It is quite evident that taking a moment to meditate can help us to relax. Still, what are there health benefits that go beyond relaxation? We’ll reveal 10 proven health benefits of meditation in this article that go beyond relaxation, but before we do, let’s get a little better handle on what meditation really is.
What Is Meditation?
Some people connect meditation with prayer or some other form of spirituality. In some cases, that is true, but meditation can be a non-religious and non-spiritual practice as well. According to Live and Dare, there are a couple dozen types and practices, but they all fall into three basic categories:
- Focused Attention. First, you need to focus on a single object or entity such as breathing, a mantra, visualization, part of the body, external object, etc. Examples of this type of meditation include: Samantha, Zazen, Chakra, Mantra, Pranayama, and many others.
- Open Monitoring. Instead of focusing on a single object or entity, any object or entity can come and go without attachment or judgment. Examples are: Mindfulness meditation, Vipassana, as well as some types of Taoist Meditation.
- Effortless Presence. The attention is without focus on any object or entity in particular, but in achieving a state of becoming quiet, empty, steady, and mindful of your self. Examples of this type are: “I am” meditation of Ramana Maharishi; Dzogchen; Mahamudra; some types of Taoist Meditation; and advanced forms of Raja Yoga.
When, how long, and how often should you meditate to see its benefits?
There are varying opinions when it comes to answering when, how long and how often you should meditate in order to see the benefits of meditation. Let’s answer each part of the question briefly before we proceed.
- When? An article in Psychology Today suggests first thing in the morning, whenever you feel stressed, during your lunch break and at the end of your work day. The article also cautions you to not meditate right before bed time.
- How long? Most studies suggest that benefits come with 20 to 40 minutes of meditation. However, some even suggest that there are benefits to just 10 minutes of meditation.
- How often? Studies also disagree on how often meditation should be practiced. Daily, three times per week and four times per week seem to be the most popular suggestions.
Some individuals start with 10 to 15 minutes three times a week and increase the length of time, how often and the type as they progress. In any case, to reap the benefits of meditation below, just find a starting point that you can handle and move forward.
Beyond Relaxation: 10 Proven Health Benefits of Meditation
Treating Panic and Anxiety Disorders
An American Journal of Psychiatry article points to a study that found benefits of meditation in the treatment of panic and anxiety disorders. The study showed that 20 of the 22 participants in the study showed marked improvement in their treatment.
Increases Focus and Cognitive Function
It is somewhat obvious that the relaxation benefits of meditation would have an effect on psychological conditions, but a Harvard study measured an actual increase of the total area of grey matter in the brain, which has the effect of increasing focus and cognitive function.
Reduction in Cardiovascular Disease Risks
There is no doubt that you already saw this one coming, since there is a connection between stress and cardiovascular issues. A clinical study cited in the American Heart Association Journal gives supportive evidence to the benefits of meditation for reduction in cardiovascular disease risks.
Management of ADHD
Negative symptoms associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder were improved in 50 adult patients who participated in a study reported in Clinical Neurophysiology. The results point to management of ADHD as just one more of the benefits of meditation.
Improved Immune Function
Improved immune function is another of the clinically proven benefits of meditation. A University of Wisconsin study reported demonstrable effects in relation to immune function in association with mindful meditation over a period of 8 weeks.
Reduces Inflammation and Inflammatory Diseases
A decrease in pro-inflammatory genes RIPK2 and COX2 as well as several histone deacetylase (HDAC) genes was reported in another University of Wisconsin study, drawing a link to the benefits of meditation on inflammation and inflammatory diseases.
The University of Massachusetts identified a link between meditation and managing psoriasis. A more rapid resolution to the skin condition was noted during the study, which adds more weight to the benefits of meditation.
Improved Pain Tolerance
Improved pain tolerance in pain management is another of the benefits of meditation. A Wake Forest University study noted that a decrease from 40% to 57% of pain intensity was reported by the study’s subjects.
Reduces Risk of Alzheimers
Another of the most promising benefits of meditation is its ability to reduce the risks of developing the brain conditions which lead to Alzheimer’s disease. A UCLA study of pre-Alzheimer’s patients demonstrated better brain function drastically throughout the 12 week study.
Treats PMS and Menopausal Symptoms
The efficacy of meditation upon PMS and menopausal symptoms showed strong potential in a University of Connecticut study/ This adds treatment for PMS and menopausal symptoms to the list of benefits of meditation.
A Note of Caution
Believe it or not, there have been some cautions in connection with meditation. Many of which are as well documented as the benefits listed above. The following cautions have been applied by those in the health care community where meditation is concerned:
- Trauma victims. Mindfulness meditation for those who are victims of past mental or physical trauma can experience some very damaging results, according to an article in Good Therapy.
- Transcendental Meditation (TM). Dr. David Orme Johnson suggests that TM can do more harm than good for certain types of individuals.
There are a number of other studies that point toward meditation as being harmful for individuals from a mental health perspective. But nothing that the damage done can often result in serious physical as well as psychological health conditions.
Wrapping It Up
For most individuals, meditation is not only a way to relax. But can also be a way to promote healing of existing health conditions or preventing their development. The studies listed above demonstrate that there are a number of benefits of meditation. Make use of meditation as a means of finding relief for your health conditions or, you can just use it to relax; even that has some pretty good health benefits.
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