindfulness meditation with several cognitive benefits, including improved visuo-spatial processing, working memory, executive function, and the ability to sustain attention. It can even make you smarter!
3. It enhances the mood.
Everyone gets the blues now and then. Mindfulness training, which includes meditation, can trigger changes in the brain which strengthen the pathways that allow people to live in the moment. Says University of Toronto professor Zindel Segal, PhD of this phenomenon, “Mindfulness changes the brain by allowing people to access this present-moment pathway. This is vitally important for working with sad mood states.”
4. It supports better sleep.
Sleep disturbances plague millions of Americans. Rather than turning to medication, consider meditation instead. Research published in JAMA reveals that mindfulness meditation can alleviate sleep problems, fatigue and sleep-related daytime impairments.
According to Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, just 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation a day can facilitate a relaxation response.
5. It offers pain relief.
More than 10 percent of American adults suffer from chronic pain. Unfortunately, pharmacological approaches for pain management often end up doing more harm than good. According to research published in the Journal of Neuroscience, meditation can reduce both pain intensity and unpleasantness.
Mindfulness meditation is so useful, in fact, that many pain clinics now prescribe it for treating pain arising from diseases including everything from migraines and multiple sclerosis to cancer and chronic fatigue.
Getting our bodies and minds in synch has the power to enhance mental, physical and emotional health. When embraced along other healthy habits like eating right and exercising, mindfulness meditation can be an invaluable tool toward comprehensive wellbeing.