Science, Now + Beyond

How meditation impacts your body and mind

With all of these benefits, it's surprising more of us aren't doing this.

While meditating, you clear your mind to relax and reflex inwardly. Therefore, most people equate meditation with prayer or a state of mindful obliviousness. Yoga International defines mediation as “a precise technique for resting the mind and attaining a state of consciousness that is totally different from the normal waking state.” It allows you to comprehend yourselves and reach “the center of consciousness within.”

Some people claim that meditation makes them feel healthier and happier. If meditation is a science, governed by processes and principles that follow a particular order, as stated by Yoga International, then what are the real scientific benefits of meditating on a regular basis?

Meditation and pain

A group of medical professors at Johns Hopkins identified 47 clinical trials that evaluated the effects of mindfulness meditation on individuals with diagnosed health problems. Mindfulness meditation, the most widely researched approach, requires focusing one’s attention on experiencing the present moment. The researchers found moderate evidence that this specific technique of meditation can alleviate pain, anxiety, and depression. However, the scientists did not have enough data to assess other common claims of its benefits, including that it improves mood or attention.

Meditation and anxiety

Dr. Rebecca Gladding wrote about the mental benefits of meditation in Psychology Today. Dr. Gladding stated that regular meditation has a positive impact on the connection between the different parts of the brain. In particular, the connection with the brain’s medial prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that deals with your perspective and experiences ( the “Me Center”). Mediation weakens the link between the “Me Center” and the bodily sensation/fear centers. As a result, you no longer assume that a bodily sensation or momentary feeling of fear means something is wrong with you or that you are the problem. Consequently, the more your meditate, the less anxious you’ll feel.

Meditation helps you take a step back

On the other hand, mediation strengthens the link between a specific section within the “Me Center” called the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, which is involved in processing information related to people we perceive as being not like us, and the bodily sensation center involved in empathy. Meditation helps you use the part of the brain that infers other people’s states of mind, motivations, desires, and dreams. This enhances your capacity to understand and rationalize the actions of others and become more compassionate.

Furthermore, meditation helps your brain form a healthier connection between the part of the brain that allows you to look at things from a logical and balanced perspective, sometimes called the “Assessment Center”, and the bodily sensation/fear centers. So, when you experience a bodily sensation or something potentially dangerous or upsetting, you are able to stop yourself from immediately reacting to the external event, and examine it from a more rational perspective.

The Human Mind Project>
The Human Mind Project>

Meditation helps your body, too

In one study, a group of over 200 individuals at a high risk of heart disease and stroke was asked to either take a health education class promoting better diet and exercise or take a class on transcendental meditation. Over the course of 5 years, researchers found that those who took the meditation class had a 48% reduction in their overall risk of heart attack, stroke, and death. Another clinical research studied the effects of practicing zen meditation, also known as Zazen, which is the heart of Japanese Soto Zen Buddhist practice with the aim of suspending all judgmental thinking and letting words, ideas, images, and thoughts pass by without getting involved in them. The research showed that zen meditation reduces stress and high blood pressure.

As we have seen some studies show that there are mental and physical health benefits to meditation. But at the end, I think we meditate simply because it makes us feel good. For an incredibly comprehensive list of the benefits of meditation, check out this site … and get your meditation on!