MEDITATION BENEFITS: 9 Reasons You Should Meditate, According to Science
Most of us are aware of the benefits of meditation. You might have a vague awareness that it’s supposed to be good for stress and sleep. Maybe you’ve explored alleged meditation benefits a little further, reading somewhere it changes the structures of the brain.
Wherever you sit on the awareness scale, it can still be difficult to get wholeheartedly on board with the notion that simply sitting quietly for a while can radically change your life – as some claim.
You might find yourself asking, is meditation really that good for me? Do these much-eulogised meditation benefits really stack up?
The short answer is yes, and then some. The research shows that the practice of staying present and mindful for a limited period of time can have numerous benefits for our mental and physical health. And the more you meditate the more you reap the rewards.
If you’re curious to try meditation, or looking for motivation to stick with it, it might help to understand the many scientifically-backed ways meditation can help your mind and body.
Read on for 9 of our favourite meditation benefits. And just remember that whether you’re a beginner or experienced meditator, even a few minutes of meditation each day is better than no meditation at all.
1. Lowers stress & anxiety
Let’s get the most-lauded meditation benefits out of the way: stress and anxiety reduction. Meditation absolutely lives up to it’s stress-busting reputation. It’s proven to have both immediate and sustained positive impacts on stress levels, which translates to less anxiety.
Impressively, studies reveal that meditation can actually change the structures of the brain. In one study, researchers found that 8-weeks of mindfulness meditation increased cortical thickness in the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain that controls learning and memory and plays an important role in emotion regulation too.
Yoga has also been shown to reduce anxiety through its combination of meditative practice and physical activity. Read more on the benefits of yoga here.
2. Improves Immunity
Meditation doesn’t just support your mental health, it’s proven to improve your physical health too. Several studies show that meditation appears to increase the number of immune cells that circulate in the blood, helping to boost our immune systems.
Immune systems bolstered by meditation are proven to help us to fight not only every day viruses and infections but even HIV and cancer. Another study found patients who took a mindfulness course showed faster wound healing, a process regulated by the immune system.
3. Better Relationships
Meditation may be a solo activity, but it can positively impact your relationships too. Research on a specific type of meditation focused on compassion and loving-kindness found that it can help people feel more connected and empathic towards themselves and others too.
Specifically, loving-kindness meditation makes you less self-focused, a type of thinking associated with anxiety and depression. This means you have less thoughts about “me, myself and I” and feel happier. As a result you feel closer to others, even strangers. Ah, so that’s why yogis are suspiciously friendly…
4. Keeps Your Brain Young
You may very well become wiser as you age (or at least think that you have), but studies show the human brain actually starts to decrease in volume and weight from our mid-twenties onwards. Preliminary research suggests that meditation can fight this decline in brain volume, as well as associated age-related memory loss and dementia.
A long term study found that participants who’d been meditating for an average of 20 years had more grey matter (the part of the brain that processes information) volume throughout the brain than non-meditators.
5. Builds Resiliency
Picture the scene: you start the day by sleeping through your alarm. You spill coffee on your trousers before you leave the house. Then you get stuck in traffic. By the time your arrive at your morning appointment you are at the end of your tether, and it’s only 8.30am.
Meditation is proven to have both immediate and sustained positive effects on our resilience to every day stresses and strains, helping us react in a more calm and collected way. Stuck in an unexpected traffic jam? no sweat.
6. Better Concentration and Memory
You might think you’re productive jumping from emails to dinner prep and back again, but multitasking sends your brain into a panicked spiral, clouding concentration, which in turn affects your ability to do any of the tasks at hand well. It’s a phenomenon known as ‘milkshake thinking.’
If this sounds accurate, or if find your attention span is limited, you might want to try meditation. The very practice of mediation is rooted in sustaining focus on one’s thoughts, emotions and sensations in the present moment. So it makes sense that it can help train your brain to concentrate in every day life too. One study found that just a couple of weeks of meditation increases both focus and memory.
7. Better Sleep
We’ve all heard how ‘counting sheep’ can help you drift off. However, this myth was disproven by Oxford University research in 2002. Researchers found sheep counters actually stayed awake for longer than those who thought of idyllic, beautiful places.
For a more effective technique to induce sleep you should try (yep, you guessed it…) meditation. It’s been proven time and time again that meditation can help to relax the body and control runaway thoughts, shortening the time it takes to fall asleep, while also increasing sleep quality.
For more research backed ways to get a great night’s sleep check out our guide to better sleep here (Link to sleep feature).
8. Better Sex
Another way to tire you out mentally and physically before you hit the hay: sex. But if you find you’re not often in the mood or don’t feel you’re reaching, eh, your full potential look no further than meditation.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found women who practice meditation are more likely to have better sexual ‘functioning’ and higher levels of sexual desire. The benefits increased after as little as four meditation sessions. Do you need any further motivation?
9. Eat More Healthily
Craving doughnuts at 11am? Need a spike of sugar come 4pm without fail? Numerous studies have found that when you’re stressed or sleep-deprived, you eat more frequently and consume more calorific foods. Which is why we find ourselves craving food high in fat, sugar, or both (hello salted caramel biscuits) when we’re anxious or tired.
Meditation can help to lower the spiked cortisol levels in your body that trigger an increase in appetite. It’s also proven to help us make more mindful food choices, stopping the emotional impulse to reach for comfort foods in its tracks.
Bonus Benefit: Meditation Accessibility
We couldn’t finish this article without a nod to one the best meditation benefits: meditation’s accessibility. It’s available to anyone, anywhere and entirely free.
We all have the potential to develop some form of meditation practice. From simply setting aside a few minutes daily to become aware of our surroundings, to 20 minutes twice a day repeating a personal mantra. There’s a style meditation to suit everyone’s preferences and lifestyle.
Check out our guide to the different types of meditation and explore what works best for you Link to Types of Meditation feature.
For support and guidance on your meditation journey, at Reformation we offer a complimentary Meditation Club with Lucy Bloom every Wednesday morning and ‘Get Meditating’ an online course to get you into the amazing habit. We also incorporate it into all of our classes both in person and online. Keep an eye out on Reformation’s Workshop Schedule and Class Schedule for new events and updates.