‘Mindfulness’ and ‘meditation’ have become buzzwords in recent years. The overuse and “hype” surrounding each concept have led many to believe that meditation is just a passing fad in the west. Mindfulness meditation was first introduced as an alternative treatment for stress in the late 1970s. Nearly forty years later, meditation has gone mainstream with over 18 million adults regularly practicing.

With numbers continuing to grow, it’s clear that people who try meditation discover a benefit. More people than ever are asking, “Does meditation help?” The answer to this question depends on what you need help with. Here are five science-backed reasons why people, in growing numbers around the world, continue to meditate.

Health Benefits of Mindful Meditation

5 Ways Mindfulness Meditation Will Improve Your Health (According to Science)

1. Decreased Stress

More than 80% of the U.S. population suffers from an anxiety disorder. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is a real thing. Decades of studies and tens of thousands of practitioners are very clearly indicate that mindfulness meditation ‘works.’ Practicing mindfulness meditation reduces stress by improving “emotion regulation” — a fancy way of saying that mindfulness meditation teaches you to see emotions for what they are: a response to stimuli. Meditation teaches you that you cannot change your past or predict your future, but you can control how you respond in the present.

2. Lower Blood Pressure

A major benefit to reduced stress is reduced blood pressure. According to this study, meditation practices may be useful in preventing or reducing high blood pressure. The study reports that meditation techniques did in fact produce “small yet meaningful reductions” in blood therapy as both a singular therapy and in conjunction with traditional pharmaceuticals. Specifically, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction produced “clinically significant” results. In an age when elevated blood pressure is at the root of so many chronic illnesses, meditation could be a helpful proactive approach to your health.

3. Enhanced Immune System

Other research has shown that meditation can enhance your body’s ability to cope with illness by giving your immune system a boost. Granted, these have been small, controlled, studies, but the results are a no less impressive. One study noted that participants who were given weekly meditation training for 8 weeks had significantly higher levels of antibodies than participants who did not meditate. Meditation stimulates the areas of the brain that control positive emotions, awareness, and anxiety. These are the same areas of the brain that act as the “command center” for your immune system. When stimulated, they make the immune system function more effectively.

Mindfulness Meditation for Your Health

Mindfulness meditation is considered an excellent supplemental treatment for depression, increasing feelings of self-compassion.

4. Reduced Symptoms of Depression

Meditation teaches you to be kind to yourself. Mindfulness meditation is considered an excellent supplemental treatment for depression, increasing feelings of self-compassion. Mindfulness meditation training encourages participants to identify negative emotions, acknowledge them, and accept them. Acceptance is the first step in ending the cycle of negative thought patterns, which exacerbate depression.

5. Improved Cognitive Function

Meditation will help you think. In recent years, schools have brought mindfulness meditation to the classroom in an effort to improve academic performance. What studies found was that reduced stress, anxiety, and lower rates of depression had a domino effect. Students began sleeping better, were able to regulate their emotions, and concentrate, which in turn improved their grades. Beyond the classroom, these same benefits are reflected in adults, who find it easier to concentrate at work and be more productive.

Despite these incredible benefits, meditation is not a vague “cure all.” It is a daily practice that requires guidance, training, and discipline. Many of these benefits can be achieved in other ways outside of meditation — there is not only one way to reduce stress or achieve better health. This is simply one way that many individuals have successfully achieved balance in their lives.

Start your meditation practice today with this 3-Minute Guided Meditation from AVS Mindfulness. Visit avsmindfulness.com to learn how more about our instructional mindfulness meditation app, slated for release in 2018.