Despite the fact that meditation is being put under the microscope since the 1950s and hundreds of studies have taken place since then, researchers believe that most of the benefits of practicing meditation, still remain uncovered.
Every research conducted on meditation brings to light even more of its countless benefits and to this day scientists still remain astounded.
Meditation helps us boost every single aspect of our human experience and become an enhanced version of ourselves. It creates many long-lasting benefits for our mental, physical, and spiritual health as well. Those benefits persist not just during a meditation session, but throughout our entire lifetime.
This article is not created merely for educational purposes, but as a motivational tool to start or keep practicing meditation consistently and passionately.
Mental Benefits of Meditation
1 – Decreased Anxiety, Depression, and Stress
Anxiety, depression, and stress come into being when we are living in resistance or outside of the present moment.
During our meditation practice, we learn to accept the present moment as it comes. Moreover, we stop clinging to the past by recognizing that what happened can never change, and we stop worrying about the future by recognizing that we cannot possibly predict every single outcome.
In a few words, we become able, as they say, to live in the moment. As a result, we are able to filter our experiences through a new perspective and see them more objectively.
Moreover, fMRI scans have shown that meditation decreases activity in the amygdala region of the brain, which is associated with stress, fear, and emotional regulation.
2 – Increased Memory Capacity, Creativity, and Out of the Box Thinking
fMRI and other brain scans have shown increased activity in regions of the brain, like the neocortex, which is associated with those traits mentioned above.
Specifically, some meditation techniques, such as open-monitoring meditation, whereas we become receptive to everything that takes place around and inside us, seems to exponentially boost our creativity over time.
Mindfulness meditation boosts our creativity and innovative thinking as well.
Moreover, by practicing meditation, our cognitive and problem-solving abilities improve, which makes us capable of finding solutions to our problems much faster and easier and in fact, from time to time, it may even feel like our problems are being solved by themselves.
3 – Sharper Focus and Improved Attention Span
In 2000 the average attention span of a healthy adult was about 12 seconds. Since then it is continuously decreasing. Recent studies have shown that in 2013 the average human attention span had dropped to about 8 seconds, which is 1 second less than the 9-second attention span of a goldfish.
Meditating might seem simple and it really is, but it is not easy. Tremendous amounts of discipline, patience, and focused attention have to be employed, in order for the practitioner to keep their attention fixed for twenty minutes or so, on something so amazingly boring such as the extremely subtle sensations of each inhalation and exhalation.
However, what we reap is what we sow!
Practicing for just a couple of weeks dramatically improves our ability to maintain better focus throughout the day, keep our attention fixed for longer amounts of time, and even concentrate and perform better under pressure and stressful situations.
A research article supports that experienced meditators exhibit increased connectivity within attentional regions of the brain, which results in the greater development of cognitive skills, such as maintaining attention and disengaging easier from distractions, and not just during practice, but “off the cushion” as well.
4 – Impulse Control, Eliminating Substance Abuse
By accepting and tolerating the present moment as it is, without much judgment, we feel more capable of staying with our negative emotions until they vanish, without struggling to go after situations and circumstances which we believe that will make us happier or more at peace.
As a result, the need of burying our emotions beneath unhealthy habits, until something else takes place that might or might not make us feel better, diminishes.
Those habits might include, eating junk food, drinking a lot of alcohol, smoking, taking drugs, etc. The change happens so subtly that we may not even be aware of it in the beginning.
Talking from my personal experience, practicing meditation regularly for just one year made me want to quit smoking, reduce alcohol intake, stop eating junk food, eat less meat, eat more vegetables and fruit, work out more and the list goes on forever.
Many alcohol and drug addiction treatment programs have included meditation, yoga, and acupuncture in their recovery plans.
Physical Benefits of Meditation
1 – Improved Immune System
Our immune system is directly affected by our emotions and state of mind, so being serene and blissful really helps it to be more effective.
Dr. Deepak Chopra confirms that mindfulness meditation increases electrical activity in areas of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex, the right anterior insula, and right hippocampus, all of which control positive emotions, awareness, and regulate anxiety.
Another study confirms that just a few weeks of practicing meditation could dramatically boost our antibody production.
Individually, I have become less prone to catching a common cold or a virus and when I do get down with a sickness, my immune system eliminates it much faster. I am also afflicted with seasonal allergic asthma and meditation has already reduced my asthma attacks by almost 99%.
A disease cannot thrive in a body that is in a healthy emotional state. Negative emotions and stress have been shown to seriously degrade the body and the functioning of the brain. Remove physiological stress from the body and the body does what it was designed to do. It heals itself.
2 – Reduced Blood Pressure and Better Heart Rate
Several practices such as Transcendental Meditation (TM) and Mindfulness Meditation are believed to reduce blood pressure and improve our heart’s overall health.
Regulating our breath through practicing meditation can have an immediate impact on both our heart rate and blood pressure even during our very first practice.
During a mindfulness practice, as we direct our awareness to our breath, it tends to become slower, deeper, and more coherent compared to our “default” breath which tends to be shallow, fast and kind of messy. The heart follows the patterns of the breath.
Watch through the entire video below and see for yourself the connection between our breath and our heart.
3 – Redecoration of the Entire Brain’s Structure
Like everything else we do, feel, think, and perceive, meditation rewires our neural pathways. During meditation, our brain makes billions of new connections and as we progress, those connections are getting more solid and stable.
Neuroscientists, using MRI scans, have proven that integrating mindfulness into our daily life could result in increased gray matter concentration in areas of the brain involved in learning, memory processing, regulating emotions, creativity, sense of self, empathy, bliss, etc. Increased amounts of gray matter in the brain is a sign of healthier and enhanced function in the associated region.
Moreover, gray matter around the amygdala which deals with stress, blood pressure, and fear seemed to be decreasing over time.
Meditation is just like a gym workout for the brain, and as a gym workout changes the structure of our muscles, so does practicing meditation change the structure of our brain.
4 – Longer Lifespan
A number of studies, propose that meditation decelerates or even reverses the aging process of our cells, by maintaining or increasing the length of the telomeres, which lie at the edges of our chromosomes.
Telomeres act as a shield which protects our chromosomes from deteriorating and eventually dying.
Every time a cell replicates, the telomeres of the chromosomes in the new cell get a little bit shorter but the chromosomes themselves stay protected. As cells continuously replicate, telomeres slowly diminish. As a result, our cells age until the chromosomes “run out” of telomeres and die.
Higher stress levels, as well as, bad nutrition and poor physical condition are some of the main factors that promote rapid telomere degeneration, thus accelerating our aging process.
Meditation is theorized to enhance our emotion regulation skills, decrease ruminative thoughts, and shift our perception of situations and circumstances from threatening, to positive and/or challenging, thus rendering us much more able to cope with stressful experiences and even chronic stress.
Less stress equals to slower telomere degeneration, which in turn equals to slower aging.
Spiritual Benefits of Meditation
1 – Increased Self-Love, and Self-Acceptance
You cannot make an effort to love, either yourself or anybody. You simply have to let go and realize that you are love. ~Sri Sri
Through meditation, we get to take a look at ourselves through a different set of eyes. We come to the realization that our most important asset and our greatest masterpiece during our life is our very own self.
We naturally stop beating ourselves up for what we aren’t yet and we start loving ourselves for what we already are, embracing our advantages and disadvantages, and being aware of and accepting what we can and can’t change.
We start paying attention more to what promotes our being, as well as to what serves our mental and physical health while accepting every experience as a chance to grow, evolve, and master life.
2 – Increased Compassion and Empathy
Every kind of meditation practice increases our feelings of compassion and empathy, specifically loving-kindness meditation.
By practicing loving-kindness, we learn to cultivate a sense of benevolence and genuine care towards ourselves, every living soul in the universe, and the universe itself as a whole.
A research has shown that individuals practicing a loving and compassion-based meditation are more able to detect facial expressions of other human beings. Previous studies support that people who are better at reading the facial expressions of others tend to experience and maintain healthier and longer relationships.
Being empathetic and compassionate means that we are able to identify with every soul’s pain and suffering as we are identifying with our own, resulting in a craving for offering help, as well as more objective and benevolent reactions towards hostility, anger, and conflict expressed against ourselves.
3 – Increased Social Skills, Decreased Social Anxiety
The mind has the tendency to incessantly judge everything, especially our self. By turning our awareness upon this negative self-judgment, we realize, not just that it has no ground to stand on, but also that who judges, is a separate entity from who we truly are.
Meditation helps us unearth our natural, authentic self; the self which exists beyond this judgmental entity.
We stop being afraid to show our true colors and feel much more confident in our own skin. We stop caring about meeting other people’s expectations and opinions of others matter a lot less, if not at all.
As a result, we start feeling much more confident being around people and socializing. We can listen less judgmentally which makes us better listeners, and we know when to speak and when to stay silent. We tend to connect with everyone faster and deeper than before.
As we socialize more and more, we come to the realization that people constantly come and go and that not everyone is going to like or understand us. Whoever is meant to stick with us throughout a specific period of time or even our entire life, will.
4 – Increased Open-Mindedness
Open-mindedness is an innate quality of human beings, which becomes clouded as our minds become conditioned.
When we were toddlers our mind was literally as wide as the universe itself. We were highly receptive and had the ability to see everything through our unique, unconditioned perspective. In Zen, this is called beginner’s mind.
Beginner’s mind refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions towards our experiences.
Through practicing meditation, we bring to the surface our “beginners mind”, and start seeing past the veil of our conditioning.
Consequently, we develop the ability to question everything that we have been taught and start processing new ideas, perspectives, and beliefs that differ from those that we have already adopted.
In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind, there are few. ~Shunryu Suzuki
5 – Heightened Intuition
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. Society shapes people who honor the servant and have forgotten the gift. ~Albert Einstein
As we learn to reduce the volume of our conscious, conditioned mind, our subconscious mind surfaces.
We begin paying attention to the subtle messages that our intuition sends us through bodily sensations, feelings, dreams, synchronicities, sudden insights, etc. We just know if something feels right or wrong for us without really thinking about it.
Decision making is now based more on what truly encourages us to follow the path towards achieving our greatest potential and not on what our conditioned mind or everyone else believes that we “have” or “should” do.
6 – Craving for Knowledge
A limited awareness can hold a limited amount of knowledge, just like a small empty glass can hold a small amount of water in it.
As our awareness expands with meditation, it has the potential of holding an increased amount of knowledge, just like a larger glass can hold more water in it, and as the space to hold knowledge expands, so does our yearning to attain it.
Moreover, by continuously looking inside our mind, we become more and more conscious of the amount of our ignorance.
We thought that we held a certain amount of knowledge about our life and our self only to come to the surprising realization that we literally know nothing about nothing and that even if we thought that we knew something about anything there would still probably be a lot to discover about it.
This realization induces a hunger to acquire more information and uncover details on subjects which capture our attention in order to eventually construct a better, bigger picture of them.
7 – Experiencing Bliss and Serenity
Despite global belief, bliss and serenity have nothing to do with joy and pleasure. They are qualities that can never truly be achieved through external means. They are inherent, deep-rooted qualities of our true human nature which have been covered by numerous layers of conditioning.
Meditation is a means to gain access at any given moment to authentic, long-lasting serenity and bliss by slowly and steadily peeling all those layers of conditioning off, instead of constantly going after circumstances in order to temporarily experience blinks of fleeting joy and pleasure.
Furthermore, the more we meditate, the more those inherent qualities of ours are brought to the surface, and the more difficult and unlikely it is for them to become obscured by negative feelings and emotions.
A deep sense of fulfillment becomes our default state of being, even during times of great sorrow.
This article took me about a month to put together.
However, the benefits that are included here are actually just a tiny fraction of the countless benefits of practicing meditation.
In order to start feeling the internal change that meditation induces, you have to practice consistently. Consistency is much more important than the duration of the practice. Better results will come if you practice 3 minutes daily than practicing for 3 hours just once a week.
As I dig deeper into the benefits of practicing meditation and the practice itself I will be regularly updating this post to keep you interested and motivated.
Last Update 9 April 2017.
Before you leave, make sure that you check out an infographic created by liveanddare.com, summing up a number of meditation benefits at the end of this article.
If you believe that I forgot to mention an important benefit, or feel the need to elaborate on an existing one, please leave a comment below.
If you have any questions related to this article, or just feel the need to tell me that you love me :P, you can contact me at email@example.com.