A growing body of research is showing that there are many physical and mental health benefits to practicing meditation. Mindfulness (vipassana) meditation is useful in managing pain and distressing mood states. According to the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Alternative and Complimentary Medicine (NCCAM) “there’s evidence that [meditation] may reduce blood pressure as well as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and flare-ups in people who have had ulcerative colitis… ease symptoms of anxiety and depression… help people with insomnia… lower the incidence, duration, and severity of acute respiratory illnesses (such as influenza)… physically change the brain and body and could potentially help to improve many health problems and promote healthy behaviors”. Certain types of meditation can increase self-compassion as well as reduce self-critical perfectionism and feelings of inadequacy.
Even relatively brief periods of meditation can make adaptive changes in the brain. Meditation has been associated with:
decreased brain cell volume in the amygdala, an area of the brain that is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress;
increased cortical thickness in the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with learning and memory;
preservation of grey matter volume in the brain as we age.