The practice of meditation has been around for centuries, but practicing meditation is no longer the exclusive domain of yogis, religious followers, or spiritual believers. In modern society, thousands of studies have honed in on the health benefits of meditation, and research has shown that dwelling in the present by meditating daily really can deliver astonishing results! This ‘modern’ form of meditation amidst the chaos of the world today has become a huge trend. Countless adults, teenagers, and children are embracing a daily mindfulness practice, hoping to ward off stress and stress-related health problems.

Interested in knowing how daily meditation can improve your mental health and physical wellbeing? We’ve mapped out seven scientifically-backed health benefits of practicing meditation.

Did you know?
According to a robust study conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative health, the number of adults who meditated in the U.S. was up to 18 million in 2012. That’s around 8% of the entire U.S. adult population, and the number has definitely grown since that time. (1)

What is meditation?

Meditation can be defined as a set of techniques that are intended to nurture a heightened state of awareness, focus, and relaxation.

Just as there are hundreds of different reasons why people meditate, there are as many different kinds of meditation techniques. There is no ‘ideal’ way to meditate, it is such an individual experience. But to get the most out of your meditation, your practice should aim to be comfortable and consistent. (2)

Did you know?
Today, forms of meditation are practiced all over the world. There’s actually a British group called Mindfulness without Borders whose members travel to bring healing mindfulness meditation techniques to struggling communities. (3)

man sitting at desk with both hands holding up his head and looking out the window

You can practice meditation whenever, however, and wherever. Whether you’re riding the subway, waiting in line at the grocery store, or sitting at your work desk. Take a moment and be present.

Different types of meditation

One of the best-known forms of meditation in the West is mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation, which is primarily based on Buddha’s teachings, is a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment without judgment.

Another prevalent form of meditation growing in popularity is transcendental meditation (TM). It’s a straightforward, natural technique practiced for twenty minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with your eyes closed. (4) TM is an excellent practice for those who thrive off of the structure and are serious about maintaining an ongoing meditation practice.

Other popular forms of meditation include mantra meditation, focused meditation, spiritual meditation, and movement meditation.

Five easy steps to follow when starting a meditation routine.

7 scientifically-backed health benefits of daily meditation

Reduces stress

Stress reduction is one of the most popular reasons people try meditation. (5)(6) A lot of different types of meditation have been shown to help reduce stress. Meditation can also reduce the physical symptoms associated with stress-triggered conditions, such as PTSD. (7)(8)(9)

Helps you get better quality sleep

In one study on meditation and sleep, people who meditated fell asleep sooner and also stayed asleep longer than those who didn’t. There are a variety of different meditation techniques to help you relax and wind down before bed. Meditation can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and also boost your sleep quality. (10)

Zaps anxiety

Meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety levels and symptoms of anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, phobias, social fears, and paranoid thoughts. (11)(12)

four people doing yoga indoors

Yoga has been shown to help people reduce anxiety. This is likely due to benefits from the mindfulness, breathing, and sweat factors. (13)

Combats depression

Some types of meditation have been shown to decrease depression and help people have a more positive outlook on life that is lasting. And research has specifically shown that daily meditation practice is a great way to maintain benefits over the long term. (14)(15)(16)(17)

Lowers blood pressure

Meditation helps the body physically by reducing the strain put on the heart. TM meditation along with other techniques has been shown to help lower blood pressure while you are practicing AND lower it over time in individuals who meditate daily. (18)(19)

women sitting in a deep chair with her feet on the bed, relaxing and looking out the window

Meditation is a lot like mental hygiene: clear out the junk, tune your talents, and get in touch with yourself.

Helps you concentrate

Daily mindfulness practice has been shown to help people focus for longer periods and become more attentive to remembering details. And it doesn’t take much training. Meditating daily has been shown to improve concentration is as little as four days. (20)(21)

Curbs chronic pain

Meditation practice can help diminish the perception of pain in your brain. It has been shown to help treat chronic pain, mitigate pain at the end of life, and decrease sensitivity to pain (22)(23)(24)

Did you know?
A new report based on a 2017 National Health Interview Survey found that U.S. adults’ use of meditation over a 12-month time span tripled between 2012 and 2017. The use of meditation by U.S. children ages 4 to 17 has also increased significantly. (25)

The four key elements of any meditation practice

There is technically no ‘right way’ to meditate, but according to the National Institute of Health, most forms of meditations have the following four elements in common (26):

  1. A quiet location without distractions. If you live in a loud place (like a city), soundproof headphones with white noise playing can help.
  2. A specific, comfortable position. Your position can involve sitting down, lying down, walking, swimming, or anything else you find comfortable.
  3. A focus of attention. You can choose to focus on a specially chosen word and repeat it to yourself, an object, or you can focus on the sensations of the breath and movement in the body.
  4. An open attitude. When meditating, your aim is to let thoughts (or other distractions) come and go naturally without passing any judgment.
people sitting and mediating together in a room, close up on woman with her eyes closed

Some people find that learning mindfulness techniques and practicing them with a group is especially helpful.

Did you know?
And according to research, the more you meditate, the more you seem to benefit!

The bottom line

Whether you’re trying to find spiritual enlightenment or reduce stress, there is a meditation practice out there for you. Meditation is generally considered safe for healthy people, but that doesn’t mean it should replace conventional care or become a reason to postpone seeing a healthcare provider about a medical problem. Always discuss any complementary or alternative health techniques like meditation with your practitioner.

Don’t be afraid to try different forms and mixing up various techniques until you find something that works for you. It may feel a bit unnatural at first, but routine meditation practice will quickly become a coveted part of your day!

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