The influences of meditation stretch from head to toe, positively affecting your brain, heart, and immune system, and helping with chronic pain, insomnia, and depression. We’ve rounded up some intriguing recent research showing that meditation is a powerful ally for mind, body, and spirit.
- Meditation can reduce anxiety and depression, according to a 2014 Johns Hopkins University meta-analysis of nearly 19,000 studies by researchers.
- Multiple studies show that meditation improves your attention span. One study, published in 2007 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, shows that doing daily meditation sessions over just five days makes you more focused and attentive.
- A study by the Shamatha Project — an ambitious body of meditation research started at the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis — found that meditators’ moods steadily improved over a three-month period.
- When watching heart-wrenching films, participants in the Shamatha Project were more moved by scenes of suffering than nonmeditators, and yet they were less likely to recoil from them.
- Meditation helps reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This supports a sharper memory, healthier weight, and better sleep, multiple studies show.
- Telomerase, an enzyme that prevents — and may even reverse — premature aging in cells, is suppressed when we’re stressed. But meditation can increase telomerase activity by 30 percent, according to a 2010 research finding by the Shamatha Project.
- In a 2011 study from Wake Forest and Marquette universities, participants reported a 40 percent decrease in pain-intensity ratings during meditation.
- Meditation creates a relaxation response, lowering blood pressure, slowing heart rate, and improving heart health. In a 2012 study published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, meditation helped African Americans with heart disease lower their risk of cardiovascular clinical events (including heart attack, stroke, and death) by 48 percent.
- The American Cancer Society reported in 2008 that cancer patients who meditated over seven weeks had 65 percent fewer episodes of mooddisturbance and 31 percent fewer stress symptoms than nonmeditators.
- According to a 2003 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine, meditation increases antibody levels, helping the body fight off illnesses and infections.