Written by Maria Rincon and edited by Rick Dunham
An estimated 200 million to 500 million people meditate around the world.
The meditation trend has accelerated as health, wellness and self-care are becoming top priorities among people today, most recently in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in 2012, only 4.1% of the U.S. population reported using meditation. The number increased to 14.2% in 2017, the latest year for which statistics are available.
While meditation does have spiritual and religious ties, the practice itself is largely used today as a form of relaxation or as a tool to reduce stress.
In today’s world of conflict and fear, levels of stress around the world were on the rise well before coronavirus-related anxiety gripped the public. One of the most common causes of stress is work-related. According to a study by Regus Group, six out ten workers in major global economies experience increased workplace stress. A 2019 survey on stress published by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that the top sources of stress for Americans were health care, the upcoming 2020 election, and mass shootings.
More and more people are turning to mediation to alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety, and the meditation market is booming.
“We’re living in a time where everybody is feeling more squeezed — whether it’s an increasing amount of responsibilities or commitments or just the busy-ness of life,” said Andy Puddincombe, co-founder of Headspace meditation app, in a 2017 interview with Vox. “I think there is no question that the digital revolution has only exacerbated that. People are really feel overwhelmed by the amount of communications they’re involved in.”
Five years ago, the U.S. meditation market was valued at around U.S. $959 million. By 2022, the value of the U.S. meditation market is projected to be more than $2 billion.
That’s a lucrative market for the ancient practice of training the mind’s awareness and attention. The practice dates back around 2,600 years ago originating from East and Southeast Asia.
Until the mid-2010s, people learned how to meditate from books, videos, or classes. Now, more people are turning to meditation apps to get a moment of serenity.
According to Sensor Tower, an intelligence and insights provider for the global app market, consumer spending on the top ten meditation apps worldwide grew from U.S. $8 million in 2015, to U.S. $195 million in 2019.
A recent study on why people meditate found that general wellness is the top reason given. Scientific research extolling the benefits of meditation is also increasing the popularity of the practice. A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that meditation can help ease psychological stresses such as anxiety, depression, and pain. The systematic review and meta-analysis reviewed 18,753 citations and consisted of 47 trials and 3,515 participants.
Meditation often goes hand in hand with other health and wellness practices such as yoga, physiotherapy, and even acupuncture.
Dr. Javier Rincon MD is a holistic doctor and acupuncturist who commonly prescribes meditation as a supplemental treatment to patients suffering from insomnia, anxiety, depression, or some types of chronic illness.
“I believe more and more people are turning to meditation because it is one of the simplest ways to connect with your own heart. People are in desperate need of connecting with themselves as they’re encountering an increase in sudden and unexpected changes from their external environment,” says Dr. Rincon.
There is no easy solution to coping with stress coming from our external environment. However, introspection may be a way to deal with stress symptoms, doctors believe.
The rising mainstream phenomenon of meditation is backed up by health and wellness practitioners, meditation enthusiasts, and the technology industry. While the practice is certainly not for everyone, pausing in between our busy day and taking a moment of serenity for ourselves may not be a bad idea after all.