20 Scientific Reasons to Start Meditating Today: New Research Shows Meditation Boosts Your Health, Happiness, and Success!
As we head on over to 2019, more and more people are opening up to the bountiful benefits that meditation provides them with.
To put it simply, meditation is the process of training your mind to refocus your thoughts.
With it, you can boost awareness of yourself and your surroundings. It can even aid you in alleviating stress and elevate your concentration.
Meditation can also help people develop numerous other beneficial feelings and habits, such as a positive outlook and mood, healthy sleep patterns, higher productivity, self-discipline and a higher tolerance for pain.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE BEST BENEFITS THAT COME WITH MEDITATION
1. Lowers Stress Levels
The very idea if meditating is to remain calm and get rid of anything that causes immense stress. This is proven in a study involving 3500 adults.
Both mental and physical stress lead to aggregated levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
This brings out more harmful effects of stress including the release of cytokines, which are chemicals that promote inflammation.
Such effects not only interfere with our sleep but also cause anxiety and depression, increase blood pressure and promote fatigue and cloudy thinking.
An eight-week study, involving a meditation style known as “mindfulness meditation” was proven to reduce the inflammation response caused by stress.
Another study involving over 1300 adults showcased how meditation can decrease stress. As seen from this study, the effect was much stronger in those with higher levels of stress.
Various research has revealed that meditation may also improve symptoms of stress-induced conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia. (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
2. Reduces Depression
A study that involved 400 students (13-20 years old) found that students who followed an in-class mindfulness program were reported to have reduced rates of anxiety, depression, and stress after six months.
In addition, the students were less likely to develop pronounced depression-like symptoms.
Another study from the University of California, comprising of people with past depression discovered that mindfulness meditation lowers ruminative thinking and dysfunctional beliefs.
Elsewhere, mindfulness meditation was proven to be effective in reducing depression to a similar degree as antidepressant drug therapy.
3. Keeps Anxiety Under Control
Less stress equals less anxiety.
An eight-week study demonstrated that participants who practiced mindfulness meditation had significantly reduced their levels of anxiety.
Other than that, it also symptoms of anxiety disorder including social anxiety, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders, paranoid thoughts, and panic attacks.
Another study caught up with 18 volunteers after three years since they completed their eight-week meditation program.
Many of those volunteers were still practicing their regular meditation and had maintained lower levels of anxiety over the long-term.
In an even larger study comprising of 2,499 participants, it revealed that practicing a range of different meditation strategies may lower anxiety levels.
For instance, yoga has been proven to help people reduce their anxiety, which is thanks to the benefits from both meditative practice and physical activity.
Meditation has also proven to assist office workers from high-pressure work environments to manage their anxiety and stress.
This claim is backed by a study in which anxiety in a group of nurses was reduced after following a meditation program.
4. Lowers Panic Disorder Symptoms
A research that was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry involved 22 patients who were diagnosed with panic as well as anxiety disorder and were put to 3 months of meditation and relaxation training.
In conclusion, 20 of those patients had experienced a substantial decline in the effects of panic and anxiety and the changes were still there at follow-up.
5. Improves Emotional Health
There are some types of meditation that can lead to a more positive outlook on life and an improved self-image.
In fact, a controlled study compared the electrical activities between the minds of those who practiced mindfulness meditation and those who didn’t.
Those who meditated showed considerable changes in activity in areas related to optimism and positive thinking.
6. Boosts Self-Awareness
Some methods of meditation can help you get a stronger or better understanding of yourself, which in turn can help you grow into the best self you can possibly imagine.
Self-inquiry meditation, for instance, effectively helps you develop a better understanding of yourself and how you relate to others around you.
Other types of meditation enable you to identify thoughts that may be harmful or self-defeating.
In other words, you gain a better awareness of your thought habits so that you may direct them toward more constructive patterns.
In a study of 21 women fighting breast cancer, it was found that after taking part in a tai chi program, their self-esteem improved more than the ones who got social support sessions.
Another study saw 40 senior men and women who, after taking a mindfulness meditation program, had reduced feelings of loneliness when compared to a group that was placed on the wait list for the program.
Also, those who practice meditation may develop more creative problem-solving skills.
7. May Lower Age-Related Memory Loss
You can make your mind feel young when you make improvements in attention and clarity of thinking.
One meditation method to use for this is Kirtan Kriya, which combines a chant or mantra with continuous motion of the fingers to focus thoughts.
It improves a person’s ability to perform memory tasks in various stages of age-related memory loss.
A review of 12 studies found that several meditation styles increase memory, attention and mental quickness in older volunteers.
Besides fending off normal age-related memory loss, meditation has been known to at least partially improve memory in patients suffering from dementia.
It can even enable us to control stress as well as improve coping in those who care for family members who have dementia.
8. Improves Rapid Memory Recall
Catherine Kerr of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and the Osher Research Centre reports that mindfulness meditation can enhance numerous mental abilities, including rapid memory recall.
9. Stretches Attention Span
Focused-attention meditation is a good exercise for your attention span in that it strengthens the capability and endurance of your attention.
An eight-week mindfulness meditation course, for example, concluded that participants that improved in their ability to reorient and maintain their attention.
Another study demonstrated that human resource workers who practiced mindfulness meditation on a daily basis were able to stay focused on a task for much longer.
Not only that, but the workers also remembered the details of their tasks much better than those who did not practice meditation.
Also, one review confirmed that meditation could help reverse brain patterns that lead to worrying, mind-wandering and poor attention.
As a matter of fact, meditating even for a little while can benefit you. A study determined that four days of meditating could be enough to increase attention span.
10. Helps You Stay Focused in Spite of Distractions
A study from Emory University, Atlanta showed that participants that had more experience in meditation displayed increased connectivity within the brain networks that are responsible for controlling attention.
These are the kind of neural relationships that lead to the development of cognitive skills such as maintaining consistent attention and abstaining from distractions.
What’s more is that these benefits were also observed in a regular state of consciousness during the day.
This meditation practice that was examined was focused on breathing.
11. Can Produce Feelings of Kindness
Some methods of meditation can bring out positive feelings and actions towards both yourself and others.
Metta, also known as the loving-kindness meditation, starts with making kind thoughts and feelings toward yourself.
With practice, people will be able to transfer feelings of kindness and forgiveness to others around them, first to their friends, then acquaintances and then finally, their own enemies.
There are 22 studies of this type of meditation that have showcased its ability to enhance people’s compassion towards themselves and also on to others.
Another study of 100 adults that were randomly assigned to a loving-kindness meditation program found that those benefits were dose-dependent.
To be frank, the more effort people put into Metta meditation, the more positive feelings they experienced.
A group of studies demonstrated that the positive feelings people generate when they practice Metta meditation reduces their marriage conflict, improves social anxiety and help them manage their anger.
These benefits may also come around eventually to those who practice loving-kindness meditation.
12. Increase Grey Matter Concentration in the Brain
An experiment conducted by a group of Harvard neuroscientists where 16 participants were put into an eight-week mindfulness course, using guided meditations and an integration of mindfulness into everyday activities.
At the end of the course, MRI scans showed that the grey matter concentration increased in areas of the brain that involved memory and learning, sense of self, regulating emotions, and having perspective.
Other studies a larger frontal and hippocampal volumes of grey matter for those who have been a long-term meditation practice.
13. Could Help Prevent Addictions
As you continue to meditate, you will develop a mental discipline that might help you break your dependencies toward addictive behaviors by increasing your self-control and awareness of triggers for such behaviors.
Various research has shown that meditation might help people increase their willpower, redirect their attention, control their emotions and impulses as well as boost their understanding of the causes behind their addictive behaviors.
A study in which 19 recovering alcoholics learned how to meditate found that they were able to control their cravings better as well as craving-related stress.
Meditation can also help you manage food cravings.
A review of 14 studies documented that mindfulness meditation helped people reduce binge and emotional eating.
14. Help You Control Pain
Our understanding of pain is connected to our state of mind and it can go up in stressful situations.
One study, in particular, used functional MRI techniques to monitor brain activity in participants who experienced a painful stimulus.
Some of those participants had gone through four days of mindfulness meditations training and others did not.
In the results, the meditating patients showed an increase in the activity of brain centers that are known to control pain. The patients also reported being less sensitive to pain.
A larger study involving 3,500 patients concluded that meditation was associated with lesser complaints of intermittent or chronic pain.
Another study that saw patients with terminal diseases had experienced that meditation could help reduce chronic pain at the end of life.
In each one of those scenarios, both meditators and non-meditators had experienced the same causes of pain, but the former demonstrated a greater ability to cope with pain and had also experienced a lesser sensation of pain.
15. Improves Information-Processing and Decision-Making
Eileen Luders, who is an assistant professor at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging as well as her colleagues, found that long-term meditators accumulate larger quantities of gyrification (known as “folding” of the cortex, that enables the brain to process information faster) than those who do not meditate.
Scientists have deduced that gyrification is what helps the brain improve at processing information, form memories, make decisions and improve attention.
16. Decrease Blood Pressure
Meditation also benefits the human body physically by reducing heart strain.
Usually, high blood pressure makes it harder for the heart to pump blood over time, which is what leads to a poor heart condition.
If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to atherosclerosis, otherwise known as narrowing of the arteries, which results in heart attacks or strokes.
A study involving 996 volunteers showed that when they meditated by concentrating on a “silent mantra” – which is a repeated, non-vocalized word – decreased blood pressure by about five points, on average.
This is more effective among older volunteers as well as those who had a higher blood pressure before the study.
One review stated that several types of meditation led to similar improvements in blood pressure.
Meditation, in part, also appears to control blood pressure by relaxing the nerve muscles that direct heart function, tension in blood vessels and also the “fight-or-flight” response that elevates alertness in stressful situations.
17. Fosters Creativity
Research from Leiden University (Netherlands) showed that practicing “open monitoring” meditation (which is monitoring the content of experience from moment-to-moment, non-reactively) has positive effects in divergent thinking and creativity.
Those who practiced this method displayed a better performance in a task where they were told to come up with new ideas in a creative manner.
18. Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
More people have been reported to die from heart diseases on earth than any other diseases. According to a study that was published in late 2012, a group of 200 high-risk individuals was asked to choose between a health education class that promoted better exercise and diet or take a class on Transcendental Meditation.
Over the next five years, researchers who were accompanying the participants found a 48% reduction in the overall risk of heart attack, stroke, and death in those who took the meditation class.
The researchers had noted that meditation significantly reduced risks for myocardial infarction, mortality, and stroke in coronary heart disease patients.
These changes were linked with lower blood pressure and psychosocial stress factors.
19. Reduces Inflammatory Disorders
In a study that was conducted in Spain and France at the UW-Madison Waisman Center, it says that practicing mindfulness meditation results in a range of molecular and genetic effects on participants.
The meditators also showed reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which also correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.
20. Prevents Asthma, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease
A research conducted by neuroscientists of the University of Wisconsin-Madison consisted of two groups of people who were exposed to different methods of stress control.
One of the groups received training in mindfulness meditation, while the other received nutritional, music therapy and exercise.
In conclusion, it was revealed that mindfulness meditation techniques were more effective in relieving inflammatory symptoms than other methods that promoted well-being.
21. May Help Treat HIV
Believe it or not, some meditation techniques can help prevent the development of HIV-AIDs.
Lymphocytes, or the CD4 T cells in simpler terms, are what coordinate the activity of the immune system when our body comes under attack.
These also happen to be the very cells that are attacked by the devastating HIV that causes AIDS and has affected over 40 million people from around the world.
The virus is known for eating our CD4 T cells, which subsequently weakens our immune system.
David Creswell, a research scientist at the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA and his colleagues ran an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) meditation program and had compared it to a one-day MBSR control seminar, using an ethnically diverse and stressed sample of 48 HIV-positive adults in Los Angeles.
Those who participated in this program showed no loss in CD4 T cells, concluding the fact that mindfulness meditation can prevent the weakening of our immune system and prevent the contraction of HIV.
22. It Can Help You Live Longer
Telomeres are the cells that are responsible for a human being’s aging process.
Even though research is not yet conclusive, there is some data that may suggest that some forms of medication have salutary effects on telomere length, which is done by reducing cognitive stress and stress arousal and increasing positive states of mind and hormonal factors that may promote telomere maintenance.