The Science of Meditation
Scientific evidence suggests the health benefits of meditation include improved memory, increased ability to focus, improve health, and more - By Darshan Goswami
Reading time: 5 minutes
Meditation is a centuries-old practice of getting in touch with oneself, observing thoughts without judgment, and finding peace within. But what does science say about it, and how can we benefit from it in our busy modern lives? Could something as simple as meditating be a realistic alternative to pharmaceutical drugs? Science has the answer.
Scientific studies now validates that regular practice of meditation can actually change the way our brains work and has a profound physiological effect on the human body. A growing body of research supports the immediate benefits of meditation, such as reduce stress, anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure, boost your immune system and enhanced happiness.
In addition, numerous research studies have identified specific benefits that extend beyond one’s imagination, including a global rise in compassion, increased generosity of spirit, and most significant–helping to transform societal attitudes about age, diseases, and economic status. There are many methods to meditate and even few minutes a day can make a big difference to the way you feel and think. Millions of people now practice meditation every day.
WHAT IS MEDITATION?
Meditation is a proven scientific technique for relaxing or quieting of the mind to focus and redirect your thoughts to improve health and well-being. It is the ability to sit still and block out all thoughts, while listening to your inner spirit and speaking directly to Source. It is a scientific approach to understanding us as human beings, as well as understanding deeper, mystical truths about God and the nature of reality. When done deeply, it also connects you with God and His infinite joy. Meditation practice can take you inside for an out-of-the-world experience. Meditation is an “Art of Doing Nothing.”
HOW TO MEDITATE?
Starting a meditation practice is very simple. Meditation can take many forms, whether it’s a breathing exercise, use of a mantra, or a guided visualization. For beginners, I suggest that you start practicing meditation through a deep diaphragm breathing exercise.
Try to do meditation first thing in the morning. Wear loose/comfortable clothes and choose a place where you can sit calmly without any disturbance. You can meditate in a chair, on the floor, lying down, or walking. Sit down in a comfortable position, relax and rest your hands on your lap and close your eyes. Take slow, deep breaths through your nose with mouth closed (diaphragm berating), paying attention to your breath. You can hear your breath. Diaphragm breathing pulls air to the bottom of your lungs. Exhale slowly blowing air out through your nose. Focus on your breath each time.
If you lose focus and your mind starts to wander, don’t be discouraged. This is not uncommon. Simply return your focus to your breathing. If you’re a beginner, start with just 5 to 10 minutes – then gradually increase your time as you get more comfortable. Make a commitment to meditate daily, over time to enjoy the benefits of deeper consciousness and awareness.
Meditation can be done alone or in a group, or guided by a trainer in person or online video. There’s no right or wrong way to meditate. The practice is unique to you and can be tailored to meet your needs and fit your personality. You can meditate virtually anywhere. There is no “perfect” place to meditate that works for everyone. People practice meditation for a variety of reasons.
TYPES OF MEDITATION
There are different types of meditation. A few of them are described below:
Mindfulness Meditation: Pays attention to the present moment and acknowledges current circumstances without judgment.
Deep Breathing Meditation: Focusses on controlling your breath.
Transcendental Meditation (TM): TM is a form of mantra-based meditation. Mantra means a sound, word or phrase repeated silently throughout the meditation.
Zen Meditation: Buddhist based spiritual practice that promotes awareness and presence of mind.
Loving Kindness Meditation: Uses words and images to invoke love and kindness to yourself and others.
Guided visualization Meditation: Uses pictures positive images, ideas, symbols, and mantras to help calm the mind while the body is in a relaxed state.
SCIENCE OF MEDITATION
Exploring the science of meditation presents some very unusual challenges because it is not like a drug where a specific amount can be given and compared with a placebo-like a sugar pill. This unique discipline varies in practice from person to person and it is difficult to measure and compare the results. 
Meditation is an ancient discipline, but it is increasingly being embraced within traditional medical circles as a powerful healing tool. What actually happens to the brain when we meditate? Meditation allows your mind to settle inward beyond thought to experience the source of thought. This is called pure awareness or inner consciousness.
Scientists have recently discovered methods to see what goes on inside the brain during meditation, and now new research may help explain why it works. For example, neuroscientists observing MRI scans have learned that meditation strengthens the brain by reinforcing the connections between brain cells. Meditation causes the brain to undergo physical changes, many of which are beneficial.
Today, medical professionals, scientists, and psychiatrists universally endorse the tangible benefits of meditation, including decreased pain, less anxiety and depression, better immune function, a heightened sense of well-being, greater happiness, emotional self-control, ability to ward off illness, and reduce your risk of mortality. Over 18,000 available scientific studies have validated meditation for its positive impact on overall well-being. These studies have demonstrated that people who meditated for a short time showed increased alpha waves, and decreased anxiety and depression.
Understanding the science behind meditation can help you to understand why you should meditate regularly and keep your practice motivated.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
Meditation is one of the best ways to improve and maintain your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It’s also an important coping skill for people with depression and anxiety and a way to balance out the stresses of daily life. The benefits of meditation can be experienced very quickly. Meditation studies are revealing countless surprising facts about the science of meditation. While there are many different types of meditation, here are 10 different health benefits of meditation:
- Meditation reduces stress and anxiety
Stress and anxiety reduction is perhaps the best known, and most widely accepted, benefit of meditation. Meditation decreases stress by downregulating cortisol and adrenaline creating a state of deep relaxation in which our breathing, pulse rate, blood pressure and metabolism are decreased.
- Meditation can lower blood pressure and improve heart health.
Meditation leads to relaxation. This spurs the production of nitric oxide in the brain and reduces blood pressure over time in people who meditate regularly. Meditation has a significant and positive effect on heart health because it can reduce strain on the heart and blood vessels and help prevent heart disease.
Preliminary research has found just 15 days of practicing Pranayama meditation can improve cardiovascular functions – regardless of the person’s age, gender, or BMI.  The connection between heart health and meditation is very encouraging.
- Meditation can improve depression.
Meditation helps you interrupt cycles of negative thought that can lead to depression. There is significant scientific evidence supporting the usage of Mindfulness as an adjunct treatment for depression. Mindfulness meditation appears to be equally as effective as physical exercise as an antidepressant.
- Meditation improves brain function
Better focus through regular meditation may increase memory, improve your mental clarity and other everyday skills. These benefits can help fight age-related memory loss and dementia. Meditation actually changes the physical structure of the brain and even those who briefly practice mindfulness meditation tend to experience significant improvement in working memory.
- Meditating can increase compassion.
Meditation helps us better understand yourself, and increase positive feelings and actions towards strangers, improving levels of love and compassion. It also makes our compassion more effective.
- Meditation promotes emotional health and well-being
Meditation is associated with a variety of health benefits, all of which may contribute to an individual’s overall well-being. When we meditate, we get a clear picture of our mind to promote positive thinking and become aware of the thoughts that drive our emotions and actions at the moment. Studies have shown that meditation improves self-image and self-worth.
- Meditation can slow down aging.
Perhaps one of the most impressive benefits of meditation that it can slow down, or even prevent, some diseases. Studies have shown that meditation can help fight age-related memory loss like Dementia and Alzheimer.
- Meditation can help improve sleep
Meditation bring relaxation responses that are conducive to sleep. Research suggests meditation helps you fall asleep quicker, improve sleep quality to stay asleep for longer. It also boosts up melatonin levels, necessary for sleep induction.
- Meditation can help pain management
Meditation can help you relate differently to unpleasant feelings and provides an effective tool in pain management. Together with medical care, this may help treat chronic pain. Several studies confirm that people who meditate regularly experience less pain than those who don't meditate.
- Meditation can boost relationship
Meditation has been proven to help us express ourselves across a range of social situations, makes us less judgmental, increases empathy, and positively affecting how we relate to others. In addition, increased self-awareness and non-judgmental acceptance associated with meditation leads to the better communication of feelings and also reduced social anxiety. 
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, and the positive effect it has on people’s lives and well-being. Whether you say a mantra or just focus on breathing, meditation can help with many physical and mental health benefits.
Meditation is a powerful tool to take you beyond the limitations of body and mind. Scientific studies have documented that regular practice of meditation can boost health by increasing function of the immune system for healing, stress reduction, boosting brain function, increase happiness, and emotional self-control, and improve overall health.
Scientists, doctors and researchers agree that meditation is good for our health and minds. Meditation has also been shown to increase levels of empathy, but it has to come from a specific practice known as loving-kindness-compassion meditation. Now for its proven results, doctors around the globe prescribe meditation to cancer and arthritis patients to help them cope with pain.
Finally, in life, we can’t always control what happens to us. Through meditation, however, we can control our attitude and our response to these critical situations. Meditation is something everyone can do to improve their mental and emotional health. Meditation also improves your ability to focus even when you're not meditating.
I encourage you to enjoy one of life’s most valued treasures - Meditation. Why? Because meditation works. It’s free, can be done anywhere, and typically requires only a small amount of time. So what are you waiting for? Start sitting, and transform your life and brain with meditation. Enjoy your meditation journey!
- “Methodological challenges in meditation research,” By - Opher Caspi and Katharine O Burleson, PMID: 15973854
- Mental Health Daily, Scientific Benefits of Meditation (List).