12 Top Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation

By: Rafal Reyzer
Updated: Sep 28th, 2023

girl meditating in a tropical country on sunrise

Embarking on the journey of mindfulness? It’s a transformative choice with science-backed benefits.

By dedicating just 20 minutes daily, you can anchor yourself in the present, declutter your mind of worries, and lead a more joy-filled life. Though research has already illuminated the myriad benefits of mindfulness, we’re merely scratching the surface of its profound potential. Here’s a brief on this life-altering practice:

  • Rooted in Buddhist traditions, mindfulness has ancient origins.
  • In contemporary Western contexts, it’s often embraced as a cognitive therapeutic technique.
  • The core lies in being acutely aware of your breath and the sensations coursing through your body.
  • Its ultimate goal? To foster a state of balance and relaxation, promoting keen awareness of your thoughts and emotional landscapes.

The transformative power of mindfulness has garnered significant scientific validation. So, if you’re contemplating dipping your toes into this practice, I wholeheartedly encourage you to make it a daily ritual. The ripples of positive change it ushers are bound to astound you.

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” – Amit Ray

The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation

1. It allows you to let go of your ego and break the illusion of the self

The untrained mind is controlled by thoughts. Thoughts naturally appear in your mind. Your brain evolved over millions of years to generate them and let them capture your attention. Your mental space changes constantly. There are new worries, emotions, wishes, desires, and aversions. Normally we identify ourselves with these thoughts. We believe they’re a part of our identity. But that’s simply not true. Thoughts are an emergent property of the mind. By practicing mindfulness you can simply observe them, without reacting and attaching an emotional weight to them. You can free yourself from the feeling of being an author of the thoughts inside your mind. There’s no one there to listen to your self-talk. In Buddhism, this is called non-duality.  If you’re looking for a way to integrate mindfulness into your everyday life, I recommend you read Mindfulness in Plain English which I thoroughly enjoyed:

mindfulness in plain english cover

2. It lets you look at the world through the eyes of a child

In Zen meditation, they talk about the “beginner’s mind”. It’s a quality of looking at the world as if for the first time – like everything is a miracle. This kind of awareness precedes language and the attachment of names to things. Instead of putting everything into little mental compartments (like: “This is a train, this is a bird”), you start to see the world from a broader perspective – without conceptualizing it. In a Zen Habits article on the topic, Leo Babauta says: What is a beginner’s mind? It’s dropping our expectations and preconceived ideas about something and seeing things with an open mind, and fresh eyes, just like a beginner.

3. It frees you from deeply ingrained mental conditioning

Bad mental habits can be overcome, but only if you recognize them for what they are. Mindfulness is very helpful here because it lets you distance yourself from your unhelpful thought patterns. If you’re a smoker, a desire to smoke may appear every time you eat a good meal or have a drink. In psychology, it’s called a behavioral trigger. Normally you would oblige it and grab the cig almost automatically. But by practicing mindfulness, you can observe the visceral feeling of desire that arises when you’re in the presence of a psychological trigger. In this case, you’re more likely to see the feeling for what it is – a mental habit – and question its validity. If you do it long enough, the old habits that had such a strong grip on your psyche will start to dissolve. In her insightful article about meditation, mental habits, and creativity, Martine Batchelor says: As we meditate, we become more aware of the habitual nature of our thoughts. I think of this level as consisting of the mental grooves that our thoughts habitually follow. Meditation helps us break free of these habitual patterns and unleash the original and creative power of thought.

man looking in the distance above the clouds

4. It lets you live in the moment

During waking life, our brains function by using the so-called default mode network. What it means is that by default, there’s a region of your brain that constantly generates thought, anxiety, worry, and stress. Researchers found that if you’re able to decrease the amount of brain activity in this network (even if for a short period), you tend to be much happier because you’re not clinging to every thought. You can do it by “losing yourself” in a moment, engaging in meaningful activities, and achieving a state of flow – doing anything that will keep your thoughts off yourself. There are good reasons to believe that mindfulness meditation leads to reduced default network activity. And it’s not only during your session. You can transfer these benefits to your everyday life. “People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle that we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

5. It helps you to develop more compassion for yourself and others

Being compassionate is among the top teachings of the Dalai Lama. In the Buddhist tradition, there are even special practices like Loving Kindness (Metta Bhavana) which allow you to be more compassionate towards yourself and others. Mindfulness is proven to produce more feelings of kindness and compassion. According to a lecture by Dalai Lama: “Compassion and affection help the brain to function more smoothly. Secondarily, compassion gives us inner strength; it gives us self-confidence and that reduces fear, which, in turn, keeps our mind calm. Therefore, compassion has two functions: it causes our brain to function better and it brings inner strength. These, then, are the causes of happiness. I feel it is like that.”

6. It generates a lot of joy and laughter in your life

It’s quite common to see master meditators filled with joy and feelings of well-being. Matthieu Ricard “The Happiest Man on The Planet” spent countless hours on the meditation cushion. He was hooked up to 256 sensors and a brain-wave scanner, and to the amazement of everyone involved, it turned out that his brain produces off-the-chart levels of gamma waves which are usually associated with intelligence, compassion, self-control, and feelings of happiness. According to the article in the Smithsonian Magazine: “Matthieu’s activity in the left prefrontal cortex also went up rapidly, relative to the right half, which indicates a large increase in happiness and unlikeliness for negativity.”

7. It improves your focus and the quality of your thinking

Studies conducted by Giuseppe Pagnoni revealed that mindfulness decreases the amount of mind-wandering and improves mental focus. He took twelve experienced Zen meditators and juxtaposed them with twelve non-meditators. Then he scanned their brains with fMRI. It turned out that meditators had more stability in their ventral posteromedial cortex (PMC) which is associated with the Default Mode Network. Sara Lazar, a Harvard Medical School Instructor in Psychology, who also conducted studies on the benefits of mindfulness said: “Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day.”

young woman meditating near to a lake

8. It helps you to observe and not react to your emotions

Being a good meditator gives you more emotional stability. You don’t get taken over by anger or fear because you can observe the emotions and notice the sensations associated with them. Normally, you would be overcome with the emotion because there’s no time for you to see it as a mental phenomenon arising in consciousness. Another great advantage of the meditative mind is that you can shorten the duration of negative emotions. Some people can be angry or anxious for hours, but if you’re well-trained, you can dissolve these kinds of emotions in minutes. According to a study conducted at the University of Utah: “People who reported higher levels of mindfulness described better control over their emotions and behaviors during the day. In addition, higher mindfulness was associated with lower activation at bedtime, which could have benefits for sleep quality and future ability to manage stress.”

9. It’s a great remedy for anxiety

One of the main cliches about meditation is that it allows you to “live in the moment”. It’s hard to get your head around what “living in the moment” exactly means but, it’s that you don’t dwell on the past, and you don’t worry about the future. You just enjoy the moment. The mind is such a tricky mechanism. Even when you engage in one of the most pleasurable activities like sex or cuddling with your partner, you can start thinking about “what do I have to do next?” and “Oh no, that project at work”. How about applying some mindfulness and enjoying the moment while it lasts?

10. It’s a great remedy for depression

It’s proven that mindfulness is one of the best things to engage with if you’re suffering from depression (another great thing to do is engage in regular physical exercise). One of the pioneers in the area of mindfulness and depression is Jon Kabat-Zinn who started working in 1992 with researchers Zindel Segal, John Teasdale, and Mark Williams. After a long collaboration, they published Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression. By conducting randomized clinical trials, they proved that MBCT reduces rates of relapse by 50% among patients who suffer from recurrent depression.

11. It allows you to come to grips with your past

Our unconscious minds hold many painful memories and experiences. They rarely come to the surface of our conscious mind, and when they do, we do our best to push them back and ignore them. But they’re still there, affecting our reality, even if we don’t want to admit it. Some experiences like child abuse, rape, witnessing domestic violence are so painful that an adult concocts a fictitious story around them just to cope with them. This can be remedied with long sessions of psychotherapy, but another thing to consider here is mindfulness meditation. When your mind is very still, these horrible memories will resurface in vivid detail but instead of “running away” from them, you face them and observe them until they lose their power over you.

12. It improves your concentration and cognitive performance

According to a new study, practicing meditation boosts your focus and helps to improve scores on GRE tests. The most probable reason for these improvements is that mindfulness allows you to develop a powerful focus on a single task which is crucial when taking tests of any kind. According to a study conducted by Alberto Chiesa, Raffaella Calati, and Alessandro Serretti: “Overall, reviewed studies suggested that early phases of mindfulness training, which are more concerned with the development of focused attention, could be associated with significant improvements in selective and executive attention whereas the following phases, which are characterized by open monitoring of internal and external stimuli, could be mainly associated with improved unfocused sustained attention abilities. Additionally, MMPs could enhance working memory capacity and some executive functions.” How did you like this article? Have you noticed any other positive changes in your life after taking up a mindfulness practice?

Rafal Reyzer

Rafal Reyzer

Hey there, welcome to my blog! I'm a full-time entrepreneur building two companies, a digital marketer, and a content creator with 10+ years of experience. I started RafalReyzer.com to provide you with great tools and strategies you can use to become a proficient digital marketer and achieve freedom through online creativity. My site is a one-stop shop for digital marketers, and content enthusiasts who want to be independent, earn more money, and create beautiful things. Explore my journey here, and don't miss out on my AI Marketing Mastery online course.