Meditation. A practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.
Some archaeologists date meditation back to as early as 5,000 BCE, according to Psychology Today, and the practice itself has religious ties in ancient Egypt and China, as well as Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and, of course, Buddhism. Meditation’s global spread began along the Silk Road around about five or six centuries BCE, as the practice moved throughout Asia. As it arrived in a new spot, it would slowly transform to fit each new culture. But it wasn’t until the 20th century that it began to move beyond the realm of specific religions, especially in the West.
As TIME reported in a 2003 cover story, meditation began to be seriously studied for its medical benefits in the 1960s, when a researcher in India named B.K. Anand “found that yogis could meditate themselves into trances so deep that they didn’t react when hot test tubes were pressed against their arms.”
Could you imagine being in such a trance? Maybe start small and reap one of the top 50 benefits of meditation.
What Are The Benefits of Meditation
1. It lowers cortisol levels. Research shows that mindfulness meditation lowers levels of cortisol, the hormone that causes stress. Reducing cortisol can decrease general stress, anxiety and depression.
2. You can better deal with stress. Meditation brings a sense of calm to the mind and body that can reduce stress, Washam says.
“When the mind relaxes and lets go, the body follows,” she says. “We want our adrenaline and our nervous system to take a break at times, to unplug, to recycle, to rejuvenate.”
3. It eases anxiety. “Meditation is literally the perfect, portable anti-anxiety treatment,” says health coach Traci Shoblom. Taking just a few minutes to close your eyes and do breathing exercises can turn off the mechanisms in your brain that cause anxiety.
4. It reduces depression symptoms. Depression is a series mental health condition often triggered by stress and anxiety. Research suggests meditation can change areas of the brain, including the “me center” and “fear center,” that are linked to depression. People who meditate also show increased gray matter in the brain’s hippocampus, responsible for memory.
5. You’ll get a mood boost. Meditation helps you deal with stress, anxiety and difficult situations, which makes you happier and feel better. “We’re just able to deal with difficult things without letting it affect your mood,” Washam says.
6. You can retrain your brain. The brain tends to develop as it’s used. Meditation may retrain the brain to use the prefrontal cortex, known as the “me center,” to regulate the amygdala, or “fear center,” says researcher and author Bracha Goetz.
“This means that when faced with a stressor, when we are not meditating, we will have gotten in the habit of using our prefrontal cortex to direct our minds back to think more calmly and clearly focus, rather than letting our impulsive reactions direct us,” Goetz says.
7. It’s good for your heart. Research shows meditation can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, says Chirag Shah, physician and founder of online healthcare platform Push Health. Meditation positively impacts blood pressure, heart muscle effectiveness and general cardiovascular mortality.
8. It lowers blood pressure. High blood pressure affects about 30% of U.S. adults and is considered a worldwide epidemic that heightens the risk of stroke and heart attack. Meditation may improve blood pressure naturally, without medication, research shows.
9. It enhances serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical produced in nerve cells that works as a natural mood stabilizer. When you meditate, you’ll increase serotonin levels, which Washam says acts like a natural antidepressant.
10. You’ll break bad habits. Whether it’s smoking or shopping too much, meditation brings awareness to your actions in that moment and help you break the cycle of a bad habit, Washam says.
Most habits form unconsciously, she says, and, “Over time, (meditation) brings awareness to what we’re doing, so we’re not acting out unconsciously. Mindfulness interrupts the habit.”
11. You’ll strengthen relationships. Good communication, empathy and respect are the hallmarks of a strong relationship, and meditation helps improve all of those qualities. Creating a deeper connection with yourself makes relationships easier and more fulfilling, Washam says.
“The moment I become present, I’m available to my partner, to my friends, to myself,” she says.
12. It boosts concentration. When so many things are racing through our minds at any given time, it can be tough to concentrate on tasks at work or even hobbies like reading a book. Meditation centers your mind so you can focus on what you need to get done.
13. It helps build inner strength. We’ve all been stuck in traffic or in a long, boring meeting and couldn’t wait to escape. Practicing meditation and mindfulness helps build inner strength and endurance to calmly get through these situations, Washam says.
“It creates an ability to be in the moment no matter how it is,” she says. “We’re just able to be with difficult things without unraveling or letting it affect you.”
14. You’ll learn to be present. Research shows meditation can decrease brain activity in the default mode network (DMN), the part of the brain that wonders, worries and overthinks, helping us stay in the present, says Adina Mahalli, relationship expert and mental health professional at Maple Holistics.
“Meditation promotes being in the present moment and focusing our thoughts,” Mahalli says, explaining that meditation works the brain like a muscle. “The more you meditate the more easily you’re able to snap out of DMN mode and into the present.”
15. You’ll become comfortable in stillness. These days, most of us are always on the go and rarely take the time to calm down. Meditation can make you feel comfortable with stillness, says Josee Perron, life coach and yoga and meditation teacher.
“We’ve become accustomed to needing to be on the go all the time,” Perron says. “But, so much running around doesn’t leave any time for stillness, which is the gateway to connecting with your deeper inner self.”
16. It helps with brain fog. If you struggle with concentration, forget things easily and have a hard time focusing, you might have brain fog. It’s often caused by stress, and a meditation practice can calm your mind and let you focus on your breath so you feel more present.
“Meditation cuts through the fog because we’re waking up in that moment in a way, literally,” Washam says. “We’re stopping the habitual distraction, which has effects in the brain long term.”
17. You’ll better handle anger. Getting angry is a natural feeling when dealing with difficult people or situations. If you act impulsively, you could make things worse, however. When you meditate, you train your brain to focus on the present, and this can help you learn to control and process your emotions in the moment.
“Maybe you’re upset, but you slow down and just feel your emotions,” Washam says. “Just that simple act of turning toward your breath creates a kind of relief in the mind.”
18. You can work through grudges. Holding onto anger and reliving past wrongs in your mind takes a toll on the mind and body. To calm these feelings, Washam suggests using STOP, a mindfulness–based meditation technique, which stands for stopping in the moment, taking a breath, observing your internal feelings and proceeding with your day.
19. You’ll live in the moment. Learning to focus and live in the moment is important benefit of meditation, but it’s easier said than done. Often, our thoughts turn to past events or things we need or want to do in the future, and we seem to forget about the here and now.
20. It helps you cope with pain. Meditation activates areas of the brain that are associated with processing pain, so mindful breathing can help people manage chronic pain, says Megan Junchaya, health coach and founder of Vibe N’ Thrive. Research shows that even a short amount of meditation can boost pain tolerance and reduce pain-related anxiety—and, it could possibly alleviate the need for opioid pain medication.
21. Meditation helps you relax. Learning to simply relax and keep calm under pressure are huge mental and physical health benefits of meditation. Practicing mindfulness can reduce stress and lower blood pressure so you’ll feel more relaxed.
22. You’ll sleep better. Most Americans don’t get enough sleep, and it’s tough to get through the day when you’re exhausted. It’s also bad for your health. When you meditate, you may find yourself drifting off to sleep more easily and getting better quality sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
23. It helps with insomnia. If you have a sleep disorder, like insomnia, meditation can be especially helpful. It reduces anxiety and retrains the brain to slow down and respond differently to stressors.
24. But, you may not need as much sleep. Meditation is not a sleep replacement, and we all need our eight hours. But, when long-term meditation practitioners spent several hours meditating, they experienced a significant drop in sleep time compared to those who don’t meditate, according to a 2010 study published in Behavioral and Brain Functions.
25. Meditation teaches you to self-soothe. You will learn to work through anxiety, anger and other problems so that you don’t turn to unhealthy behaviors, like drugs or alcohol, to self-soothe.
26. You’ll become your own cheerleader. Meditation acts as a support system to help you through a rough time. You’ll realize the value of celebrating your strengths and successes and not worrying so much about any faults or mistakes.
27. It reduces inflammation. Meditation’s ability to help reduce stress is well known. But, chronic stress creates inflammation in the body, which is linked with heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity, says Paul Claybrook, a certified nutritionist.
28. It adds balance to your life. Finding balance—whether it’s juggling work and home life, dealing with stress and taking some down time—is vital for our mental health and well-being. Practicing mindfulness and learning to center your thoughts will get you there.
29. You’ll be more productive. Bringing more awareness to your day-to-day focuses you on the task at hand, rather than jumping around from one project to another—and, this increases productivity, says Cory Muscara, founder of Long Island Mindfulness Center.
“When we’re going through our day on autopilot, we miss those quick transition moments from working on a project to scrolling through our friend’s cat pictures on Facebook,” he says. “The quicker we catch these transitions, the quicker we can come back to the task at hand, and the more we can get done.”
30. It boosts the immune system. Among the many health benefits of meditation is an immune system boost, says Mick Cassell, clinical hypnotherapist and founder of wellness app ThinkWell-LiveWell. Research shows that mindfulness lowers blood pressure and enhances the immune system, making you feel better and maybe even live longer.
31. It improves mental functioning. Practice meditation regularly and you’ll see a “chain reaction” that leads to better mental functioning, Cassell says. That can include becoming more relaxed, sleeping better and improving concentration, reasoning, performance and productivity.
32. You’ll feel more creative. Meditation helps you dial up your creativity, which you can extend to your daily life, Cassell says. Creativity offers benefits like problem-solving, adaptability and self-confidence.
33. It makes you kind. We all need a little more kindness in our lives, and meditation can do the trick. A type of meditation, called Metta, focuses on a feelings-related practice that promotes kindness, says Stella Samuel, wellness coach at Brandnic.com.
34. It improves memory. Meditation enhances cognitive function, which can be a mood-booster and help prevent memory loss, says Brittany Ferri, occupational therapist and founder of Simplicity of Health.
35. Meditation prevents burnout. As we work longer hours and continue to add to our load of responsibilities, it’s easy to burn out. Practicing mindfulness-based stress reduction could actually shrink the part of the brain that causes worry and fear, and strengthens the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for personality development, research suggests. So look to meditation to help fight workplace stress.
36. You’ll have a spiritual awakening. Meditation takes us to a place deep inside ourselves, which can bring feelings of love and peace. For some, that could lead to a spiritual awakening.
37. Meditation builds resilience. Focusing on all emotions—happiness, failure and regret—lets you observe these feelings and experience a “seat of awareness,” says Sherrell Moore-Tucker, author and wellness educator.
“While sitting with those feelings and experiences, inner strength is cultivated and resilience emerges,” she says.
38. Your sex life will heat up. Mindfulness lets you tap into a more authentic, compassionate and honest relationship to sex, says Shauna Shapiro, clinical psychologist and author of “Good Morning, I Love You.” Studies show practicing mindfulness increases sexual arousal and overall sexual satisfaction, because it enhances your connection with your body.
39. It promotes mindful eating. Our relationship with food can be a complex one, and dieting or overeating can be harmful to our physical and mental health. Mindfulness helps counter your consciousness and reactivity around food, adding to the enjoyment of eating while recognizing hunger cues, Shapiro says.
“As we eat mindfully, we are able to listen to the messages of our body, recognizing what foods our body wants, as well as appreciating when we feel hungry and when we become full,” she says.
40. You’ll become more in tune with your body. Many of us go through the day with a constant dialogue running through our minds. Meditation facilitates a direct experience, or “wordless experience of pure sensation,” says Brooke Nicole Smith, mindful eating expert and integrative wellness and life coach. This lets you learn to check in with the body.
41. It helps you deal with uncomfortable situations. Getting out of your comfort zone builds strength and leads to personal growth. Meditation teaches you to experience discomfort “without freaking out about it,” opening the door to new possibilities, where you’ll feel more comfortable asking for a raise, having a tough conversation or tackling anything else you’ve been avoiding, Smith says.
42. It could alter gene expression. Research shows that mindfulness-based meditation can lead to molecular changes in the body, which may reduce levels of pro-inflammatory genes. That means you could recover more quickly from stressful situations.
43. Meditation could help fight addiction. Practicing mindfulness lets you better control emotions, thoughts and behaviors, giving you greater control over subconscious habits and addictions, Junchaya says. Research suggests mindfulness-based interventions could treat addictions, including alcohol, smoking, opioids and other drugs.
44. Meditation fosters accountability. Self-exploration leads to self-awareness. Meditation teaches you to own up to actions and behaviors, and stop living in denial or lying to yourself about issues in your life, says Fran Walfish, family and relationship psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Aware Parent.”
45. You’ll make better decisions. Being constantly on the go means we often make impulsive decisions. Since meditation helps you slow down, you can make better decisions and fewer mistakes in your home and work life, says Sadi Khan, fitness research analyst at RunRepeat.
46. It boosts self-esteem. Meditation helps quell negative thoughts, calms the mind and reduces anxiety, helping you feel good about yourself and the decisions you make.
47. Meditation eases loneliness. A study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity showed older adults, who took part in an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program, saw a decrease in pro-inflammatory gene expression—and, this reduced feelings of loneliness.
48. It improves memory. Brief meditation training has been shown to improve “visuo-spatial processing, working memory and executive functioning,” according to a study published in Consciousness and Cognition. After just four days of meditation training, people showed a stronger ability to pay attention longer.
49. It can alleviate PMS. Headaches, cramps, hot flashes and water retention—meditation has been shown to relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and change how you perceive period pain, according to a study published in Mindfulness.
50. Meditation may improve arthritis symptoms. Several studies have shown that meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction can help manage chronic pain, which is welcome news for people living with arthritis. Embracing meditation can help lessen the intensity of pain, enhance functionality, and improve mood and quality of life.
So, whether it’s five minutes a day or hours at a time. Meditation can be seen as useful and beneficial for the mind, body, and soul. Namaste friends.