When we think about meditating, we often think of it as a spiritual practice. While people have been practicing various forms of meditation for thousands of years, studies are finding that there are many health benefits of meditation as well, and that it can be an important tool in your wellness toolbox.
Here are just few benefits meditation provides:
Reduces blood pressure and levels of stress. Meditation is linked with reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Improves cognitive function. Researchers in a Psychological Science study reported, “Our results suggest that cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with wide reaching consequences”. (1)
Reduces pain. Meditation has been proven to reduce pain because it plays a role in what our minds pay attention to, according to a study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. (1)
Respiratory benefits. The practice of meditation, has much to do with following and honoring the breath, which encourages us to breathe deeper and more fully. Respiratory conditions such as emphysema or asthma, for example, have been shown to improve with meditation as well.
Gastrointestinal issues. Once study found that patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome with symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea and constipation improved significantly when meditating twice per day. The meditation was so effective that the researchers at the State University of New York recommended it as an effective treatment. (2)
Anti-inflammatory. Meditation helps to turn off the stress response. Inflammation is linked to heart disease, arthritis, asthma and skin conditions such as psoriasis, say researchers at Emory University in the US. One study at McGill University in Canada found that meditation clinically improved the symptoms of psoriasis. (2)
The way you meditate can be as unique and individual as you. Here are a few different options to consider:
Mindfulness – this is about being present and increasing your awareness.
Repeating a mantra – sometimes it’s helpful to repeat a word or phrase to help quit the “mind chatter.”
Following your breath – focusing on your breath gives you something to focus on vs. your “to-do” list.
Qi gong – using the breath to circulate and direct energy.
Moving meditation – the rhythmic movement as you walk or move allows you to quiet the mind.
Heart rhythm meditation – focuses on your breath, as well as your heartbeat
Guided meditation – someone’s voice (in person, a video, audio, app, etc.) is walking you through the steps.
Brainwave meditation – organizes and synchronizes your brain as it relates and responds to different sounds.
Transcendental meditation – involves the use of a sound or mantra and is typically practiced for 15–20 minutes, twice per day
Zen meditation – sitting in preparation of relaxing the body and mind as well as opening oneself up to discovering insight into the nature of your being.(3)
What’s the best way to meditate and what type should you try?
There is no one practice that works for everybody and the idea is find the best way for it to work for you. One study, published in EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing, included 247 people between ages 20 and 56 who were taught four kinds of meditations over a period of 6 weeks. They were asked to try them out on their own and then report back which ones they liked best. By the end of the study period, the top two preferred meditation methods were mantra and mindfulness. Researchers also found that preferred meditation types differed by age as well. For example, the youngest people in the study were more likely to prefer mindfulness meditation, whereas the older people in the study were more likely to pick zen meditation. (4)
Whatever practice improves your sense of wellbeing and feels right for you is a great place to start.
Need more reasons? Here are 100 reasons why meditation is good for you.
Do you meditate and if so, what have you found to work best for you? I’d love to know, comment and share!