There are disadvantages to regular meditation

Benefits of Meditation: 9 Scientific Evidence

Meditation has many scientifically proven health benefits: From reducing stress to reducing anxiety, Calvin Holbrook considers the top nine benefits of practicing meditation.

With the increasing popularity of meditation in the West, so does the interest of science in it and with it the scientifically proven benefits of meditation. In a world that is feeling increasingly chaotic, more and more people are turning to meditation as an antidote to a multitasking, distracted lifestyle. Through meditation we can increase our mental and physical well-being.

The origin of meditation goes back a long time. The earliest written records, the Vedas of ancient India, are from 1500 BC. Different styles of meditation have different techniques and goals and can therefore not necessarily be compared with one another. So it is worth taking a closer look when choosing a meditation technique. One of these is mindfulness meditation, in which one focuses on the present moment and the thoughts, emotions and sensations that arise, but does not evaluate them or let them carry one away.

Another important style is metta meditation - metta is Sanskrit and means kindness of heart or loving kindness. This style is derived from the Buddhist Vipassana tradition and focuses on universal love and compassion for others. Many people practice these forms today. Science now supports the health benefits of meditation - both mental and physical - that humans have instinctively understood for millennia.

The currently most frequently examined form of meditation is mindfulness meditation, as it has a formal and standardized eight-week training program in the form of the MBSR - meditation-based stress reduction - which is ideally suited for scientific purposes due to this standardization.

The free MBSR online course based on mindfulness meditation is available in English in our happiness academy.

What Are The Benefits Of Meditation For Mental Health?

Because of these scientifically suggested benefits, meditation is regularly recommended as an alternative therapy for a variety of conditions, including:

  • stress
  • Anxiety disorders
  • depressions
  • sleep disorders
  • Increase the feeling of happiness
  • Promote positive thinking
  • Improve relationships
  • Increase in cognitive skills

Science has also shown evidence that regular meditation practice can improve the functioning of the brain and even change its structures. [2] Therefore, the place for meditation to increase the well-being and satisfaction of both individuals and society as a whole is obvious.

Absolute certainty is difficult in a scientific context because the studies and experiments confirm a theory until there is a better theory that explains the result in a more differentiated manner. Anyone interested in the current state of science in this area and the problems, challenges, criticisms of current studies and the fascinating open questions and astonishing hints should be the book "Altered Traits" by Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson. [1]

What are the benefits of meditation on physical health

Scientists began studying the effects of meditation on the mind and body in the 1950s. [3] However, these early scientific approaches have shortcomings. In more recent studies, modern techniques such as EEG and fMRI have increasingly been used. In this way, the brain can be scanned before, during and after meditation, whereby the connections between meditation and physiological and psychological physical changes can be examined in detail.

"Because of its scientifically proven benefits, meditation is regularly recommended as an alternative therapy for a variety of diseases."

In 2013, researchers at John Hopkins University published an academic paper by identifying 47 well-designed studies on meditation that had reliable results. Based on these studies, they concluded that meditation can be as effective as medication for some forms of depression and anxiety. [4] Indeed, a growing number of scholars support the benefits of meditation. So let's take a closer look at nine of the top mental and physical health benefits of regular meditation practice.

1. Stress reduction

Doctors are beginning to understand how stress is a leading cause of many physical ailments, such as cardiovascular disease. [5] One of the main benefits of meditation is that it can cope with stress more efficiently and relax the mind and body as a result. But how does meditation work? Studies on patients with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) show it [6]:

  • by balancing the nervous system
  • the improvement of brain coherence
  • the restoration of hormonal balance

There is a variety of other scientifically-based research that suggests that reducing stress is a key benefit of meditation. A two-month study focusing on mindfulness meditation found that it reduced the inflammatory responses caused by stress [7]. Studies have scientifically suggested that meditation helps people cope better with stressful situations [8].

Stopping Stress: Mindfulness meditation can prevent this health hazard

2. Reduces anxiety disorders

It follows that lowering stress levels through meditation also helps reduce anxiety. A study carried out in 2012 with almost 2,500 participants showed that a variety of different meditation strategies can help reduce the level of anxiety [9]. Another 2014 study of 1,300 adults showed that Transcendental Meditation® (TM) can also reduce anxiety, and the benefit was greatest for those who started with the highest levels of tension [10].

Another eight-week study on mindfulness meditation also showed that the participants reduced their anxiety. Meditation also had other uses. The benefits of meditation were also effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety disorders such as phobias, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, paranoid thoughts, and panic attacks [11].

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3. Lower risk of heart disease

High blood pressure is a recognized risk factor for coronary heart disease. A long-term study published in a journal of the American Heart Association found that meditation lowered the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, myocardial ischemia, and arteriosclerosis, and heart attacks. Compared to a control group in a similar physical condition who did not meditate, the risk was reduced by 48 percent.

The 2012 study by the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee concluded that twice daily meditation helped African Americans with heart disease lower their risk of death, heart attack, and stroke. Meditation also helped lower blood pressure, stress, and anger in a group of patients compared to a group of patients who did not meditate and only took health education classes [12].

4. Improving cognitive skills

Recent studies with a group of participants between the ages of 55 and 75 have shown that mindfulness meditation techniques improve targeted visual attention span [13]. In addition, a 2014 review of various studies found that even different styles of meditation increased alertness, memory, and mental quickness of older volunteers [14]. These studies suggest that meditation might have the ability to offset age-related cognitive impairment or possibly improve cognitive function in older adults.

5. Pain Relief

Science has been able to show through research that those who meditate have a greater ability to cope with sometimes chronic pain, and can even experience a reduced sense of pain. A large-scale study published in 2014 examined the effects of regular meditation on 3,500 participants. The study concluded that reduced chronic or intermittent pain was achieved through meditation.

"Science has shown that regular meditation can actually boost the gray matter of the brain. It seems we have the ability to increase our own sense of happiness."

Another study from 2011 published in Journal of Neuroscience published, gave interesting results on pain perception. Some participants had previously received four days of mindfulness meditation training, the control group did not. The researchers then used MRI scans to observe participants' brain activity as they experienced a painful stimulus. Meditating participants showed increased activity in the brain centers that control pain. At the same time, they reported 40% less pain intensity and 57% less unpleasant pain experience [15].

6. Improved sleep

While the science of sleep remains in some ways a mystery, we know that sleep is essential to our health and wellbeing [16]. The 2015 study compared two mindfulness-based meditation programs by randomly assigning participants to one of two groups - one who practiced meditation and one who did not practice meditation. One study found that the benefit of meditation for participants was that they fell asleep earlier and slept longer than those who did not meditate. [17].

Beach life: Meditation has many health benefits

7. Quit smoking

Meditation also has other indirect health benefits. For example, meditation can help you quit smoking. This reduces the risk of smoking-related illnesses and health problems. The effects of regular meditations are cumulative. As stress decreases, the impulse to smoke decreases. A study of people who meditated daily found that 50 percent had given up smoking after two years and a further 30 percent had significantly reduced their tobacco consumption [18].

8. Increases the feeling of happiness

Studies at Kyoto University found that the precuneus area of ​​the brain was larger in people who considered themselves happy and optimistic than in people with a more negative outlook on life. Science has shown that regular meditation can actually boost the gray matter of the brain. It seems that we have the ability to develop our own happiness. Dr. Wataru Sato says that we now understand that meditation increases the gray matter in the precuneus. So it will be possible to design science-based programs to develop a happier brain [19].

9. Improve employee wellbeing and satisfaction

Contemplative practices such as mindfulness meditation and mindfulness or gratitude yoga can be helpful for companies to increase the happiness and health of their employees: A happy, healthy workforce is a key to the success of a company.

After a mindfulness course (MBSR) for 600 of its employees, the company provided Transport for London found that 80 percent had noticed an improvement in their relationships and felt more relaxed. In addition, more than half felt happier at work and 64 percent experienced better sleep patterns. Another benefit of meditation for the company was that the absenteeism rate due to illness and stress dropped a whopping 71 percent.

Other benefits of meditation: a happier and healthier society

By encouraging us to focus on the present, meditation calms us and enables us to live happier lives and overcome all of life's difficulties. Science shows that meditation is not only an effective therapy for many common illnesses, but also helps people improve their feelings of happiness. It also increases their empathy for others and their own physical and mental wellbeing. All of this leads to the development of a compassionate, flourishing, and resilient person in our society.

Learning to meditate is quick and easy. There are a number of free meditation and happiness apps, but also the MBSR course offered in English at the happiness academy brings you closer to various meditation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, metta, the MEditation of loving kindness or the body scan. In our forum, our MBSR and meditation teacher Tine has put together various guided meditations and meditations for beginners. She is at your side with words and deeds and looks forward to new tips and posts in the forum. ●

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In the English original by Calvin Holbrook

Calvin is a journalist and editor of the English happiness magazine, artist and lover of old things. He loves to swim, does yoga and likes to dance to house and techno music. You can find out more about him here.