Home Mental Health & Well-Being 7 Surprising Benefits of Meditation, According to a Mental Health Expert

7 Surprising Benefits of Meditation, According to a Mental Health Expert

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A growing body of research is showing that meditation can be a powerful tool for the mind and body. In fact, a study co-led by University College London (UCL) – which is the longest randomised meditation training trial conducted to date – found that meditation training can support the wellbeing of older adults.

In our fast-paced and often chaotic world, finding a moment of peace and tranquillity has become really important for maintaining overall health and wellbeing.

To mark World Meditation Day on 21st May, mental health expert Dr Katy James has explored the surprising benefits of meditation and shared four simple meditation practices people can incorporate into everyday life. 

Research has found that taking some time each day to focus on your breath and check in with your body can improve working memory, and even change the structure and function of your brain.

Dr James, mental health clinical director at Vita Health Group, said: “In a world characterised by constant motion and noise, meditation serves as a sanctuary of stillness and serenity, inviting us to reconnect with our inner selves and the present moment. Contrary to common misconceptions, meditation is not about emptying the mind entirely but rather about observing thoughts without judgement and cultivating a sense of presence.” 

“Through its countless benefits to mind and body, meditation offers a pathway to help better deal with life’s challenges, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve well-being.”

Here are seven surprising ways meditation benefits the mind and body:

1. Reduces stress

One of the most celebrated benefits of meditation is its ability to reduce stress levels. By encouraging relaxation and fostering a sense of calmness, meditation can help to alleviate the pressures of daily life and allow us to navigate challenges with clarity and composure.

2. Enhances emotional well-being

Regular meditation practice has been linked to improved emotional regulation and resilience. It provides a safe space for us to acknowledge and process our feelings, and foster a deeper understanding of ourselves and our emotions.  

3. Improves concentration and focus

In a world filled with distractions, meditation serves as a powerful tool to enhance concentration and focus. By training the mind to maintain attention to the present moment, we can cultivate sharper cognitive abilities and enhance productivity in various aspects of life.  

4. Promotes mindfulness

Mindfulness, a key component of meditation, involves being fully present and engaged in the current moment. Mindfulness practices can help us develop a heightened awareness of our surroundings, thoughts and sensations, often leading to a greater appreciation of life’s simple joys.  

5. Improves sleep quality

Many of us struggle with insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns, often stemming from racing thoughts and stress. Meditation offers a natural remedy for sleep disturbances by promoting relaxation and soothing the mind, paving the way for restful and rejuvenating sleep.

6. Supports physical health  

Beyond its mental and emotional advantages, meditation has also been associated with numerous physical health benefits. From lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation, to strengthening the immune system, the practice of meditation can contribute to overall wellbeing and longevity.

7. Enhances self-awareness

Through introspection and self-reflection, meditation allows us to develop a deeper understanding of ourselves and our inner workings. By transforming our thoughts, beliefs and behaviours, meditation enables us to embark on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth.

4 Simple meditations to try at home

Dr. James has shared a step-by-step guide to four meditations people can incorporate into their daily routines.

Breath awareness meditation

  • Find a comfortable seated position and close your eyes gently.
  • Focus your attention on the natural rhythm of your breath as it enters and exits your body.
  • Notice the sensations of each inhale and exhale, allowing your breath to anchor you to the present moment.
  • Whenever your mind wanders, gently guide your focus back to the sensation of breathing.  

Body scan meditation

  • Lie down in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and bring your awareness to different parts of your body, starting from your toes and gradually moving upward to the crown of your head.  
  • Notice any sensations or tensions present in each area, and with each exhale, release any tension you may be holding onto. 
  • Allow yourself to sink deeper into relaxation with each breath.

Loving-kindness meditation

  • Sit comfortably and bring to mind someone you care about deeply, whether it’s a friend, family member or even yourself. 
  • Silently repeat phrases of loving-kindness such as “May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be safe, may you be at peace”.  
  • Extend the wishes to yourself and others, cultivating feelings of compassion and goodwill.  

Walking meditation 

  • Take a leisurely stroll in a peaceful environment; you might choose a park, garden, or quiet neighbourhood street. 
  • Pay attention to each step you take, feeling the connection between your feet and the ground beneath you.  
  • Notice the sights, sounds and sensations around you, allowing yourself to be fully present in the experience of walking.  

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