Practitioners believe that meditation can help reduce stress and improve emotional well-being, but what does the science say?

Money, work, relationships, the economy: There’s plenty to worry about these days. But if you’re under a lot of stress, you may be more prone to headaches and migraines — as well as other health issues. 1 2

To deal with stress and anxiety, some turn to meditation. Studies suggests that this practice may help reduce stress and manage anxiety for some.

What Is Meditation?

Mindfulness meditation, sometimes referred to simply as mindfulness, is a common form of meditation. The goal of mindfulness is to develop a better awareness of the present, letting go of worries and concerns about the past and future. By doing so, meditation practitioners believe you can improve your emotional well-being. 3

When overwhelmed by stress, our minds often wander toward fear and anxiety. But mindfulness meditation may help you develop resiliency, allowing you to bounce back when things don’t go according to plan and to function even during stressful circumstances. 4

Can It Reduce Stress?

In a recent review of 47 clinical trials with 3,515 participants, researchers found that mindfulness meditation helped to reduce anxiety, depression and pain among study participants. 5

In another study, meditation was found to reduce anxiety by as much as 22 percent in participants with normal levels of everyday stress. According to the study authors, the practice activated the anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, areas of the brain that are involved with how we perceive ourselves and specific situations. 6

What’s more, meditation could possibly have lasting effects on how our bodies manage stress. Although more research is needed, in one small study, researchers compared MRI scans of participants’ brains before and after meditation. They found that activity in the amygdala, a region of the brain linked with anxiety, was reduced. 7

How Can I Get Started?

To reap the benefits of mindfulness meditation, you don’t need to dedicate your life to it. Meditation simply involves finding a quiet, comfortable location, focusing your attention and having an open mind. And—as with most things—the more you practice meditation, the better you may be able to focus your attention on the present and possibly relieve stress.

For a deeper dive, you can download guided mindfulness meditations on the web or sign up for online or face-to-face training.

Of course, meditation is just one of the ways to increase mindfulness and possibly reducing stress or anxiety. 8

Simple ways to be more mindful everyday include taking time to notice the taste of your food or spending some time in nature. 9

Stress is one of the leading causes of headaches for many people. See our complete list of articles on about stress for more information.

Show References

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1.       Haque B, Rahman KM, Hoque A, et al. Precipitating and relieving factors of migraine versus tension type headache. BMC Neurol. 2012;12:82.

2.       Segerstrom AC, O’Conner DB. Stress, health and illness: Four challenges for the future. Psychology & Health. 2012;27(2)128-140.

3.       Ludwig DS, Kabat-Zinn J. Mindfulness in medicine. JAMA. 2008;300(11):1350-1352.

4.       Paulson S, Davidson R, Jha A, Kabat-zinn J. Becoming conscious: the science of mindfulness. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2013;1303:87-104.

5.       Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EM, et al. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(3):357-68. SEE FULL TEXT IN PDF FILES 

6.       Zeidan F, Martucci KT, Kraft RA, Mchaffie JG, Coghill RC. Neural correlates of mindfulness meditation-related anxiety relief. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2013;

7.       Stress reduction correlates with structural changes in the amygdala. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. 2010;5(1):11. 

8.       Kabat-Zinn J. Mindfulness‐Based Interventions in Context: Past, Present, and Future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. 10(2):144.

9.       Smith MA. What’s the buzz about mindfulness. Visions 2013; 7(4):26-28.



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