Mindfulness allows you to focus on the present, increasing your awareness and improving your brain function. One way to ensure mindfulness is to practice meditation. And although this technique is widely known to improve your mental state of being, meditation benefits also cover your physical health. In fact, it can extend to healing certain stress-related conditions, especially when performed the right way.
One of the main catches of mindful meditation is its proven impact on managing stress and anxiety. When you meditate, you focus on the moment and slow down your brain activity. These steps stimulate a sense of calm which helps the reticular activating system, the part of the brain responsible for your consciousness.
In addition, research shows that meditation also helps lower cortisol, which is the hormone produced when you’re stressed.
Cortisol increases your blood sugar level and heart rate as part of activating your fight or flight response. While this allows you to react quickly, frequent spikes in cortisol can lead to other health issues, including depression and memory problems.
💡Pro tip: Aside from meditation, you may also turn to other ways to lower blood pressure. Some of these involve altering your lifestyle and becoming more conscious about your diet and activities.
The American Heart Association recognizes the benefits of meditation, including its positive impact on normalizing blood pressure. On top of that, a 2017 study highlighted how meditation, in particular, helps lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure among hypertensive respondents aged 60 years old and above.
Although definitive data are yet to be produced to solidify meditation benefits related to the prevention of hypertension, adding mindful meditation to your routine helps with your heart rate. Specifically, it regulates blood flow and cardiovascular pumps, reducing blood pressure.
Finally, supporting meditation’s role in managing hypertension, this stress-relieving technique helps prevent the persistent release of hormones that impact vasoconstriction. Such hormones drive high blood pressure.
People experiencing sleep problems, such as insomnia, daytime fatigue, and other sleep disturbances, often turn to meditation to improve their condition. This is especially true among people having trouble achieving good sleep due to anxiety and prolonged tension.
In a 2015 study, clinical respondents with sleep issues underwent mindful meditation. By the end of the trial, the group exhibited fewer symptoms of insomnia and sleep quality problems.
While more evidence-based data is needed by replicating the clinical trial, it is clear that meditation impacts the part of the brain that regulates sleep. Plus, it positively influences the release of melatonin, the hormone responsible for the body clock. Meditation also helps lower blood pressure and heart rate, which helps your body prepare for rest.
💡Pro tip: Find out other ways that might help you sleep better if you have anxiety. Check out what science-based evidence supports these techniques and how it applies to your case.
The effects of meditation on the brain include enhancing memory – an aspect that can gradually deteriorate with age. This is because meditation improves blood flow to the brain, in turn enhancing the neural pathway that stimulates physiological functions, including memory-related activities.
What’s more interesting is that even an eight-minute a-day meditation can already improve your visual short-term memory. Evidently, this helps you better recognize faces, which can be a challenge among those experiencing age-related memory loss.
The primary goal of mindfulness meditation is to drive you to direct your full attention to the present. Doing this repeatedly allows you to master concentration, which activates your cognitive functions to their full potential.
As a result, you’ll be able to ignore distractions that might trigger your stress responses. It also increases your attention span and leads to better self-awareness. These effects of meditation help reduce your chances of developing depression and severe anxiety while optimizing your learning capacity.
You may have encountered several substance use disorders (SUDs) or addiction recovery programs that include mindful meditation as part of their staple activities or offerings. This is because meditation allows you to combat triggers or cravings, which helps prevent relapse.
Of course, meditation is simply one of the many methods applied in treating addiction. But its therapeutic mechanisms have become more apparent considering its direct influence on the brain circuitry.
However, when using meditation as part of your SUD treatment, seeking guidance or enrolling in a program is better than doing it yourself. That way, you can ensure you’re getting the most out of the technique and the community-based approach toward recovery.
One of the advantages of meditation is its ability to further strengthen your immune system. In a 2016 review of various clinical trials related to mindful meditation, it was mentioned how this practice holds high potential in regulating specific markers involved in your immune responses, such as inflammation, antibody response, cell aging, and cell-mediated responses.
Further research is needed to establish a clearer relationship between mindful meditation and an improved immune system. But its role in stress management already strengthens its influence in ensuring good health and well-being.
Not only does meditation provide better clarity to your mind by allowing you to focus on the moment, but it also activates the part of the brain that boost empathy and compassion. As a result, you’ll begin to harbor positive emotions that you’d like to share with others. You also get to have a better perspective of other people’s experiences.
Being empathetic fosters optimism, resilience, healing, and trust. These are values that help you become more grounded and allow you to combat stress, depression, and anxiety. And as emphasized throughout this piece, effectively managing stress brings many advantages to your health, including preventing the development of chronic diseases.
One of the most substantial health benefits of meditation is its ability to help manage pain. Since mindful meditation helps release brain neurotransmitters like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine, it, therefore, influences how the body responds to pain.
For example, endorphins (endogenous morphine), specifically, block the pain signal receptors of the nerve cells. In a way, this neurotransmitter acts as the body’s natural pain killer. Moreover, β-endorphins also help manage chronic pain by regulating inflammatory responses.
In addition, the other chemical messengers moderate mood, which significantly improves your response to pain. Hence, meditation is often recommended to people experiencing mental and physical pain.
The many mindfulness meditation benefits on the brain extend greatly to cardiovascular health. Aside from its ability to reduce blood pressure and heart rate, meditation helps lower oxygen consumption, regulate cortisol and adrenaline release, and improve breathing rate. All these activities influence the functions of your heart, making it work at an optimum level.
Many studies also support the improvement of heart rate variability (HRV) as part of meditation benefits. In fact, a 2021 study underscored the role of mindful meditation in regulating HRV and reducing the adverse impact of stress among those diagnosed with schizophrenia.
This and other research efforts show how people at risk of cardiovascular disorders, like the widow maker heart attack, can benefit the most from practicing regular meditation.
Meditation for beginners can be pretty easy if you understand your goal and if you make sure you’re being kind to yourself. Many people find it challenging, though, mostly because of their expectations and the added pressure of attaining the focus that meditation promises. However, much like other healthy habits, meditation is all about consistency.
Here are the crucial steps to start meditating:
The key to mastering meditation in the early phase is to focus on your breathing. If you’re still apprehensive about starting, you can always rely on guided meditations. Consider checking meditation apps and free videos to help you settle.
Meditating daily can help improve your cognitive functions, specifically your memory and focus. As a result, it helps upgrade productivity and allows you to combat anxiety. In addition, practicing mindful meditation also boosts your immune responses, keeping you well-protected from infections and several diseases.
To see such results, make sure to meditate every day for at least eight weeks. Keeping it part of your routine for years can significantly improve your mood and stimulate positive emotions.
Falling asleep during meditation does not mean you’ve failed to become mindful or in performing the practice as a whole. In fact, it indicates that your mind and body have relaxed, enough to induce drowsiness. It can also mean you can be too exhausted, which justifies the body’s response to mindfulness. Either way, if you feel sleepy, it’s likely what your body needs.
Immediately after finishing meditation, don’t get up quickly. Instead, take a few minutes to transition from a relaxed to an active state. Otherwise, it can be jarring to your brain, which diminishes the mental benefits of meditation.
The health benefits of meditation expand beyond the mental state. When done right, it can help your body combat some of the most common health issues, such as high blood pressure and stress-related conditions. And while mastering meditation may take time and consistent, proactive choice, these benefits can linger even with age.