The Psychological and Physical Benefits of Meditation

One thing the education system should have taught but did not is how to deal with stress. Ironically, the system teaches what you don’t need to know (geometry and algebra); and fails to teach us what we really need to know.

Fortunately, the impact on the body of stress is well understood and there is a great deal of quality research on meditation.

Let me be clear, stress is your enemy — it steals happiness and health.

By Murray Johannsen. Questions? Contact the author by email or connect on Linkedin Profile

Learn To Dial Down Your Stress With Meditation

Meditation has many benefits besides the ability to relax.  But, just this one thing makes it worth while learning.

Meditation produces positive changes in both the mind the body. You can drill down and find a detailed list here. 

Learn the Practice of Meditation

Meditation is a natural, latent relaxation response built into the mind-body. It works — as tens millions who have used it over thousands of years can attest. 

It is best done with a process know as an induction. Here are four different types of inductions.

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Transcendental meditation was first studied in the West by Benson (1975), who coined the term “relaxation response” to describe it. It’s an in-built mechanism lying dormant in all of us reducing the impact of stressors on both mind and body. A gift that when practiced reduces the stressors causing misery. Discover 3 techniques to induce meditation and must-know information about “public enemy number one” — stress.

Four Major Psychological Benefits of Meditation

Meditation is a technique thousands of years old. It works. If it didn’t, it would’ve been dropped into the dustbin of history long ago. All you have to do is learn it.

The Mental Benefits of Mediation

“How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then to rest afterward.” — Spanish Proverb

Peace of Mind

The thoughts on the surface of the mind become less agitated, thoughts occur less frequently. It’s like the pond. If there are no waves, the mind is relaxed. If there are many waves, there is agitation and anxiety.

Just the ability to relax and destress makes it worth learning. But these are not the only benefits, There are others. . .

Control of Attention

Meditation Activates a Relaxation Response

The first Western study on the physiology of meditation was by Dr. Herbert Benson (1975) who wrote a classic book called “The Relaxation Response.” It was a good title and captured the essential element inherent in meditation — a deep state of relaxation. A state is powerful enough that it produces measurable impacts on the body.

He studied adepts skilled in the practice of transcendental meditation. With TM, you drop into mediation for about 20 minutes, ideally three times a day. Key findings from his research are presented below.

Reduction of Anxiety

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, meditation can prove helpful in reducing the feeling of anxiety.

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The Short-Term Physiological Benefits of Meditation

Transcendental meditation was first studied in the West by Benson, who coined the term “relaxation response” to describe it. It’s an in-built mechanism lying dormant in all of us, reducing the impact of stressors on both mind and body. A gift that, when practiced, reduces the stressors causing misery. Discover three techniques to induce meditation and must-know information about “public enemy number one” — stress.

Centers for Disease Control,  physiological impact of stress
Source: Centers for Disease Control, Surviving Field Stress for First Responders The physiologic responses to stress are very complicated.

The body is a system —with positive and negative feedback loops — like a gas petal and a brake in a car. Stress functions like positive feedback, causes things to accelerate (like your heart rate). Meditation act like negative feedback causes things to slow down (such as breathing).

Five Major Physiological Effects While Meditating

Benson’s research  on those practicing transcendental meditation showed that:

Breathing Slows Down 

The rate of your breathing is a dead giveaway regarding how much or how little stress you have in your life.

Heart Rate Decreases

Well, maybe not a lot compared to sitting but it is better than having your heart racing.

Stress Leaves the Voluntary Muscles

We hold stress in the muscles. No doubt about it. And if you can reduce muscle spasms, you can reduce the use of muscle relaxants or even reduce the visits to the chiropractor.

Brain waves Shifted from Beta to Alpha

Beta waves are associated with our waking consciousness. Alpha is associated with deep relaxation or sleep.

Reduction of Oxygen Use

Decrease in the use of oxygen during meditation. Source:

This is one of the more surprising signals associated with the state of meditation. Benson’s (1975) finding is particularly significant since it means that during meditation your breathing would slow down.

The body needs oxygen for normal metabolic processes. Meditation slows down these metabolic processes.

Stress, on the other hand, causes both shallow breathing and faster breathing. In fact, extreme stress (known as panic) also causes someone to hyperventilate.

Image by: Bryan Helfrich This mandala was posted by the Dalai Lama to his Google+ account.

The Longer Term Mental and Physical Benefits of Meditation

Scientific studies are continuing and no doubt will continue on the physiological effects of meditation as well as the mental, physical, and palliative benefits that meditation can offer individuals.

According to a review study by Sharma (2015), mental impacts of regular use of meditation include :

  • stress reduction,
  • decreased anxiety,
  • decreased depression,
  • reduction in pain (both physical and psychological),
  • improved memory, and
  • increased efficiency.

Physiological impacts include:

  • Reduced blood pressure,
  • Decreased heart rate,
  • Lower lactate,
  • cortisol (a commonly measured stress hormone), and
  • epinephrine (related in response threat or danger).


Understand that meditation is a natural process of the mind & body. Typically, it lies latent waiting to be activated —a gift from mother nature (or if you prefer the creator).

Want To Mastery Meditation More Quickly? Get Your Own Executive Coach

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Legacee’s founder, Murray Johannsen coaches on meditation. He speaks from experience — having started meditating at 22. And he’s well aware of the unique stressors faced by executives and entrepreneurs and how to deal with them. 

Meditation References and Research

Benson, Herbert (1975). The Relaxation Response. Harper-Collins. Updated Edition in 2001.

 Cannon, Walter Bradford (1915). Bodily changes in pain, hunger, fear, and rage. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. p. 211.

Centers For Disease Control, (2005). Surviving Field Stress for First Responders, Edition 1.0.

Dvorsky, George. (2013). The Science of Behind Meditation and Why it Makes You Feel Better. Gizmodo. April 4.

Integrative Practitioner Staff (2016). Physiological Effects of Meditation.

Sharma, Hari (2015). Meditation: Process and Effects. U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Manjoo, Farhad (2019). You Should Meditate Every Day. New York Times. January 9.

US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health (n.d), Meditation in Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

Wallace, R. K., & Benson, H. (1972). The physiology of meditationScientific American, 226(2), 84–90.

Tang, Yi-Yuan,, (2007). Short-Term Meditation Training Improves Attention and Self-regulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, The National Academy of Sciences of the USA

Wikipedia (n.d) Research on Meditation

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