How Meditation Benefits Health

How Meditation Benefits HealthHow Meditation Benefits Health

For many people, the word “meditation” is likely to evoke images of a cross-legged individual, eyes closed, humming to themselves, but there is so much more to the practice than meets the eye.

Meditation is an ancient mind and body practice that is estimated to date back as far as 5,000 BC. It is believed meditation originated in India, with the earliest documented records of the practice deriving from the teachings of Vedantism - an ancient Hindu philosophy.

In general, meditation involves training the mind to induce a state of consciousness that promotes a sense of serenity and increased concentration.

While meditation was traditionally practiced to induce a deeper religious and spiritual understanding, it has evolved to become a popular method of relaxation and stress reduction, reports

According to the American National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) - part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) - meditation is practiced by around 18 million adults in the US, or 8% of the population.

Meditation is commonly used to reduce anxiety and stress, but increasingly, researchers have found the benefits of meditation may have a much wider reach.

Since a key focus of meditation is to induce a tranquil state of mind, it is perhaps no surprise that researchers have found the practice yields brain benefits.

 Mantra- Based Version

The study of 100 individuals aged 24-77 - of whom 50 were meditators - found that those who engaged in meditating showed reduced gray matter loss in certain brain regions, compared with non-meditators.

Another study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2012, suggested that mantra-based meditation - a form of concentrative meditation in which a word, phrase or sound is repeated to prevent distracting thoughts - may help older individuals with memory loss.

Researchers, from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, PA, found that 12 minutes of mantra-based meditation daily for 8 weeks increased cerebral blood flow to the prefrontal, superior frontal and superior parietal cortices of 12 older adults with memory problems and improved their cognitive function.

While medications such as opioids are commonly used to treat pain, studies have increasingly suggested meditation could be an effective pain reliever. The most common types of pain include low back pain, severe headache or migraine and neck pain.