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,” .
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 anti-depressant.
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,
“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.
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.
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 an 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.