7 Lesser-Known Health Benefits of Meditation
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The number of U.S. adults who meditate has tripled in recent years. According to data from one national survey, 14.2 percent have engaged in meditation in the past 12 months. This is up from 4.1 percent just five years prior.
That makes meditation the second most used form of complementary medicine. The only practice that ranked higher was yoga. While mindfulness offers a variety of health benefits, a few are better known than others.
The More Common Health Benefits of Meditation
When you hear the phrase “health benefits of meditation,” what comes to mind? Stress reduction likely tops the list. Or your brain may jump to the way meditation helps ease anxiety. These are two of the best-known mental health meditation benefits.
There are also a couple physical meditation health benefits discussed regularly. One is its ability to decrease blood pressure. This helps reduce your risk of heart disease. Stress and cardiovascular disease often go hand in hand. So, meditation provides a double effect.
Meditation can also be helpful during menopause. Stress can increase hot flashes. Reduce stress with mindfulness and it provides some relief. But there are also a few benefits of meditating that are less well known. Many refer to the way it positively impacts certain health conditions.
7 Lesser-Known Ways Meditation Benefits Specific Health Issues
Countless studies have been conducted on meditation to better understand its effects. Some have sought to identify whether this practice helps specific conditions. Here are a few that have found a connection, providing promising results.
#1: Meditation Can Reduce Chronic Pain
Numerous medical conditions result in higher levels of pain. Arthritis, fibromyalgia, certain cancers, and chronic fatigue all fall into this category. One study reviewed 13 different pain trials and meditation. These trials found that mindfulness meditation training helped. It benefited both sensory and affective pain.
Study participants also reported reduced depression and improved quality of life. Thus, researchers concluded that mindfulness meditation was beneficial to chronic pain conditions. It offered both physical and mental health benefits.
Some research has investigated meditation’s effect on specific pain conditions. For example, one study connected meditation with easing migraine pain and tension headaches. Another study connected mindfulness with reduced back pain.
#2: Meditation Eases Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, can also be painful. The digestive upset it creates leads to a fair amount of discomfort. Add this to the anxiety of needing to be close to a bathroom and it is easy to see why someone with this condition doesn’t feel their best.
A 2002 study involved the following of 10 people with IBS for one year. Each person participated in relaxation response meditation. At the end of the study, the subjects reported a reduction in common IBS symptoms. More specifically, they had less abdominal pain. They also experienced less diarrhea, flatulence, and bloating.
#3: Meditation Helps Relieve PTSD Symptoms
In 2017, a group of researchers looked at 10 trial studies. Together, these involved a total of 643 people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This disorder occurs after witnessing a traumatic event. The researchers’ goal was to learn what effect, if any, meditation had on the subjects’ symptoms.
After looking at each study’s findings, researchers concluded that “meditation appears to be effective for PTSD.” Results were published in the journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.
#4: An Increased Quality of Life for People with Alzheimer’s
People with Alzheimer’s disease experience cognitive decline. They may have trouble remembering even the simplest of facts, such as a child’s name or what they ate yesterday. This can greatly impact their quality of life.
One study reports that mindfulness meditation helps reverse this effect. It shares how meditation positively impacts the brain. Namely, it increases functional capacity and positively affects blood flow in the cortex.
The cortex is the outermost layer of the human brain. It has three areas. The sensory areas process sensation. Motor areas are involved in movement. Association areas are used in higher-level brain functions. The protection of these areas promotes greater brain health.
#5: Meditation Provides a Lower Level of Pregnancy Anxiety
Pregnancy can be a happy time in a woman’s life. It can also bring about a higher level of anxiety. Moms-to-be may worry about the health of the baby. Questions about proper parenting techniques can be another concern. What helps reduce pregnancy-specific anxiety? Mindful meditation.
In a study of 47 women, half engaged in weekly mindfulness training. The other half served as a control. After six weeks, the mindfulness group had lower stress and anxiety. Admittedly, these benefits were not found to be long-term. This highlights the value of a regular meditation practice.
#6: Mindfulness Meditation Helps Overcome Addiction
Drug addiction can wreak havoc on the body. Depending on the substance abused, it can impact the brain, heart, or lungs. Drinking too much can hurt the liver and taking most any drug in excess can weaken the immune system. Despite this, many addicts will tell you that it is still difficult to quit using.
Research indicates that meditating may help people kick the drug habit. It works, in part, by assisting with the regulation of emotions. It also improves brain activity in the prefrontal cortex. This is the area of the brain responsible for setting and achieving goals. It also aids in decision-making, problem-solving, and practicing self-control.
#7: Meditation Good for Relieving Insomnia
Sleep is important to health and wellness. It is during sleep that the body heals and immunity is strengthened. A lack of sleep can also hinder muscle growth and performance. If you or a client has insomnia, regular meditation may provide some relief.
One study came to this conclusion after reviewing six different trials. Results revealed that mindfulness meditation improved sleep quality. Another study found that a mindfulness practice can reduce insomnia severity. These positive effects lasted for up to six months.
Meditation Offers Both Short and Long-Term Effects
Based on studies like these, meditation appears to offer many benefits. Some of these benefits can be felt almost immediately. You may feel your stress level decline after your first meditation session. Your blood pressure may be lower as well.
Other benefits may take a bit longer to feel their full impact. One example of this is individuals with anxiety disorders. They may not feel relief until mindfulness is a regular practice. Engaging in daily meditation provides the best of both worlds. You enjoy both short and long-term effects.
How to Create a Regular Meditation Practice
How can you make meditation a part of your everyday life? One option is to download a meditation app. If you’re new to meditating, using an app provides access to a guided meditation. It walks you through meditation training in an intentional way.
The nice thing about an app is you can use it any time you need a mental health boost. If you feel anxious or are under a lot of stress, take out your phone and open the app. Notice the muscle tension slip away. Feel your blood pressure decrease and your stress subside.
Another option is to develop a mantra meditation. This type of meditation involves repeating a certain word or phrase. For instance, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you could repeat the word “peace” as you breathe in and out. If you feel sad, repeating “I have many joys in my life” can help you start to feel better.
It can take some practice to get used to meditating. This is even more true if you’re constantly surrounded by loud environments and chaos. Yet, making mindfulness a priority can improve your physical and mental health. Commit to giving it enough time to provide these positive results.
You can also increase mindfulness with a dedicated yoga practice. Yoga involves using postures and breath to promote relaxation. It also offers many of the same health benefits. These include better cardiovascular health and lower levels of pain. Teaching yoga is also a great way to grow your fitness business.
The ISSA offers Yoga Instructor certification. This course teaches you how to develop a yoga-based meditation program. This can help your clients take their mindfulness (and their health) to an even higher level.
Certified Yoga Instructor
Yoga means to "join together". And as a certified yoga instructor, you'll be able to join your passion for health and wellness with a thriving career in the fitness industry.