November 18

How Meditation Changes the Brain & Body

Medically review by Irena Ilic

meditation-benefits

The cat is out of the bag: meditation is something you SHOULD be doing.

There certainly aren't any drawbacks to carving out a little R&R time to the tune of pure silence.

After all, the stuff itself is golden.

Many people have some preconceived notions about meditation that deter them from getting in on a little of that magic zen action.

Rest assured, we're big believers that meditation is for anyone and everyone.

The hardest part isn't even learning how to meditate; it's making meditation a habit.

While we can meditate here and there, that's just not how you see the big changes take place.

A daily session - even just 5 minutes a day - can make a huge impact on both the brain and body.

The benefits of meditation

benefits-of-meditation

Better sleep. Meditation can be a natural cure to sleep-related issues such as insomnia, resulting in more restful sleep.

Only makes sense, right?

Timing your meditation sessions to be during the day when you're still energetic can lead to better zzz's later, so get on it!

You could potentially replace sleeping pills with a simple time-out.

If you're looking for more resources to snooze better, join our free 7-Day Sleep Challenge - you can begin whenever you'd like.

Don't worry, be happy. Practicing meditation helps to promote an overall positive mood and lessens distress in everyday life, even for those who don’t suffer from anxiety.

This has been studied in many situations, but it can be particularly helpful for those who experience anxiety and stress due to chronic pain or illness or even burnout at work.

While we don't always have control over certain health stressors, we can help to lessen the stress itself.

Mindfulness meditation decreases grey matter volume in the amygdala, a part of brain responsible for body's reactions to stress, whose dysfunction can lead to stress-related diseases, including depression, anxiety and pathological fears.

Pain management. Speaking of chronic pain, meditation has been shown to reduce physical symptoms of diseases such as arthritis and fibromyalgia when practiced over time.

Research shows that individuals who practice meditation experience less muscle aches and pains. Those suffering from migraines or low back pain can also experience significant reduction in pain by practicing meditation. 

Lowering blood pressure. Meditation can lower or stabilize resting heart rate and blood pressure in individuals without pre-existing conditions, but also in people with hypertension.

In conjunction with a heart-healthy diet, this can be used as a preventative measure or treatment.

Lowering your blood pressure

Easing addiction. According to studies, mindfulness can help those who turn to substance abuse to relax or “escape” by instead using meditation. 

Studies have shown that mindfulness training can help break the addictive loop. If you're looking to kick nasty habits or that evening glass of wine, the benefits of meditation may be something to consider.

Keep your brain strong. Meditation improves cognitive functioning, specifically visuo-spatial processing, memory, and executive functioning.

Exercising the brain and keeping these functions in tip-top shape can be incredibly vital to overall longevity, not to mention the daily changes you'll notice.

Those who practice meditation can reduce age-related decline in cortical thickness, which can mean improved cognitive function compared to people of their age who don't meditate.

Brain health

Less stress, of course. Meditation decreases levels of cortisol (hormone), which is secreted in excess when we are under stress.

Too much cortisol can sabotage weight loss efforts by throwing off hormones, interfere with sleep, and affect brain health long-term.

You can lessen the blow with daily meditation sessions.

Better mental health. Mindfulness meditation alleviates suffering associated with physical, psychosomatic and psychiatric disorders.

While it's not a replacement for medication, meditation can be used alongside other treatment since it can offer relief to minor symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve mental and emotional health.

Mood regulation for the chronically ill. Being diagnosed with a chronic disease can weigh on both the mind and body.

Research shows that increase in mindfulness in cancer patients leads to declines in mood disturbance and stress.

Focus, focus, focus. Just four days of mindfulness meditation can increase the ability to sustain attention, which can help overall focus.

The benefits of brief meditation sessions are seldom studied, but similar improvement can be seen compared to long-term meditation in terms of focus.

If you're having trouble keeping a one-track mind, you should consider a few zen sessions.

Increase your focus

Therapist-patient outcomes. Therapists who practice mindfulness have better results and outcomes with their patients and clients.

Yes, the benefits of meditation include making caretakers better at their jobs!

It could have something to do with creating empathy and caring connections with others which can benefit anyone who is seeking deeper and more meaningful relationships.

Should You Try Meditation?

All in all, it's important to remember that meditation is a form of active brain training.

To draw a realistic comparison, think of how your body changes in response to strength training.

The brain is a muscle, and it needs a little action sometimes! In the case of meditation, it needs a little less action sometimes.

Considering how hard the brain is working to help us function - even when we're asleep - it seldom gets the downtime it needs to focus on healing.

These benefits can be seen with meditation everyday. It's good to start small and work your way up into meditating for longer amounts of time continuously.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Dr. Irena Ilic. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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  1. Meditation has many benefits. According to Lama Surya Das it helps us clear our mind of cluttered thoughts, that clog the mind. It also increases concentration and memory, develops skills quicker. Doing regular meditation we can easily handle all difficult situations. I think everyone should do meditation.

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