Meditation and mindfulness’s role in mental health
Meditation and mindfulness work has come into the mental health spotlight in recent years. If you’re considering trying it out (or if your provider has recently recommended it and you’re still skeptical), here’s what you should know about the potential benefits and who it can help most.
Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness
One of the reasons why so many providers recommend meditation and mindfulness techniques is because the benefits can be multi-faceted.
From a scientific standpoint, there’s plenty of research on meditation and deep breathing on the body, particularly the vagus nerve. It also has a calming effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, often called the brain’s stress system.
Meditation also brings blood flow back to the digestive tract, which helps us digest our food better. This can help alleviate many underlying health causes that might be contributing to your mental health symptoms, including anxiety, depression, and attention problems.
Meditation and mindfulness also downregulate our central inflammatory pathways and benefit our immune system regulation. Both of these can affect mental health and mood.
Recent research finds evidence that mindfulness practices (including meditation) reduce the physiological markers of stress that your body makes when it’s under pressure. If chronic stress contributes to your mental health concerns, this can have a far-reaching impact on your symptoms.
So meditation doesn’t just feel nice. It’s good for you, both physically and mentally.
While the science of mindfulness is important, the holistic benefits also shouldn’t be overlooked.
When you use mindfulness techniques, you’re connecting with your deeper self by getting clarity and insight into what you’re thinking and feeling. This practice of finding stillness and getting in touch with your inner voice makes it easier to follow guidance and get to your path in life.
Relaxation and stress reduction are considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine. This is common in holistic and functional medicine. It doesn’t involve any supplements or medications, so many people who prefer avoiding those can especially benefit from meditation.
Meditation and mindfulness can also reduce loneliness, alleviate depression, and decrease stress (in the moment and long-term).
Who It Can Help
One of the great things about meditation and mindfulness is that anyone can try them. It doesn’t cost anything except a few minutes of your time. And if it doesn’t work for you, you can stop anytime.
Providers tend to recommend meditation and mindfulness to people whose lifestyle involves a lot of stress – especially for people who feel like that stress is bubbling over.
You might also see benefits from meditation and mindfulness if you’re dealing with the following issues:
- Chronic pain, especially if it’s affected by your mental state
- Sleep problems
- Stress headaches
If you’re curious about meditation or mindfulness techniques, talk to your mental health care provider to see if they think they might be an effective treatment method. They can point you toward resources and tailor advice about how to get started to help you get the most out of it.