Meditation has been around for centuries but is still something we know very little about. For as many centuries as it’s been practiced, every major study done on meditation and its effects on the human body have been done within the last hundred years.

Today the frequency of studies being conducted on meditation is increasing. As discoveries come to light and information develops, whole populations are opening their minds to meditative practices that were once deemed … off-beat, to put it nicely.

So what are these new and fascinating facts about meditation? There are many to explore and discover, but we’ve decided to boil it down to our ten current favorites.

1. Meditation Protects DNA

We’ll start with perhaps the most striking bold-but-true claim. Telomeres are “caps” located on the ends of chromosomes which are linked with aging. As we age, telomeres shorten, until eventually the cells the DNA is in, dies. The University of California at Davis conducted a study which found that meditation increased telomerase activity, the enzyme responsible for building telomeres.

2. Meditation Improves Immune Function

Several studies have linked meditation with improved immune function, such as an improved receptiveness to flu vaccinations making them more effective. Meditation has been found to increase a type of immune T cell called CD4, which is affected by HIV.

A UCLA study showed that mindful meditation slowed the destruction of the CD4 T cells in HIV-positive men, and in turn slowed the progression of the virus itself.

3. Meditation Protects Against Neurodegenerative Diseases

A study conducted by the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston revealed a link between meditation-induced stress reduction and slowing certain neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Over 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation, participating Alzheimer’s patients showed a slower progression after eight weeks than patients who did not participate.

4. Meditation Helps Reduce Blood Pressure

Meditation leads to relaxation; relaxation leads to the production of nitric oxide in the brain and reduces blood pressure. 64% of patients who participated in a study by Massachusetts General Hospital saw enough of a drop in blood pressure from meditation to decrease prescription medication.

5. Meditation Is a Great Painkiller

In fact, it’s been found to be more effective than morphine. Meditation works by calming the somatosensory cortex in the brain. Wake Forest Baptist University and the University of Montreal found that meditation could decrease the intensity of pain by 40%, and the general discomfort of pain by 50%. Morphine and similar painkillers only achieved results of around 25% in either category.

6. Meditation Helps the Brain Function Better

Consistent meditation leads to more positive effects on the brain. Dr. Rebecca Gladding asserted in a 2013 Psychology Today article that regular meditation “loosens” the neural pathways between the brain’s fear center and what Gladding refers to as the “Me Center.”

The “Me Center” is the spot in the brain which constantly reflects back to our conscious self. Meditation loosens these neural pathways resulting in decreased feelings of fear and anxiety. Moreover, new neural pathways, including more positive empathetic responses, begin to form.

7. Meditation Helps the Heart

A study published in the November 2012 edition of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes found that meditation can play a large part in improving heart health.

201 people with coronary heart disease were given the option of taking a class on either transcendental meditation, or health through improved diet and exercise. Five years later, those who had chosen to pursue meditation had reduced their overall risk of stroke, heart attack, and death by an amazing 48%. It was an introductory study with more research needed, but it shows promising results.

8. Meditation Can Be Used to Overcome Addiction

One notable study looked at 19 alcohol-dependent adults. Fifteen of them underwent an eight-week meditation course. 47% of the participants reported total abstinence by the end of the study. Another 47% reported only one “heavy drinking” day. 87% of the participants referred to meditation as “very important” for those struggling with addiction by the end of the study. 85% reported it was a “useful relapse prevention tool.” 90% reported they were “very likely” to continue meditation.

9. Meditation Improves Attention Span

A study pitched a group of human resource workers who consistently practiced meditation against those who did not, and recorded their ability to remain focused on a task. The meditation group was able to remain focus much longer than those who didn’t meditate. They were also able to better recall details.

10. Meditation Makes You Kinder

We’ll end on a nice note; meditation makes you a kinder, more empathetic, socially-connected person. This was found in a study published by the American Psychological Association. Lowered stress and anxiety achieved through meditation resulted in increased feelings of love and kindness.

Want to get started on meditation and reap these and many other benefits? Check out a beginner’s guide to transcendental meditation by Unify Cosmos to get started today.

Author's Bio: 

David Foley is personal growth and spiritual practice advocate, a meditation teacher and an expert in the field of meditating with brainwave entrainment/binaural beats technology.