Benefits of Meditation for Health and Wellness
Meditation for Wellness and Health – Stress affects the mind, body, and overall wellness by causing physical and mental changes in the individual. More people today report living in a state of consistent, moderate stress than ever before. The top three stressors are money, work, and family obligations. As time passes, younger and younger generations are feeling the effects of stress with the average millennial reporting stress levels of six out of 10. (American Psychological Association)
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Research shows that from 2007 to 2014, reported stress levels averaged 6.2 and 4.9 out of 10, respectively. That’s a 1.3 point drop in fewer than 10 years. (The American Institute of Stress, 2019)
The rise in the popularity of meditation, no doubt, has a positive impact on reducing stress levels. Through meditation, you can relieve stress and the signs and symptoms of stress, improve energy levels, and even lose weight.
Whether things are going on at work, personal illness, or family issues, there are always stressors around every corner. Ultimately, stress is how our brain, and subsequently, our body, reacts to demands. Over time, consistent pressure can affect your mental and physical health. (National Institute of Mental Health)
Stress may affect everyone, but how we react to that stress differs widely. Meditation helps you bring your mind and body into the present moment. Concentration on what’s happening around you draws you away from the mound of stressors allowing you to process them one by one – eventually, allowing them to drift away. Even medical professionals are advised to accept the positive role of meditation on stress and pass along methods and techniques to patients. (JAMA Network, 2014)
So, how does meditation work to relieve stress? Think of the practice as addressing the symptoms of stress, so your stress rating falls.
Overall, health and wellness are part of the goal of making healthy lifestyle changes. With apps like Noom, you can track those changes, including changes in water and food intake, and exercise habits, and watch how your life changes once and for all.
Improves Self Awareness
How we view ourselves, referred to as the self-schema by psychologists, may be distorted by personal bias. We all “see” ourselves a certain way, and our personal bias, sometimes, only allow negative thoughts to slip through. Being aware of the here and now, through mindfulness and meditation can help you rebuild the self-schema to reflect a more objective view of yourself. (Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2012)
Being more self-aware, with the help of meditation, allows for personal insight and reflection that can change how we see ourselves and the world around us. (Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 2016)
With self-awareness comes self-acceptance and, according to Dr. Srini Pillay, “self-acceptance improves emotional [and physical] well-being.” (Harvard Medical School, 2016)
Sleep habits directly impact overall health and wellness. The better we sleep, the more awake we feel, and the better prepared we are for the day’s events. When sleep lacks the quality needed to keep the body running optimally, the impact affects more than just your energy.
Poor sleep quality has been associated with increased risks of certain heart conditions and obesity. Meditation, based on current research, may be one piece to the puzzle of overall wellness. (NHS)
Meditation has been shown in clinical research to improve sleep quality. As sleep quality improves, so does the body’s ability to fight off illness and, in some cases, disease. (Harvard Medical School, 2015)
If you are experiencing insomnia, meditation, which leads to deep relaxation, can put your mind at ease just as well as sleeping pills. (National Sleep Foundation)
Yet another set of research showed that mindfulness meditation not only improved stress and sleep quality, but positively impacted heart rate. (Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 2015)
Stress relief and improved sleep quality are the big two when it comes to the effects of meditation on wellness, but what are some other benefits of meditation.
Though medical sciences have fought the concept of meditation as a means of improving wellness, science doesn’t lie. Research shows that meditation can, in fact, enhance mental focus. The results were recorded using physical scans of the brain, so there’s no personal bias being reported.
Removes Negative Thoughts
Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Negative thoughts, including anger, are no match for meditation. Research has been going on for decades, with results showing that meditation can reduce anger and negative thoughts with lasting results. (Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 1992)
Helps You Lose Weight
With obesity spreading across the world, fighting this epidemic is something far too many people are familiar with. Meditation may be one answer to your personal journey. According to research published in late 2017, meditation (and mindfulness) “are effective in reducing weight and improving obesity-related eating behaviors among individuals with overweight and obesity.” (Obesity Reviews, 2017; Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, 2017)
Cortisol levels increase with stress. When cortisol levels increase, the body naturally stores extra abdominal fat. Buddhist meditation has been shown to reduce serum cortisol levels. (Physiology & Behavior, 1991)
Another effective means of weight loss is Noom. The app, designed by psychologists, works to provide a complete support system, so you make the right changes for lasting results in just 10 minutes a day.
Believe it or not, mindfulness meditation can reduce chronic pain levels as effectively as opioids. With more than 10% of the US population living with chronic pain and an opioid epidemic affecting towns and cities across the US, meditation may be the answer you’ve never considered. (National Institutes of Health, 2016)
Chronic neck pain is one area that meditation has been proven effective with a reduction in pain at rest. More effective, in fact, than exercise. (Postgraduate Medicine, 2018)
In the early 2000s, researchers took on the idea that meditation could improve immunity. The results were positive and suggested changes in the brain that promoted immune function. (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2003)
Current preliminary research shows that meditation and wellness are connected to immunity, as well. It’s thought that meditation can help relieve inflammation and play a positive role in anti-aging. (Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2016)
A significant part of overall wellness is mood. How we feel about life, ourselves, and others literally forms how we live. Meditation can affectively reduce “negative mood, depression, fatigue, confusion, and heart rate.” (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2010)
The effect of meditation on mental wellness is pronounced even in people with mood disorders. The act of meditating takes the mind away from ruminating on thoughts and brings the mind to the present moment. It is thought that bringing the mind to the present moment can cause lasting change in neural pathways that affect mood. (American Psychological Association, 2015)
Anxiety is similar to stress. Just like stress, anxiety can increase the risk of a variety of health problems. Meditation has been shown effective in reducing anxiety by removing the mind from active, negative thoughts and bringing it to the present moment through self-awareness. (Journal of the American Medical Association, 2014)
When mindfulness meditation is focused on stress reduction and coping mechanisms, there’s a positive effect on symptoms of anxiety. (Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2014)
Further research shows that meditation, when partnered with yoga, “improved… total mood…” So, not only do you get the benefits of yoga as exercise, but the inclusion of mindfulness meditation may elevate the effect. (Mindfulness, 2017)
It may be surprising to hear that such a calming practice can actually increase energy, but it’s true. While mindfulness meditation is known for improving sleep quality and decreasing stress, it does improve energy. As a matter of fact, 60% of people who meditate regularly, do so for increased energy. (Scientific Reports, 2016)
Making healthier food choices and exercising are two natural means of increasing energy, in addition to meditation. With Noom and the extensive database of more than 3.7 million foods, you can track everything you eat and learn where your nutrition can be improved.
The real star of the show is meditation and wellness. There’s little doubt meditation plays a vital role in stress relief, weight loss, relaxation, self-awareness, sleep quality, and more, but what role does meditation play in physical wellness?
Researchers have shown that meditation improves symptoms of certain heart-related conditions. (Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 2016)
Meditation has also been shown to reduce the risk of certain heart conditions. (Journal of the American Heart Association, 2017)
It looks as though mindfulness meditation has the power to reduce the aging of white matter in the brain. As a matter of fact, the areas of the brain affected are the areas active during meditation. (Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 2016)
Some evidence exists that shows meditation “rewires” the brain, which reduces inflammation. The effects, like the changes in the white matter mentioned above, are physical in nature. “Brain scans show that mindfulness meditation training increased the functional connectivity of the… areas important to attention and executive control.” (Carnegie Melon University, 2016)
Focus and Attention
Meditation and wellness also play an essential role in your ability to focus, pay attention, and, ultimately, learn. (Sante Mentale au Quebec, 2013)
Another study on the effect of meditation on attention showed improved attention, even in novices who’d not meditated before, with just a brief session. (Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2018)
Increased Physical Activity
Taking just minutes a day to practice mindfulness meditation is enough to cause increased physical activity. Simply put, people who mindfully meditate tend to be more physically active – thus connecting meditation to wellness. (Health Psychology, 2018)
Therapeutic Relaxation Response
When the mind is relaxed, the body is relaxed. Mindfulness meditation and wellness are connected in a way that merges the mental benefits of relaxation with the physical benefits on the body. (Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 2012)
Meditate Anywhere You Like
There are no limits to where you can practice mindful meditation. On a plane, on your bed, on the floor, in the living room, anywhere is the perfect place to bring your inner self back to center.
Focusing Your Attention
The key to mindful meditation is to focus on your breathing – the sound of the inhale and exhale. This brings you out of your thoughts and into the present time. If you notice your mind wandering off to some thought, you purposefully bring your focus back to the sound of your breathing.
Like any exercise, mindful meditation takes practice. You may find yourself sitting for two or three minutes before getting frustrated that you can’t keep your attention focused. But, that’s three minutes you were mindful of your present self. Over time, keep working, and you’ll notice sessions lasting longer and longer with more focus and, based on the research mentioned above, improved wellness.
Take care of yourself with healthy lifestyle changes. With just 10 minutes a day, you can use Noom to learn how to eat to lose weight and how to live to keep it off.
Summer Banks has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with professionals in the weight loss industry and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University.