There are many reasons why people meditate. For some it is part of a spiritual journey and has to do with expansion of awareness and how they perceive and experience life. Some simply want to relax, and this benefit of meditation is self-evident. Other people are interested in the benefits of meditation for health and general well-being. This page outlines some of those benefits. (Read the comments of people who use our CDs and podcast, to read about the benefits of meditation in the words of actual people.) The effectiveness of meditation comes from deep relaxation. When we are deeply relaxed, the body and mind are refreshed and revitalized. This brings many benefits that are both immediate and long lasting.
Some major health benefits of regular meditation include:
- Lower blood pressure
- Better sleep
- Less anxiety
- Faster healing
- Decreased use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes
- Lower cholesterol
- Stronger immune response
Reduction of stress hormones brings many benefits
The results above have been demonstrated in many rigorous scientific studies, a few of which are mentioned below. Researchers have found that meditation lowers levels of stress hormones. In fact, by decreasing the level of one such hormone – epinephrine — meditation has been shown to reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood and therefore help arteries to remain clear. Reduction of stress hormones also supports the healthy functioning of the immune system.
Alpha waves and deep relaxation
This reduction in stress hormones may be explained by the relaxed state that comes about through meditation. Electroencephalograph (EEG) studies of the brain in those who are meditating show that meditation boosts the intensity of alpha waves – associated with quiet, receptive states — to levels not seen even during sleep. This relaxed state combats anxiety, and this is confirmed by research which has found lowered levels of lactic acid in the blood. (High levels of lactic acid are associated with anxiety.) Another effect of meditation is that breathing slows, so the body uses less oxygen.
Meditation helps the heart
Meditation has been found to be particularly helpful for the heart. Meditators have been found to have improved blood circulation, as well as a lowered heart rate, which places less demands on the heart. A 1998 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine showed that people who practiced transcendental meditation (TM) had lower levels of lipid peroxide than those who didn’t. Lipid peroxide can contribute to atherosclerosis and other chronic diseases associated with aging. A 1999 study published in the same journal showed that people who practiced TM had lower blood pressure immediately after meditating than did the control group.
Help for Fibromyalgia, Psoriasis, IBS, and More
A 1998 study in Alternative Therapies showed that meditation helped decrease symptoms such as pain and sleeplessness in patients with fibromyalgia, a disease characterized by muscle pain, fatigue, and mild-to-moderate depression.
In a 1998 study at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, psoriasis patients who listened to a mindfulness meditation audiotape during their ultraviolet light therapy experienced faster healing than those who had the light therapy alone.
Meditation has also been associated with a longer life span, better quality of life, fewer hospitalizations, and reduced health-care costs. It has also shown promise as an adjunct therapy in relieving mild depression, insomnia, tension headache, irritable bowel syndrome, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS), as well as in controlling substance abuse.