meditateIn the 1960s meditation was seen as a hippy practice, something that flower children did that was closely related to the use of psychedelic drugs and resulted in “tuning in” and “dropping out.”  Not the best PR to appeal to the mainstream American.

Over the past few decades, meditation has become a bit more socially acceptable.  This is a result of a combination of factors.  The growth of eastern spiritual practices has contributed to this trend as has the rapid advance of technology and pace of life that drives people to seek moments of calm and peacefulness.  Yet another factor is the growing body of research that proves a multitude of health benefits can be gained by regular practice of meditation.

Mind- Body Connection

At the core of the health benefits of meditation is evidence that good mental health leads to improved physical health while problems such as stress, anxiety and depression can have negative health effects, such as stress leading to high blood pressure and heart disease.  Any practice that can reduce stress, improve self-esteem, and boost overall mental health is going to be good for physical health. And meditation fits that bill.

Dozens of studies over the years have concluded that meditation provides stress-reducing effects, “enhances overall psychological health,” improves self esteem, self control, and empathy. It has been found to improve relaxation, reduce pain, and even improve cognition, memory, attention and concentration.  In addition to increased empathy, those who meditate regular are less judgmental, more observant, more forgiving, and display greater perceptual sensitivity.

Physical Benefits

In addition to improving mental health and processes, some studies have demonstrated more direct connections between meditation and physical health. Some of these benefits include the following:

  • headache relief
  • lower blood pressure
  • decreased pain
  • improved respiration and heart rate

It has also helped in the treatment of arthritis, asthma and chronic inflammation.

While more rigorous study is planned, it is obvious that there is a correlation between health and meditation, which is why the practice continues to increase, from 15 million people meditating in 2002 to over 20 million in 2007 — and no doubt the number has increased further since that last known study.

Many celebrities, artists and sports stars such as Richard Gere use meditation as an important part of their professional life.

Jerry Flowers is a sports and health blogger.  He has written guest posts on everything from biofeedback to auto racing and follows famous racers.