Meditation helps you to attain peace of mind.
Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence, Self Inquiry are terms plastered everywhere.
That’s because there are amazing benefits to be had!
Much of the research on mindfulness and meditation reveals the amazing neuroplasticity of our brains — while we used to think that our brains stopped developing in our early twenties, we now know that our experiences can shape our neural development well into our sixties and beyond. The more we exercise a particular neural pathway in the brain, the more we strengthen it. In the cute phrase neuroscientists use, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
For example, a study of London cab drivers revealed that they had larger-than-average hippo-campuses (hippocampi?). The hippo-campus plays an important role in memory — and the researchers concluded that all of the spatial memories the cabbies created while driving through one of the world’s largest cities actually increased the area in their brains devoted to making new memories.
Recent studies indicate that as little as 12 minutes of meditation a day, over an 8-week period, is enough to create changes in the brain! Read on for a summary of some of the most amazing findings in meditation research:
- Meditation practice has been demonstrated to increase immune function — in one study, people who meditated produced more antibodies to the flu vaccine than people who didn’t meditate (which makes me excited because I just got a flu shot yesterday!)
- Meditation is also linked to an increase in telomerase (at the end of our genes), which can possibly reduce cell damage in the body.
- Mindfulness, including eating mindfully, has been linked to weight loss.
- In one study, participants who practiced meditation lowered their blood pressure and cut their heart attack risk in half over five years.
- Meditation reduces levels of the hormone cortisol (which raises blood pressure and levels of stress).
- Taking a few deep breaths engages our parasympathetic nervous system (our “rest and digest” mode), and deactivates our sympathetic nervous system (our “fight, flight, or freeze” mode).
- Meditation increases neural connections in the brain, and has been show to strengthen myelin (the protective sheath on our neurons that facilitates signaling in the brain).
- Meditation is linked to having a longer attention span and improves concentration.
- Meditation increases activity in the prefrontal cortex (associated with planning and judgment) and in the anterior cingulate (associated with emotional regulation, learning, and memory).
- In one study, participants who meditated for 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks had an increase in gray matter in the regions of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, and empathy.
- Students who meditated prior to an exam performed better than students who did not. The researchers linked meditation to improved cognitive functioning.
- Mindfulness and meditation practices have been extensively linked to easing symptoms of depression and anxiety, and these techniques are used in many therapy settings.
- A 2007 study of students who had been taught meditation techniques revealed a decrease in test anxiety, nervousness, and self-doubt, and an increase in focus and concentration. Further studies have shown reduced absenteeism and suspensions in schools where mindfulness programs have been implemented.
- Mindfulness and meditation help us learn to turn off the negative self-talk or rumination that our minds often resort to when left on their own.
- Meditation reduces our emotional reactivity. One study found that mindful stress reduction practices actually decreased the size of people’s amygdala (responsible for our aggression, anxiety, and fear — an overactive amygdala is associated with depression).
- These practices can make us more compassionate. People who meditate show more activation in the area of the brain associated with empathy when they are exposed to someone who is suffering.