What Happens To Your Body If You Meditate Everyday

Meditation is often associated with feelings of peace, but research shows that meditating doesn't just tweak our mental and psychological states — it affects the body's physical systems too (via The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine). Meditation can be useful as an adjunct to a healthy lifestyle.

There are various methods and schools of thought when it comes to meditation (via Healthline). Mindfulness meditation has attracted the most attention in recent years. This involves moment-to-moment awareness of yourself and your thoughts, without judgment. Widely touted for its capacity to quiet the mind, mindfulness meditation has its roots in ancient Buddhism (via American Psychological Association). The technique has been embraced by more and more people for its stress-relieving effects. 

If you're keen to establish a daily habit but not quite sure where to start, there are numerous beginner-friendly meditation apps for your smartphone that are specifically designed to guide you toward a consistent practice. You might also benefit from joining a meditation group, either online or in-person, so that you can practice with other like-minded individuals. Some people find it helpful to immerse themselves in a mindfulness retreat where they're led by a teacher who provides personalized support. Be sure to choose a program that matches your specific needs.

Here are some of the fascinating things that occur within the body when we keep up a daily meditation practice.

It might improve your immune system

There's a powerful link between meditation and immune health. A daily meditation practice can significantly bolster your immune system, reports a 2021 study published in Systems Biology. This in turn could help protect your body against inflammation, infections, and sickness.

The researchers of the study looked at the blood samples of more than 100 men and women (with an average age of 40) who attended an intensive meditation retreat. Over the course of eight days, the participants meditated in silence for ten hours a day, ate vegan meals, and maintained a regular sleep schedule. The findings showed that 220 immune-related genes were more active three months after the participants completed the retreat than before they had started. This included 68 genes connected to "interferon signaling", which are said to ward off diseases like cancer and COVID-19.

The results "suggest that meditation could have an important role in treating various diseases associated with a weakened immune system," study author Vijayendran Chandran told WebMD. "Yes, this is an intense retreat," Chandran acknowledged. "But remember, it was just eight days. Long-term meditation for [a] short duration each day may also improve the immune system."

It enhances your emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to perceive, understand, and regulate emotions in a healthy way (via Frontiers in Psychology). This spills out into various areas of life. Having a high level of mindfulness can foster emotional intelligence in a number of different ways.

A 2016 study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience discovered that those who developed mindfulness through meditation were less emotionally reactive and better able to roll with the punches than non-meditators. 

More recently, a 2021 study showed that people who practiced mindfulness on a daily basis were less emotionally affected by exposure to COVID-19-related news (via Psychological Research). Specifically, participants who followed a ten-minute meditation exercise guided by a smartphone app each day reported a happier mood than those who didn't meditate. It seemed that being more mindful served as a protective cushion against the various stressors of the pandemic.

It lowers your blood pressure

The mental health benefits of mindfulness meditation have been widely documented over the years, per the American Psychological Association. But scientists are also digging into the physical effects of regular meditation. One of the physiological benefits of mindfulness is a reduction in blood pressure, reports a study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Based on the findings, people who meditated every day saw their blood pressure drop over an eight-week period. Their meditation practice included weekly sessions with an experienced meditation trainer and listening to a 20-minute recording at home every day. The meditation technique consisted of deep breathing, body scanning, and mantra repetition. Blood samples also revealed that meditators had a change in the expression of specific genes associated with inflammation. Both inflammation and high blood pressure have been linked to various conditions such as heart disease, according to research published in Current Hypertension Reports.

The results suggest that calming the mind through meditation might yield major health benefits for the body due to its anti-inflammatory effects. However, since the study was small and lacked a control group for comparison, it doesn't necessarily prove that meditation leads to lower blood pressure via gene expression.

It helps lower your stress hormones

When your body is under stress, hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are released from the adrenal glands into the bloodstream (via Mayo Clinic). Adrenaline ramps up your heart rate and dilates your pupils, while cortisol increases the availability of glucose to your muscles and brain.

This "fight or flight" state helps prepare you for action in the face of danger, but it can also take a massive toll on your health if it lasts too long or becomes a regular occurrence. Elevated cortisol levels have been shown to negatively impact various parts of the body, such as the immune and cardiovascular systems, per Mayo Clinic.

Mindfulness meditation can lower cortisol levels in the blood for people with somatic illness, according to a review study published in Health Psychology Review. In turn, a daily meditation practice could help lower stress. Interestingly, the study found that longer meditation programs may be more effective.

It gives your memory a boost

The cognitive benefits of meditation are far-reaching. There's been a fair bit of research highlighting the connection between mindfulness meditation and improvements in cognition (via Neuropsychology Review).

After a four-week online mindfulness course, individuals were better able to recall information accurately compared to those who didn't attend the course. The study published in Brain Imaging and Behavior found that meditators experienced less "proactive interference," which is when older memories hinder the retrieval of newer ones. The mindfulness course consisted of two weeks of breath and body awareness, and two weeks of "open monitoring" in which attention is gently brought back to present experiences when mind-wandering occurs.

According to prior research published in Psychiatry Research, MRI scans revealed that participants experienced growth in hippocampus volume following an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. The hippocampus is a part of the brain that's critical for memory consolidation and learning.