Uncovering The Physical & Spiritual Health Benefits of Meditation

It is difficult to deny the growing scientific support for the health benefits of meditation. Uncover the physical & mental benefits of meditation today.


“Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again.”

-Chinese inscription cited by Thoreau in Walden


In today’s modern world where we are constantly bombarded with attention grabbing  advertisements, commercials, posts on social media, it seems as if we never get a break from all the distractions. So where can we catch a break? For thousands of years, individuals from cultures all around the world renewed themselves daily by incorporating the benefits of practicing meditation.

Only recently has modern science found out what so many ancient cultures also knew, research confirming a tie between one’s overall health to the benefits of daily meditation. With the abundance of health benefits of meditation as well as the fact that it is free, always accessible, and incredibly rewarding, this might be the best new addition to your daily lifestyle.

What Does Meditation Do To The Human Body?

When one has an excess of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, the body calibrates with the sympathetic nervous system. This activates our “fight or flight” response. But mindfulness meditation benefits the whole body, by giving the sympathetic nervous system a much needed break. During meditation, the body leaves the “fight or flight” response and enters into a more sustainable mode of “rest and digest” or parasympathetic nervous system. Although it is sometimes hard to believe, the body’s natural and healthy state is calm, it really is!

How Long Does It Take For Meditation To Be Effective?

What is really interesting about the benefits of daily meditation is just how irrelevant time commitment is. According to meditation master, Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Wherever You Go There You Are, flexibility with this practice is key. 

Kabat-Zinn stated that, “It is important to know that meditation has little to do with clock time. Five minutes of formal practice can be as profound or more so than forty-five minutes. The sincerity of your effort matters far more than elapsed time, since we are really talking about stepping out of minutes and hours and into moments, which are truly dimensionless and therefore infinite.” 

While sitting at a red-light, one can achieve a meditative state. While waiting for your number to be called at the DMV, one can achieve a meditative state. There is no doubt that the effects of meditation can be felt instantly with the right focus and intent.

Can Meditation Be Dangerous Or Have Negative Effects?

With meditation, just like many healing modalities, there is a concern if one begins a practice to self-cure without first checking with a physician. If one is experiencing extreme symptoms such as suicidal-thoughts, severe anxiety or depression, one should always consult a physician first. Meditation has the ability to only bring positive effects to one’s daily lifestyle, if it is done with a body ready and healthy enough to receive its benefits. 

What Are The Physical Benefits Of Meditation?

Studies show that the health benefits of meditation cover the whole spectrum of the mind, body, and soul. While specifically looking at the physical benefits of meditation, the first main benefit is stress reduction. When the stress hormone cortisol is released, cytokines are also released in the body. Cytokines are chemicals associated with inflammation. The physical benefits of meditation allow the mind to relax, which in turn allows the heart to relax as well.

 Incorporating daily meditation benefits the whole body in a chain like reaction. When the heart is relaxed not only is one’s blood pressure decreased to a more healthy level but the mind is relieved symptoms attributed to poor emotional health. Currently in the US, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness. With over 40 million adults affected by anxiety disorders, equivalent to 18.1% of the US population. Anxiety and stress reduction are two of the major reasons why people begin their practice of daily mindfulness meditation.

The benefits of practicing meditation, all relate with bringing the body back into a state of balance, a state of calm and well-being. So in turn, one’s sleep may also drastically be improved with the implementation of a daily meditation practice. In performing one’s daily work, one may notice an increased attention span, improved focus, a more positive attitude, and improved memory retention. And for those experiencing pain, they may also find relief from the benefits of daily meditation practices. According to research, pain is shown to increase in those battling stress. So when one targets decreasing their stress, pain in turn decreases.

What Are The Spiritual Benefits Of Meditation?

The spiritual benefits of meditation are those targeting the psychological system and our overall sense of feeling at peace. With the use of daily mindfulness meditation one has the ability to set aside a moment for stillness and inner awareness, and away from one’s thoughts, emotions, to do lists, and daily stressors. Spiritual benefits of meditation tie into feeling good and safe in one’s body. Generating more feelings of kindness, happiness, peace, and positivity. By entering into a meditative state, one is able to establish a deeper understanding of one’s own pool of self-knowledge. Differentiating between the emotions or thoughts that are no longer benefiting one’s spiritual, mental, and physical development.

Different Types of Meditation and their Benefits

With the advent of modern science and the recent scientific findings supporting the benefits of daily meditation, meditation resources are more readily available than ever. A few different types of meditation and their benefits can now be found simply using one’s smartphone. Meditation apps such as Calm, Insight timer, and Headspace are amazing resources for guided meditations. Guided meditations are one popular type of meditation where one’s body and mind is guided through a series of mental imagery and spoken word. Guided meditations are a great place for beginners to start who feel they are unable to guide themselves into a state of mindfulness meditation. 

Another type of meditation is breathing meditation where one follows their own natural breathing pattern in and out. One may count the number of seconds on the in breath and out breath or simply just listen to it’s natural flow. This creates a calm, clear, and spacious mind able to navigate the world with a greater understanding and sense of peace. 

A third type of meditation is mantra based meditation. Mantras are repeated patterns of words or phrases used to aid concentration during meditation. The mantras may be recited out loud or silently, and benefit in regulating mental health, decreasing feelings of stress and anxiety in the body.

Conclusion

With modern science catching up with ancient knowledge and a world growing evermore full of distractions, the benefits of practicing meditation make themselves quite clear. Keep your cortisol and cytokines in check today and tap into your inner knowing. Find the type that works for you, may it be guided, breathing, mantra based, or any of the various other types of meditations always available to you.

Lisa O'hara