When you think about meditation, images of Buddhist or ancient Hindu religions may come to mind. While meditation is commonly used in many different religions, many people practice it without any connection to religious or spiritual beliefs, but more as a psychotherapeutic technique to enhance overall well-being.
There are two types of meditation that most people commonly practice: mindfulness meditation which involves the state of being aware of and involved in the present moment, and making yourself open, aware, and accepting. The second type, concentrative meditation, requires focusing all of your attention on a specific thing, such as your breath, a mantra, or a specific word while tuning out everything else around you to reach a higher state of being.
In everyday use, meditation is a mind/body practice that increases calmness and relaxation and can improve psychological balance to help you cope with illness and stress. Many studies have been done on how meditation can be helpful for a variety of health conditions such as anxiety and depression, high blood pressure, and chronic pain.
Meditation has become more popular in recent years as more people discover the many health benefits of this age-old practice. Here are some of the health benefits that practicing meditation regularly can offer:
One of the most common reasons people try meditation is to reduce stress. Stress can have many negative effects on our bodies such as poor sleep, high blood pressure, fatigue, and an increase in anxiety and depression. Mindfulness meditation has been shown in several studies to reduce the inflammatory response in the body caused by stress.
Using mindfulness and meditation exercises may help reduce anxiety levels. One study found that after eight weeks of mindfulness meditation, people with generalized anxiety disorder showed a reduction in anxiety symptoms, as well as improved stress levels and coping skills.
Reducing blood pressure
There is some evidence that meditation may reduce blood pressure in combination with standard medical treatment for high blood pressure.
Managing chronic pain
While meditation doesn’t eliminate actual physical pain, it can help chronic pain sufferers manage their pain better. In a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, brain scans of chronic pain patients showed a reduction in the brain activity in the areas associated with sensation after several weeks of regular meditation practice. Their findings indicated that mediation likely changes the relationship to the feelings of pain.
Mindfulness meditation can help with insomnia. Studies show that people that practice meditation stay asleep longer and have improved insomnia severity. It can help relax your body, release tension, and put you in a peaceful state so you’re more likely to fall asleep and stay asleep more easily.
Aid in the management of cancer treatment
For patients undergoing cancer treatment, meditation has been shown to help relieve anxiety, stress, and fatigue associated with their illness and treatments. Practicing mind/body therapies can help improve the quality of life of cancer patients and help them manage the physical side effects of treatments better.