Different forms of meditation have been used for thousands of years as a spiritual practice to create inner peace. But today, meditation is just as much scientific and secular as it is spiritual, with loads of exciting studies revealing exactly what meditation can do for our health and well-being.
The truth is this: We can eat the healthiest foods, exercise regularly, and avoid chemicals in our household cleaning products and cosmetics, but if we’re not caring for our mind—we won’t be optimally healthy. Stress is the sugar of the soul; it will wreck your health from the inside out.
It is for this reason that we would highly suggest incorporating Meditation into your daily routine! Just like your fitness goals, developing an effective meditation practice will take some consistency and dedication, but much like the improvements you have seen in your physical health, you will soon see in your mental health.
Here are over 10 reasons why you should give meditation a try!
1. More social connection.
Meditation is usually a solitary practice, but interesting research out of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology demonstrates meditation’s ability to increase our sense of connection to others. By heightening your emotional intelligence, and improving your patience, awareness and understanding, conversation and relationship building will come with more ease.
Telomeres are located at the ends of your chromosomes and kind of look like the plastic parts found at the end of your shoelaces. Longer telomeres are correlated with a longer life span, and shorter telomeres are associated with a shorter life span. Studies have shown that meditation can preserve telomere length and reduce cellular stress.
Inflammation plays a part in so many of the health problems we see today. NFk-B is a protein complex that plays a major role in the body’s inflammatory response. A randomized controlled trial showed that NFk-B inflammation can be lowered with meditation.
Because of meditation’s ability to balance inflammation levels and its overall calming qualities, it makes sense that it can also be a natural way to lower pain levels. A study in the Journal of Neuroscience explored the different pathways that meditation improved when it came to lowering pain.
Does it seem like you are always fighting off a cold? Well, a study published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry showed that meditation improves genetic pathways that control our immune system.
There have been many studies showing that meditation helps to reduce anxiety. But how exactly does it work? Well, the part of our brain activated with feelings of anxiousness is known as the posterior cingulate cortex. When anxiety is calmed, the anterior cingulate cortex is activated. MRIs show us that meditation actually activates and strengthens this part of the brain.
Research has shown that in many cases meditation is just as effective—if not more effective—than mood-altering medications for improving depression and anxiety. Plus, meditation has no potential side effects! Meditation can increase brain gray matter volume in parts of our brain that control our mood.
Do you have trouble paying attention or have ADD-like symptoms? Good news, regular meditation is associated with more activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the angular cingulate cortex, the areas of the brain responsible for memory and focus.
Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to regenerate itself by making new neural connections. This slowly decreases over time, but meditation can increase the thickness of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which helps slow down cognitive decline and preserve neuroplasticity.
The world needs more compassion today than ever before. A randomized controlled trial, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, saw that over nine weeks, meditation decreased the fear of showing compassion and increased self-compassion.
A randomized controlled trial published in the journal Hypertension found that a type of meditation, known as Transcendental meditation, can lower blood pressure.
Literature out of the scientific journal Emotion shows that meditation is effective at improving self-control and introspection—and decreasing participants’ impulsivity.
If you’re stressed, raise your hand! Well, meditation is a natural stress reliever. Scientific studies have shown that meditation can positively regulate the area of the brain that controls stress, known as the subiculum area of the hippocampus.
So how much do you have to meditate to get results? A study in the Journal of the American Medical Associate (JAMA) found that an average of 2.5 hours of meditation per week can be enough to reap consistent health benefits. That equates to only 21 minutes a day! Think about how much time we waste on social media. Certainly, we all have 21 minutes to spare in honor of our health.