Skip to content

    Health & Balance

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Meditation Balances the Body's Systems

    The mind, heart, and body can improve with regular meditation.
    By
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    Most Americans aren't raised to sit and say "Om." But meditation has gained millions of converts, helping them ease chronic pain, anxiety, stress, improve heart health, boost mood and immunity, and resolve pregnancy problems.

    Any condition that's caused or worsened by stress can be alleviated through meditation, says cardiologist Herbert Benson, MD, well known for three decades of research into the health effects of meditation. He is the founder of the Mind/Body Institute at Harvard Medical School's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

    Recommended Related to Mind, Body, Spirit

    Rise Above Rivalry

    By Julie Taylor Your friend with the “perfect” life gets dumped, and you’re a teeny, tiny bit happy about it. Your coworker got passed over for a big promotion, and you find yourself cheering a little on the inside. Yes, you know it’s horrible... but you just can’t seem to help it. The Germans dubbed this "schadenfreude" (literally, "harm joy"), and most of us have been guilty of feeling it at one point or another. That said, it’s just not healthy to take "malicious pleasure" in someone else's...

    Read the Rise Above Rivalry article > >

    "The relaxation response [from meditation] helps decrease metabolism, lowers blood pressure, and improves heart rate, breathing, and brain waves," Benson says. Tension and tightness seep from muscles as the body receives a quiet message to relax.

    There's scientific evidence showing how meditation works. In people who are meditating, brain scans called MRI have shown an increase in activity in areas that control metabolism and heart rate. Other studies on Buddhist monks have shown that meditation produces long-lasting changes in the brain activity in areas involved in attention, working memory, learning, and conscious perception.

    The soothing power of repetition is at the heart of meditation. Focusing on the breath, ignoring thoughts, and repeating a word or phrase - a mantra - creates the biological response of relaxation, Stan Chapman, PhD, a psychologist in the Center for Pain Medicine at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, tells WebMD.

    "Meditation is not difficult to learn," Chapman tells WebMD. "You don't need to see a therapist 40 times to learn it. But like tennis, it's a skill. You need to practice. In time, people develop the ability to produce these meditative, very relaxed states very quickly. When they meditate several times during the day, they become more relaxed during the entire day."

    Some research on meditation's benefits:

    Heart Health: Countless studies have looked at meditation and heart health. Regular practice has been shown to significantly help high blood pressure over the long term, according to government-sponsored studies conducted at the College of Maharishi Vedic Medicine in Fairfield, Iowa. Among those studies, one showed significant lowering of blood pressure and heart rate in black adults.

    Today on WebMD

    woman in yoga class
    6 health benefits of yoga.
    beautiful girl lying down of grass
    10 relaxation techniques to try.
     
    mature woman with glass of water
    Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
    coffee beans in shape of mug
    Get the facts.
     
    Take your medication
    Slideshow
    Hand appearing to hold the sun
    Article
     
    Hungover man
    Slideshow
    Welcome mat and wellington boots
    Slideshow
     
    Woman worn out on couch
    Article
    Happy and sad faces
    Quiz
     
    Fingertip with string tied in a bow
    Article
    laughing family
    Quiz