Every year, more peer-reviewed articles are published demonstrating the scientific benefits of meditation practiced regularly.
Many of these studies show that improvements to participants’ lifestyle, health, and mental wellbeing can be seen in as short as a few weeks of practice.
As 2020 has already shown us, life is full of unforeseeable change, so picking up a meditation practice might be the key to thriving in life’s ever-fluctuating environment.
Here Are 6 Scientific Benefits of Meditation:
This list is not exhaustive but gives you an idea of some of the most common scientific benefits of meditation that you may experience from a regular practice.
1. Relief From Insomnia and Increased Energy
The most common reason people come to Vedic Meditation is because they want to improve their sleep. According to the CDC, roughly 35% of American adults do not get adequate rest every night.
Those that do not get enough sleep each night report higher rates of other health-related problems such as obesity, asthma, and health disease as well as unhealthy habits like smoking.
There is a reason why over 30,000 scientific articles published in the last four years reference the connection between sleep and meditation. Many of them find that those that meditate regularly fall asleep faster and have better sleep quality.
With a few months of practice, students report that Vedic Meditation gives them more energy and helps them sleep through the night without as much interruption.
2. Decreased Depression Symptoms
Depression can be a debilitating disease with symptoms including fatigue, trouble concentrating, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, irritability, hopelessness, and loss of appetite.
I originally came to meditation because of depression and continued on to become a teacher because of how effective meditation is at improving my symptoms.
When you google depression, meditation is one of the most listed natural remedies to help improve symptoms. And there is a valid reason for that too.
Studies found that compassion meditation leads to less self-criticism and more positive emotions amongst low-income African American men and women who had recently attempted suicide.
3. Improved Memory
Being a form of mental training, it shouldn’t be a surprise that meditation can improve cognitive function. In a 2017 study, mindfulness-based meditation showed a statistically significant improvement in the adaptive working memory for a population of high worriers.
These cognitive benefits seem to transcend (pun intended) the specific technique as similar studies have been conducted with mantra-based meditation. Those that participated in Vedic chanting meditation scored higher on memory tests and also made less errors.
Curious to learn about Vedic meditation? Read: Vedic Meditation 101: Your Guide to This Ancient Tradition
When we close our eyes in meditation, we process the large amounts of data our brains collect every day. The brain’s hippocampus is often activated during meditation which is associated with memory processing.
4. Increase Creativity
Artists were early meditation adopters in part because of meditation’s aid in the creative process. Meditation has been linked to the state of “flow” or the ability to become consumed in the moment and experience of what we are doing.
This state is associated with top performance in music and the arts. In one study, 39 meditators showed elevated creativity regardless of the type of meditation practiced.
In my own experience, pausing for a meditation break allows me to break through writer’s block and renew my energy. After meditation, I often am able to approach an idea from a new perspective.
5. Normalized Weight
One of the reasons meditation can help to normalize weight could be due to the many emotional facets that are linked to eating.
Almost all meditation types help to turn off the fight-or-flight response which can lead to less emotional eating. Many students confirm the science by stating that it is easier to not overeat after meditating steadily for a few months.
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Research has continued and shown that multidisciplinary weight loss programs that include meditation are more successful than traditional weight loss programs alone.
6. Slower Aging Process
One of the reasons my fiancé Mikel was interested in meditation was because we did a health assessment which consists of a machine taking your blood pressure, weight, and heart rate as well as answering a series of questions about your lifestyle, which gives you a biological age as a result.
While his lifestyle had physically aged him a year, my results reported that I was three years younger than my chronological age. Scientific research suggests that meditation might be the key to the biological age gap shown.
One study found: “At age 50, brains of meditators were estimated to be 7.5 years younger than those of controls.” Meditators in this study had an average of 20 years of experience compared to the control group.
The Takeaway on the Scientific Benefits of Meditation
How fast you receive the benefits of meditation is, of course, individual. It’s impossible to predict or know if you will be highly responsive or not responsive at all. Some people report experiencing benefits within days of learning while others take months.
I always suggest that students meditate for at least 60 consecutive days before coming to a conclusion about whether meditation is working for them.
Different types of meditation have different effects on the brain and, therefore, produce different results.
While many of the scientific benefits of meditation listed here have been studied across disciplines, I always encourage students to try multiple modalities in order to see which type resonates with their unique physiology.
The scientific benefits of meditation are not reliant on having no thoughts, sitting perfectly still, or being in a quiet and serene location.
In almost all studies on meditation, participants had received formal meditation training. It is always recommended to seek the expertise of a qualified professional especially if you feel like you are not receiving the benefits listed above.
The scientific benefits of meditation are not reliant on having no thoughts, sitting perfectly still, or being in a quiet and serene location. You can have hectic and thought-filled meditations your entire life and still receive lots of benefits from the practice.
Always judge your meditation by how your “eyes open” experience is going rather than what is happening during your meditation.
Not into meditation? Here are 7 Ways to Find Mindfulness If You’re *NOT* Into Meditation