Mindful meditation—the practice of spending quiet time in thought—can improve your health, both mental and physical.
Is it worth your time? We’re saying yes.
It may lessen depression and anxiety.
A 2014 meta-analysis on the effects of meditation programs in JAMA Internal Medicine found moderate evidence of lessening anxiety and depression in clinical trials involving 3,515 participants. According to Jeffrey B. Rubin, PhD, a psychotherapist, meditation teacher, and author of The Art of Flourishing: A Guide to Mindfulness, Self-Care, and Love in a Chaotic World, meditation provides heightened affect tolerance, which he explains as “a greater capacity to live with and through a fuller range of feelings without judging them, internalizing them, or projecting them onto other people.” In other words, it gives you more equanimity or an even-mindedness both during and outside of meditation.
It may reduce high blood pressure.
One type of meditation, transcendental, was found to lower blood pressure for participants in a 2009 study, particularly those at risk of developing high blood pressure. The findings were published in the American Journal of Hypertension. Because of this study and others, the American Heart Association released a scientific statement in 2017 saying that meditation modestly lowers blood pressure.
It improves your concentration and focus.
Mindful meditation changes “the way you experience your moment-to-moment life,” says Amishi Jha, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Miami who studies the effects of meditation on high-stress populations. Because of its positive effect on attention, she speculates that meditation may make it easier to stick to diet and exercise goals. “To track, you have to notice what’s happening and then actually log what you’re doing. Doing that for a long period could actually deplete your attention because you’re taxing it. Mindfulness practices may bolster it and help keep it strong so you can stay better on track.”
It may lessen the disruption stress causes in your life.
Mindfulness practices may give you the extra dose of resilience you need to get through a rough patch. Jha’s research on meditation involves people with defined periods of stress, such as students or military members. Because the rest of us don’t always know when we’re going to face a high-stress situation, she says daily meditation is essential. “If we do it regularly,” Jha says, “we’re best prepared for anything that comes our way.”
It could help you feel less pain.
In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers found that meditation can help mitigate pain. Interestingly, it uses a mechanism that is separate from the natural opiates in the body. While that study involved simulated pain with healthy volunteers in a laboratory, other researchers have studied the effect of meditation in actual patients with specific pain-causing conditions. For example, a 2016 study published in JAMA of patients with chronic lower-back pain indicated that meditation might lead to greater improvement than with usual care. Yet another, smaller study in 2014 published in the journal Headache found that meditation may reduce the length and severity of migraines.