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What happens when we meditate?

When I lay out my meditation cushion and blanket each morning, it starts a practice for me that sets a foundation for the day ahead. Meditation allows me to find space, a quick reset and a sense of calm before continuing with my day. Meditating later in the day can help me to reduce anxiety and restlessness, reconnecting to the feeling of presence when I need to. While these feelings are difficult to measure, as time has gone on, I find this time an essential part of my daily self-care.

As with much health research, studies looking at the impact of meditation techniques on healthy people often focus on a specific type of meditation or a particular setting. Generalising these results in my daily meditation practice is difficult. Still, I am giving a general thumbs up for my health and wellbeing.

A review published in 2019[1] maps out all the evidence related to mindfulness meditation for workplace health, the number of studies published and the measure of effect. This research shows potential positive outcomes are documented for many conditions; chronic illness, pain, substance use, depression, anxiety, perceived stress, somatisation, cancer support, irritable bowel syndrome and sleep. Differences in the location of the study, who took part, what type of meditation was studied and how the benefits were measured make the results hard to match to a specific intervention.

With informed brightness, I believe this evidence mapping gives an indication that meditation can be helpful….after all, how many of us experience something in the conditions listed above? A simple search can find over 850 research studies on the benefits of meditation, so we can no longer say that we don’t know the potential for positive change from adding meditation to our life.

I would encourage you to try and if you have already tried, try again. Try something different, until you find something that gives you a little piece of what you are looking for in your day. That intention will be different for everyone, maybe its joy, or calm, or a feeling of being grounded, clear-headed or confident. Whatever it is…meditation might just be the answer for you.

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[1] Hilton et al Mindfulness meditation for workplace wellness: An evidence map. Work Vol 63, no.2 2019.

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