Meditation and Health 

Meditation and Health

Meditation has been practiced for millenia as a way to achieve a state of relaxation, calmness, and mental clarity. Now, medical research is revealing the manifold physical and mental health benefits of this ancient practice. Implementing meditation and other mindfulness practices can provide benefits such as improved mental health, a healthier stress response, better cardiovascular health, and reduced chronic pain. 

To begin, meditation can help treat common mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. In one study, depressed individuals who engaged in Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) had greater reductions in their depressive symptoms compared to individuals who received no treatment (5). In fact, MBIs like meditation have been shown to be as effective as the pharmacological treatment of depression with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in some studies (5).  

Meditation and mindfulness practices can also help promote a healthier stress response and reduce stress levels. Meditation has been shown to reduce levels of inflammatory cytokines, restore serotonin levels, and activate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which plays a major role in the body’s physical reaction to stress (6). At the molecular level, the positive effects of meditation on the stress response can result in epigenetic changes that effectuate a higher resilience to stress (6). For instance, improved mental health and reduced psychological stress related to meditation have been linked to longer telomeres, which indicates slower molecular aging (5). 

Meditation may even contribute to improved cardiovascular health. In one study, people with pre-hypertension who learned mindfulness had significantly greater reductions in their blood pressure than their counterparts who learned progressive muscle relaxation (2). This study suggests that mindfulness can enable those at risk for heart disease to bring their blood pressure down. 

Furthermore, meditation and mindfulness can also help reduce the level of pain experienced by patients living with chronic pain and improve their quality of life. One study had patients who were experiencing various types of chronic pain undergo a Meditation-Based Lifestyle Modification (MBLM) program that included mantra meditation and healthy lifestyle changes (4). The program itself only moderately improved patients’ pain and well-being levels. However, although not all participants experienced less pain as a result of the program, patients overwhelmingly reported positive feelings about the course and continued to practice what they had learned after the program was over (4). The results from this study indicate that meditation can change patients’ relationship to the pain itself and promote more bodily awareness as they manage chronic pain in their daily lives (4). 

Another benefit of meditation is its ability to boost the immune system and promote physical healing. Studies have shown that regular meditation can increase the activity of natural killer cells, which are responsible for fighting off viruses and cancer cells. For example, a study on patients with HIV and breast cancer found that meditation increased T-cell levels and T-cell activity (1). Similarly, meditation can reduce inflammation in the body, which is linked to many chronic diseases, and promote faster wound healing. 

Overall, meditation offers myriad promising benefits for improving mental health, reducing stress, and promoting physical health and longevity. The benefits meditation provides for improved mental well-being and a healthier stress response have a ripple effect on various systems and functions of the body, including cardiovascular health and immunity. It’s important to remember, however, that medical treatment may still be necessary in many cases depending on each person’s situation. 


  1. Creswell, J David et al. “Mindfulness meditation training effects on CD4+ T lymphocytes in HIV-1 infected adults: a small randomized controlled trial.” Brain, behavior, and immunity vol. 23,2 (2009): 184-8. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2008.07.004 
  1. Hughes, Joel W et al. “Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction for prehypertension.” Psychosomatic medicine vol. 75,8 (2013): 721-8. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3182a3e4e5 
  1. Krittanawong, Chayakrit et al. “Meditation and Cardiovascular Health in the US.” The American journal of cardiology vol. 131 (2020): 23-26. doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2020.06.043 
  1. Matko, Karin et al. “How Does Meditation-Based Lifestyle Modification Affect Pain Intensity, Pain Self-Efficacy, and Quality of Life in Chronic Pain Patients? An Experimental Single-Case Study.” Journal of clinical medicine vol. 12,11 3778. 31 May. 2023, doi:10.3390/jcm12113778 
  1. Thakur, Mansee et al. “Impact of Heartfulness meditation practice on anxiety, perceived stress, well-being, and telomere length.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 14 1158760. 5 Jun. 2023, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1158760  
  1. Verdone, Loredana et al. “On the road to resilience: Epigenetic effects of meditation.” Vitamins and hormones vol. 122 (2023): 339-376. doi:10.1016/bs.vh.2022.12.009 
  1. Younge, John O et al. “Web-Based Mindfulness Intervention in Heart Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” PloS one vol. 10,12 e0143843. 7 Dec. 2015, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0143843