Nurse in a meditative pose

By 2022 more than 6700 scientific studies have been conducted on the topic of meditation. Scientists have found that meditation causes changes at all levels of human functioning, from psychological to molecular. This article summarizes the most significant studies about effects of meditation on humans.

Meditation reduces oxidative stress and slows cell aging

Oxidative stress is a damage of cells caused by free radicals. Normally it is counteracted by antioxidants, but if they are lacking in the body, the balance is disturbed, cells are damaged and the process of premature aging begins.

A group of Indian scientists conducted a study on the effect of meditation and yoga on biomarkers of cellular aging1. After 12 weeks of regular practice, a decrease in cortisol, ROS, IL-6 - markers of oxidative stress was found, which causes premature cell destruction. At the same time, concentration of beta-endorphin, sirtuin-1(sirt1), which promotes metabolism and cell survival, increased. Thus, in just 3 months, meditation and yoga significantly reduced premature aging and cell destruction.

Meditation affects telomere length and promotes longevity

Telomeres are the ends of chromosomes: like the plastic ends on shoelaces, they protect the chromosomes from wear and tear. When telomeres become too short, cells age. For an average person by the age of 80, the length of telomeres is almost halved. Previously, in science, telomere length was considered the key to longevity, until they discovered telomerase, an enzyme that, on the one hand, restores telomeres, and on the other, leads to cell mutations and cancer. It turns out that our life span is sandwiched between early aging associated with a decrease in telomere length, and uncontrolled tumor formation associated with telomerase activity. Until a pill for old age has been invented, meditation remains the only scientifically proven method of influencing telomeres that has no contraindications.

Interesting fact: according to the research, the magnitude of the effect depended on the duration of the practice. With regular daily meditation, the effect was stable, but small 2, and with long-term practices - retreat, the restoration of telomere length was incredible: within a month of retreat, the loss of telomere length over 4 years of life was restored 3. Moreover, the changes were absolutely safe for the body, since telomerase activity also decreased.

Meditation maintains gray matter volume and mental clarity in old age

Despite the increase in life expectancy, there is still no cure for dementia. So even among centenarians, maintaining mental clarity into old age is a rarity. But meditation also copes with this task, it has been proven to reduce age-related gray matter atrophy4.

Meditation in nature

Meditation slows down age-related brain changes and prevents Alzheimer's disease

Our brain functioning is affected not only by the volume of gray matter, but also by glucose metabolism. Disorders of glucose metabolism in the central nervous system are considered by modern science as type III diabetes mellitus 5. Such disorders cause the death of neurons, decreased cognitive functioning and the development of Alzheimer's disease, an incurable form of dementia.

However, such violations are rare among Buddhist monks. Scientists decided to find out what the secret was. It has turned out that experienced practitioners (> 10,000 hours of practice) have not only more gray matter volume, but also higher glucose metabolism compared to the control group 6. Changes have been noted in the temporal, parietal, and cingulate cortex of the brain - these areas are most sensitive to changes in glucose metabolism, so experienced practitioners are not at risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Meditation affects genes, peptides and enzymes responsible for health and longevity positively

American scientists decided to compare what kind of vacation is more “energizing”: a regular “hotel” or a retreat with meditation practices by conducting a long-term study7. Both found significant changes in gene expression , with positive effects on immunity, metabolism, and stress resistance. But in those who have practiced meditation:

  • the resting effect was longer lasting and persisted for 10 months;
  • tumor necrosis factor-alpha has been reduced (a special protein that is elevated in inflammatory and autoimmune processes);
  • the concentration of beta-amyloids was reduced compared to the control group. Elevation of these peptides impairs sleep and memory8.

Meditation increases immunity

Another study9 compared the effects of meditation and exercises on immunity. Both activated the body's defenses, positively affecting both blood tests and overall statistics: the number of sick days was significantly reduced compared to the control group. However, in the meditation group the severity of ARVI was 2 times less than in the PE group. In another study10 meditation had a favorable effect on antibody levels and therefore immunity.

Girl medtitating outside

Meditation lowers blood pressure in hypertension

Arterial hypertension is high blood pressure and a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Occurs even at a young age and is often asymptomatic. 8 weeks of regular meditation practice helped participants with arterial hypertension to normalize their blood pressure11.

Meditation helps with migraines

Headache is a common complaint, occurring in more than 60% of Russians12. Unlike medication, meditation not only helps relieve pain, but a nice bonus is that it eliminates tension and negative emotional states that often accompany it.

And even for beginners the effect is observed immediately after 20 minutes of meditation practice: the study participants noted a 33% reduction in pain and a 43% reduction in emotional stress13.

Meditation protects against heart attack and stroke

The leading cause of death worldwide is cardiovascular disease. However, Buddhist monks who regularly practice meditation, even though they may be overweight, have their heart and blood vessels in excellent condition until advanced old age.

After careful examination, scientists discovered that the cause of this phenomenon is prolonged meditation, which promotes production of a protective plasma proteome associated with increased glycolysis i.e. release of oxygen14. In addition, in blood tests, total cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol) were lower in the monks than in the control group.

Meditation helps with depression

According to recent data, more than 300 million people suffer from various forms of depression15. Meditation is a scientific and effective method of overcoming depressive disorder16. In just 10 sessions, study participants experienced decreased symptoms of depression, decreased anxiety, and increased subjective feelings of happiness and well-being17.

Interestingly, the group that completed fewer than 10 sessions had no particular effects. As with everything, regularity is important in meditation.

Woman calms down with meditation

Meditation increases pain threshold

Depending on the level of pain threshold, two people may have different reactions to the same exposure: some faint from the injection, while others, like the famous runner Manteo Mitchell, can run the distance with a broken leg.

This difference in perception prompted scientists from North Carolina to investigate the relationship between pain and its subjective perception. Two criteria were used to characterize pain: intensity of pain and its unpleasantness. Meditation helped reduce both criteria, and more effectively than mere distraction (listening to audiobooks) and placebo (“pain cream”). The objectivity of the findings was confirmed by MRI: meditation, in contrast to the control groups, did affect brain regions that are responsible for cognitive control of pain18.

In a similar study19 Oxford scientists concluded that meditation reduces both severity and sensitivity of pain in chronic low back pain, which is commonly treated with opioids. Only unlike opioids, meditation has no negative side effects.

Meditation helps with perimenopause and PMS symptoms

Perimenopause is the period from the first signs of menopause to the last menstruation in women. Hormonal fluctuations cause severe changes in the emotional background. More than 1500 women participated in a large study confirming the effectiveness of meditation during perimenopause. Anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders decreased. Efficiency of meditation was directly related to the frequency and regularity of self-practice20.

PMS or premenstrual syndrome is a set of symptoms that appear during the second phase of the menstrual cycle in most women of reproductive age. The cause is also hormonal fluctuations that affect the psyche and provoke emotional lability. It has been scientifically proven that meditation reduces negative symptoms of PMS21.

Meditation helps with complex cases, from cancer to disability

In severe forms of diseases with unfavorable prognosis, such as: cancer, disability, musculoskeletal disorders, emotional disorders are usually added to the main diagnosis.

A large meta-analysis analyzed nearly 5000 scientific studies on the effects of meditation on mood, anxiety levels, quality of life, stress levels, sleep, pain, and fatigue for these patients22. Across all items, meditation proved to be an effective adjunctive therapy tool with particular effects on sleep quality and fatigue reduction.

Meditation is also recommended by the Society for Integrative Oncology as part of holistic therapy23.

Meditation promotes weight loss

A major cause of the modern obesity epidemic is overeating, which is rooted in unhealthy eating habits and a lack of mindfulness. To investigate the effects of meditation on eating behavior, scientists from Pittsburgh divided the thinners into 2 groups. The first one simply restricted calories and increased physical activity. And the second one also added meditation classes24. Six months later, the second group, due to their higher level of mindfulness, had almost twice as good a result. So meditation is a great ally when losing weight.

Meditation increases the effectiveness of psoriasis treatment

In patients who were to be treated for psoriasis with phototherapy and photochemotherapy, meditation helped to reduce stress levels and thus increased the effectiveness of the therapy. Despite the short duration of meditative practice, the rate of skin healing increased significantly25.

Meditation helps with asthma

In 2018 a comprehensive meta-analysis found that regular meditation practice improved the quality of life of asthma patients. Reducing overall stress levels reduced short-term drug therapy26.

Meditation is effective for ADHD

In an Italian study, 32 children diagnosed with ADHD were randomly assigned to a meditation group and an emotion mastery training group27. In the meditation group, wh ere breathing, body scanning, and observation of thoughts were practiced, was recorded significant improvement in all neuropsychological indicators.

In a similar study Dutch scientists observed improved levels of concentration in children with ADHD who practiced meditation28. Another review also scientifically proved the effectiveness of meditation for ADHD in both children and adults29.

Scientists observe the meditator's brain

Meditation helps with autism

Autism is a disease that is more common in children than cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and cancer combined30. A study on autistic children ages 3-14 showed the effectiveness of meditation as part of a holistic therapy31. All types of meditation aimed at practicing concentration have proven to be productive. For young children mantra meditation was most effective.

Meditation reduces stress and increases overall stress tolerance

Stress is the true pandemic of the 21st century. Hypertension, myocardial infarction, stroke, bronchial asthma, ulcer - this is not a complete list of diseases provoked by prolonged stress. However, numerous studies have shown that meditation helps to manage stress more effectively32. According to another independent study, meditation practice has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety levels immediately before an impending stressful event33.

It is important that these sensations are not subjective. Meditation actually lowers levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and increases secretory immunoglobulin A, which is responsible for immunity34.

Meditation reduces anxiety

Anxiety syndrome is often associated with stress and depression. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found 47 studies supporting the effectiveness of meditation for anxiety35.

Another independent study had been watching 93 patients diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder for 2 months. Meditation showed better therapeutic efficacy than stress management training and was recommended for reducing symptoms of anxiety36. This conclusion is supported by Harvard Medical School37.

Meditation helps with PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a severe mental health condition that occurs when а person has lived through a severe traumatic experience:

  • hostilities;
  • natural disasters;
  • technological disasters;
  • abuse;
  • loss of a child;
  • other factors of particular importance to the individual.

According to a study published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce PTSD symptoms. It helps with guilt, intrusive thoughts, fears38. In another study conducted on combat veterans, the effectiveness of meditation in treating PTSD was found to be greater than that of conventional cognitive therapy39.

Businesswoman copes with stress at work

Meditation gives strength under prolonged exertions

Meditation reduces negative emotions for those who are under prolonged stress. This is especially true for people whose work involves:

  • saving lives;
  • help to critically ill people;
  • caring for elderly relatives, etc.

Such activities can be very draining on a person's emotional resources. Therefore, the following study40 evaluated the effects of meditation during prolonged psychoemotional stress. Regular practice activates parasympathetic nervous system, improves emotional well-being, and reduces symptoms of physical and mental overload.

Meditation helps not to give in to the general panic

Researchers fr om Arizona decided to investigate the effects of meditation on emotional stability during the COVID-19 pandemic in female patients of gynecology and obstetrics41. More than 80% of the group participants reported a significant reduction in perceived stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance.

Meditation helps young moms avoid postpartum depression

According to a study of Michigan University, a 10-week course of yoga with meditation helped reduce symptoms of postpartum depression42. Another similar study confirmed the effectiveness of meditation in reducing symptoms of depression in young moms. Regular practice helped them adjust more quickly to a new lifestyle and cope with an associated sleep deprivation43.

Meditation reduces feelings of loneliness in the elderly

Loneliness is not just an emotional problem. It is a form of stress linked to a high risk of heart disease, depression, and risk of early death. Nearly 60% of seniors after age 70 experience this feeling44. Daily meditation practice not only reduces feelings of loneliness but also improves blood counts. Inflammatory markers are reduced and overall health and well-being is improved45.

Girl sits in a meditation pose with her arms spread upward near the lake

Meditation improves brain function and increases attentiveness

Students of Pharmacy College of Rhode Island University attended a 60-minute yoga class once a week, followed by a 30-minute meditation practice. In 6 weeks, attention levels increased significantly and anxiety and stress decreased46.

Meditation improves visual short-term memory

The English study involved 90 volunteers, each passed a special test to memorize faces47. Then they were randomly assigned to three groups: one meditated for 8 minutes, the second listened to audiobooks during that time, and the third (the control group) did whatever they wanted. The group that meditated performed the best at memorizing faces, and that's not an accident.

When performing some task, part of short-term memory is occupied by irrelevant information. Meditation teaches concentration, freeing up cognitive resources. In addition, anxiety suppresses neuroprocesses. And meditation reduces anxiety and therefore has a positive effect on memory.

Meditation increases working memory capacity

Working memory is responsible for temporarily storing information. According to a Japanese study, participants learned material better after 15 minutes of meditation. Infrared spectroscopy also showed more prefrontal cortex activity than the control group48. Increasing your working memory capacity will help you in everyday life not to lose the second sock, not to worry whether you turned off the iron, always remember what you wanted to say, not to be distracted when reading, etc.

Meditation increases neuroplasticity of brain

Neuroplasticity is a property of a brain to change under influence of new experiences, to form new neural connections or to repair damaged ones. Previously it was thought that neurons do not regenerate, but this is not the case. Just as the body changes from regular exercise, the brain develops with regular mental exercise.

Meditation is one of the effective, scientifically proven methods of brain development49. Korean scientists compared brain changes in beginners and meditation practitioners of 2-5 years50. In experienced practitioners, notable changes occurred in neurons, the areas responsible for memory and concentration were especially transformed.

Woman meditates during a break between work and training

Meditation activates the areas of brain responsible for concentration

There are good news for those who want fast results. In just 2 months of regular meditation study participants were found to have improved neural connections in the cingulate cortex and parietal lobes51. The findings indicate an increased ability of brain to switch quickly between mind wandering and concentration, and to maintain a level of attentiveness in daily life.

Meditation enhances cognitive abilities

Even short-term but regular meditation sessions have a significant impact on brain's metabolic processes. Improving brain metabolism increases cognitive abilities52.

Meditation has a positive effect on sleep and improves its quality

Researchers from Madison have found that meditation improves sleep quality on par with exercise. The effect was maintained for 7 months53. In another study, from 2015, meditation helped eliminate sleep problems in older adults54. And without side effects, unlike sleeping pills, which traditionally treat insomnia.

Meditation reduces the overall need for sleep

“Awakening” is not a metaphor, but rather a process of neuroplastic modifications. In those who regularly practice meditation, the need for sleep is reduced by increasing cortical arousal. Such changes are not related to insomnia, but instead are considered as a sign of meditative progress and mastery. Cortical arousal scores are also associated with conscious dreaming skill and improved general well-being55.

Girl meditates before going to bed

Meditation increases mental clarity during forced staying awaking at night

In the absence of adequate sleep, such as on night duty, traveling, or with young children, meditation allows you to maintain mental clarity and cognitive ability. In a study conducted on military personnel, meditation allowed them to maintain proper levels of attentiveness and analytical abilities even during twenty-four hours of sleep deprivation56.

Meditation increases emotional intelligence (EI)

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognize and manage emotions, motivation, desires, and intentions, both one's own and those of others. It is EI, not IQ (cognitive intelligence), that affects achieving success in work and life.

According to a Korean study, the meditation practitioners group had a significantly higher EI score than the control group57.

There is an interesting fact: EI increased with age only in the meditation group; no correlation with age was found in the control group. That is, emotional intelligence does not arise by itself, after reaching a certain “passport” age, but requires conscious development.

Meditation helps with addictions

Meditation affects the areas of brain involved in emotion regulation and responsible for self-control, which helps in the treatment of all kinds of addictions58:

  • tobacco,
  • alcohol,
  • drugs,
  • eating (eating disorders),
  • gaming,
  • internet addictions.

For example, an MRI scan after two weeks of meditation showed increased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex of brain, which is responsible for increasing self-control and discipline. Another independent study from Syracuse University also found meditation to be an effective method in treating addictions. As it helped patients understand the triggers that cause addictive behavior59.

Meditation develops quick decision-making skills

The difficulty in making decisions often comes from the fear of making a mistake. This kind of fear blocks a person from realizing oneself. And even choosing a dish from a menu becomes a serious challenge, because, having chosen one thing, you give up other options. Published studies show that meditation increases self-confidence, develops intuition, increases focus, and helps you make decisions faster60.

Meditation enhances studying ability

Meditation is useful for school and college students. Concentration, attentiveness, and memory are improved, which promotes rapid learning. Just one semester of meditation studying significantly improved student’s performance61.

Meditation increases flexibility in difficult situations

There is a popular myth that the strongest one survives. Although Charles Darwin said that it is not the strongest or the smartest that survives, but the fittest one. Meditation helps us to adapt to changing circumstances, to cope with emerging tasks more effectively, to change behavioral strategies even in times of great stress, and that is evolution itself62.

Meditation increases creativity and creative potential

According to a study by Leiden University, practicing meditation, even for beginners, increases brain's ability to generate new ideas63. In another training, it was proven that daily 30-minute meditation for a week not only improves creativity, but also promotes creative thinking and a non-trivial approach to problem solving64.

Girl is doing creative work

Meditation boosts self-esteem

According to a Stanford study, after just 9 sessions of meditation, subjects experienced decreased anxiety, increased awareness, and increased self-esteem 65.

Meditation develops a sense of gratitude

Gratitude helps people stay positive in all life situations i.e., to appreciate happy times and to see difficult situations as opportunities for growth. For centuries, Buddhist monks begin their day with the practice of gratitude meditation. It improves experiment participants' mood, self-motivation, sense of well-being and happiness66.

Meditation helps with anger management

Scientists from Kansas placed subjects in anger-inducing scenarios. However, after the first meditation session, those reacted less angrily than before67. Breathing became deeper and blood pressure decreased. Although both novice and experienced practitioners participated in the study, the results were noе different. The meditation session had positive effects on emotional stability in both groups.

Meditation makes us happier

A Spanish study proved the effect of meditation on feeling of happiness and life satisfaction68. It was assessed using the Pemberton Happiness Index (PHI). With regular practice meditation increases observation, the ability to recognize one's own emotions, and the ability to show greater compassion for others.

Meditation improves relationships in the community, promotes making friends and socialization

Loving-kindness meditation (metta) activates the areas of brain responsible for empathy and compassion69. These qualities help to establish communication, build and strengthen social bonds, care for loved ones, and make new friends.

Company of friends

Meditation helps you understand other people better

Meditation, when practiced regularly, increases an ability to accurately identify mental states and read emotions of others through facial expressions and eyes70.

Meditation improves family relationships

According to a Harvard study, regular meditation increases satisfaction in family relationships 71. Even compared to a control group wh ere spouses simply had similar interests but did not meditate, practitioners having meditated regularly had higher satisfaction scores. Mutual respect for each other and satisfaction with the relationship is the key to a strong union.

Meditation enhances professionalism of teachers and educators

Teachers practicing mindfulness meditation have been able to improve quality of teaching, increase student engagement, and maintain warm atmosphere throughout the classroom. The teachers themselves coped more effectively with the emotional aspect of their work and stress tolerance also improved72.

Meditation increases professionalism of doctors

In a Chinese study, 106 doctors compared to a control group have improved their communication skills and empathy level over 8 weeks of meditation 73. These helped doctors, despite the high psycho-emotional stress, to provide care more effectively and build better relationships with patients.

Meditation improves the atmosphere in a work team

Another Chinese study examined the effects of meditation on behavior of team workers74. Over 8 weeks, participants' altruism significantly increased and, conversely, their level of secrecy decreased. Atmosphere in the team has become better and labor productivity has become higher.

Doctor with a yoga mat


Taking into account 50 above-mentioned effects of meditation, based on more than 450 scientific studies (only 74 the most impressive ones were selected for this article), as well as based on the experience of millions of practitioners around the world, we can say definitely that meditation favorably affects all areas of human life:

  • Enhances health.
  • Prolongs life.
  • Increases intelligence.
  • Develops mindfulness.
  • Increases resistance to stress.
  • Helps deal with negative habits.
  • Energizes.
  • Improves relationships.
  • Makes us happy.

Just 30 minutes of daily practice will help you to unlock your potential, to change the quality of your life and lives of those around you for the better. The scientific studies cited are enough to set aside excessive skepticism and see the effectiveness of meditation through personal experience.

One of the best ways to learn how to meditate is to become a certified meditation instructor, sign up you're welcome.

Now don't believe everything I've said, but verify everything with your own experience. Be your own guiding light. Buddha