The Scientific Benefits of Meditation

According to the Pew Research Center, 40% of Americans meditate. Of those meditators, about 50% of them do it for their religions (this includes prayer), and 25% only meditate once or twice a year. That leaves 10% of the U.S. population who meditate on a weekly or daily basis.

 

But why? Meditation is hard to practice for those who have limited time, or a mind that won’t stop racing, or those who are unfortunately endowed with hyperactivity disorders (and I will write another post on this topic specifically). However, meditation has proven scientific benefits that we can all benefit from, and I want to discuss them a little bit.

Meditation Helps to Preserve the Gray Matter in the Brain
UCLA and the Centre for Research on Ageing Health and Wellbeing in Australia did a study on the brains of those who were long-time meditators against those who had never meditated.

What they found, was that although the gray matter in all of the subjects (gray matter holds the brain’s motor neurons used for speech, seeing, hearing, memory, self-control, decision making, etc.) declined with age, the meditators’ brains had a 19% higher level of gray matter than those who had never meditated. Their conclusion was that meditation is “brain-protective and associated with reduced age-related tissue decline.”

Meditation Helps to Shut Down “Monkey Mind”

We've all heard of “monkey mind.” It’s when we ruminate, go from thought-to-thought, and are just plain scatter-brained. The term comes from Buddhism to make an analogy between racing thoughts and a monkey jumping from tree-to-tree.

Yale University created a study where they investigated the brain activity in experienced meditators versus those who do not meditate. They found that the meditators were able to stay in the moment more and were less activated in their main nodes of default-mode network (racing thoughts). Their conclusion was that meditation has neural mechanisms that translate into everyday life of living in the moment, which ultimately leads to my next point:

Meditation Helps to Lower Depression and Anxiety

In a study done by Johns Hopkins University, they did 47 trials with 3,515 participants who had used mindfulness meditation programs and concluded that meditation has moderate evidence of improved depression and anxiety. Know what the moderate number was? 0.3 – the exact same number that antidepressants have.

There are a number of other studies that have been done, including meditation aiding in social anxiety; helping with addiction; subsiding pain; improving illness; and altering your genes.

Meditation is an incredible daily practice that has personally helped me and my way of thinking and moving through life in a more mindful and calm state. If you haven’t tried meditation, or feel like you have trouble sitting still while doing it, I urge you to practice daily. Ultimately, your body will settle down, and with the intention of just observing your thoughts and being okay with them coming and going (not interacting with them), you’ve got the first key to a healthier and happier life in the bag.

All my best and highest vibrations,

References

Brewer, J., Worhunsky, P., Gray, J., Tang, Y-Y., Weber, J., & Kober, H. (December 13, 2011). “Meditation Experience is Associated with Differences in Default Mode Network Activity and Connectivity.” PNAS. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1112029108

Goyal, M., Singh, S., Sibinga, E. (March, 2014). “Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being.” JAMA Internal Medicine. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018

Luders, E., Cherbuin, N., & Kurth, F. (January 21, 2015). “Forever Young(er): potential Age-Defying Effects of Long-Term Meditation on Gray Matter Atrophy.” Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01551

Masci, D. & Hackett, C. (January 2, 2018). “Meditation is Common Across Many Religious Groups in the U.S.” Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/01/02/meditation-is-common-across-many-religious-groups-in-the-u-s/

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