Why Meditate - 15+ Health and Well-being Benefits of Meditation 

By Val Silver

benefits of meditating

There are lots of ways to be healthy, so why meditate? Meditating is hard and just for yogis, right? What are the proven health benefits of meditation?  Like many people, I asked these same questions myself and even viewed the practice with suspicion due to my religious upbringing.

Research has validated the benefits of meditation on health and well-being. It is a holistic practice that helps you relax and enjoy calm focus. Some types of meditation are challenging and take years to master. Other styles, like mindfulness meditation, contemplation, and reflection are easy and enjoyable even for a total novice with a short attention span. 

Why Meditate? Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Meditation

Meditation benefits health and well-being in several important ways.

  • Studies show that people who meditate daily are many times happier than those who don't. They feel more positive about life. They worry less and indulge in fewer negative emotions. Meditators have more control over their feelings and can bounce back faster when faced with emotional challenges.
  • After eight weeks of meditating thirty minutes a day, brain scans of Massachusetts General Hospital study participants showed less gray matter in the amygdala and more in the hippocampus. That translates into less anxious and stressful feelings and a greater capacity to learn and remember. 
  • Meditation helps reduce stress and induce calm. This can lower blood pressure and physical health issues caused by stress. Studies show that mindfulness-based stress reduction and transcendental meditation significantly reduce diastolic and systolic blood pressure. When you are less stressed and more relaxed, you are more likely to enjoy better quality sleep.
  • Meditators tend to be so much healthier than the general population that some insurance companies reward them with lower premiums! They have stronger immune systems and are less prone to cognitive decline and premature aging. Preliminary research shows that the benefits of meditation on health occur at a cellular level. Along with stress reduction and a proper diet, mediation benefits the telomeres that protect our DNA by increasing levels of the protein telomerase. This slows their shortening and therefore their aging. Even better, meditation may actually stabilize and increase their length over time. During mindfulness meditation, test subjects showed a down-regulation of pro-inflammatory genes compared to those who spent time in a quiet activity. (Source: rawfoodworld.com). . Best of all, genetic activity is altered almost immediately. It doesn't take years of practice to experience this mind-body health benefit of meditation
  • Mindful meditation benefits you whether you are a beginner or more advanced.  It is easy, enjoyable, and naturally helps reduce monkey mind chatter, stress, anxiety, and perception of pain intensity.

  • Meditation  teams beautifully with visualization and affirmations for achieving life and wellness goals. 
  • When you focus on an image, a sound, or a mantra, it brings you into the present moment. Even though the present is all there really is, the mind continually entertains past or future daydreams and their often accompanying negative feelings. When you are fully focused in the now, you experience a greater sense of inner peace and calm. You are able to think about things with more clarity.
  • The benefits of meditation on the brain include a slowing of brain wave frequency. The two hemispheres of the brain work together and become synchronized. This creates neural (nerve cell) structures that allow you to experience life more fully. You are much less likely to become depressed or anxious when using both sides of the brain. When in a relaxed, meditative state of mind, you go deeper into a hypnotic state. The deeper you go, the slower your brain waves, making it  easier to plant suggestions into your subconscious mind and have them accepted. Some people combine meditation with brainwave synchronization to facilitate deeper meditation and to reap the benefits of both practices at the same time. 
why meditate benefits of meditation on health

Why Meditate? Spiritual Benefits of Meditating

why meditate benefits of meditating

The answer to the why meditate question goes beyond the  physical and mental health benefits. A regular meditation practice makes you a more conscious, connected, caring person. 

  • Meditation helps you up-level your consciousness. When you have heightened consciousness you feel more fulfilled. 
  • Meditation facilitates a sense of interconnection and oneness within yourself and with others. When you meditate, you strengthen the connection between the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex where you perceive separateness and the insula, which is the empathy center. This connection strengthens your mind-body connection and makes you feel more generous and empathetic toward others. 

Brain scans of advanced meditators show the front of the brain, the concentration and attention areas, were quite active. The parietal lobe, responsible for orienting us in space and time, was less active than normal. With sensory and cognitive input blocked, we lose the sense of space and time and open to the experience of interconnection and oneness of all.

Spiritual masters have life-long meditation practices t raise spiritual consciousness and access the superconscious or universal mind. At this level, information from your higher self and the field is accessible. You experience a sense of oneness and peace with all that is.

The satori experience is common and highly desirable to those who meditate deeply. It is a sudden realization that there is no separate you. Up down, inside outside, good and evil are all in relationship to another and are imposed on reality. These concepts help us orient in this reality.

Buddha included meditation as one of the six perfections required for one to attain the state of enlightenment. Meditating and concentrating on a single point slows mental activity, making it possible for one to enter samadhi, the state of consciousness beyond waking, dreaming or deep sleep. In Buddhism, mindfulness and concentration are considered fundamental to proper living and usually are cultivated through meditation, chanting and prayer. 

Cultivating the Witness or Observer is another benefit of meditation. As you observe yourself with your awareness, you realize you are not your thoughts and emotions, and they are not you. You become the observer of your thinking and doing, as you would observe others. This is actually a relaxing and enjoyable state of mind. As you practice, you will notice you naturally begin to observe yourself at other times, too. You will become more aware about your thoughts and actions. 

On an energetic level, spirit and soul meditations are practiced for everything from balancing and aligning the chakra energy centers to developing intuition to healing and growing spiritually. 

Why meditate? Whether you practice for the health benefits of meditation or for personal development and spiritual growth, you will reap rewards in each area. Meditation benefits you by helping you relax, heal, center and focus. When you allow yourself to experience the practice without expectations and "shoulds", you will find it easier and more enjoyable. 

If you shy away from meditation because it's difficult to relax and quiet your monkey mind, just gently guide your mind back to the emptiness or your point of focus without judgment and upset. Essential oils can help you relax and focus. Diffuse lavender essential oil for its soothing qualities and powerful ability to promote a sense of relaxation and calm. The citrus scent of lemon or the fresh scent of rosemary promotes clarity and focus. Doing a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing also quiets the mind and gets it ready to meditate. 

page updated 08/2019

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