The benefits of meditation have become more popular recently in mainstream culture and the fitness/health community. No longer do you have to be particularly spiritual, a Buddhist Monk, or a try hard hippie to meditate, people from all backgrounds and cultures are now experiencing and telling everyone about the benefits of meditation to all aspects of their lives. Meditation can take much simpler forms than you expect! Is this just a placebo effect? Or is there really proven benefits of meditation? And if there are whats the science behind the benefits of meditation?
It turns out that the science behind the benefits of meditation is strong and consistent, proving that the claims that meditation is so useful for human well being can be backed up by science. Below are some of benefits of meditation proven by the science from the expected to the not so expected! Meditation might not be for everyone, but if you have ever been sceptical of any real benefits its time to have a re-think, and armed with some of the proven benefits we will list now its hard not to consider giving meditation a try.
Mental and Emotional Benefits of Meditation
Meditators claim increased feelings of happiness, reduction in stress, and improved ability to concentrate and not worry about things. It turns out they are right and when scientists used brain scans to monitor peoples brain activity while meditating it is clear that something positive happens. Scientists discovered than when meditating the areas of the brain associated with reduced anxiety, stress, and depression were much more active which sounds like a great thing for a lot of us who want to manage these negative emotions!
The ability to activate this region of the brain and engage and practice maintaining the default setting of rest where we aren't thinking about the outside world has been shown by scientists in 8 Weeks to improve memory, focus, self awareness, and goal setting. These two changes in brain activity observed among meditators could be powerful performance tools for those looking to get more done and keep a handle on mental well being during a hectic lifestyle.
Another scientific study in to the benefits of meditation compared the brains of Buddhist Monks with new meditators and found that the part of the brain which allows us to express empathy was more prominant in the monks. On top of this the types of brain wave we produce when meditating (alpha) have been shown to decrease feelings of sadness and anger and make us more positive.
Physical Benefits of Meditation
The science behind meditation has been shown to with continued practice make physical changes to your body! Amazing right!? Another study in to the brain reveals the phenomenom of neuroplasticity, where our brain physically changes based on our experiences. In meditators the amount of brain grey matter associated with learning, memory, and emotional regulation was much larger and the part of our brain which controls stress and anxiety was downregulated significantly! This proves that meditation can physically change the way your brain works, kinda cool huh?
We aren't done there, the physical effects of meditation have been proven to cross over to your physical health too! A study in to the cardiovascular benefits of meditation revealed that regular meditators had a decrease in blood pressure and increased heart rate variability which is a marker for better overall heart health due to much better movement of oxegen and Co2.
Last but not least, believe it or not, meditation has been shown to help people recover more quickly when they are sick! A fascinating piece of research where two groups (meditators and non meditators) were injected with the flu bug those who meditated produced more anti-bodies and had increased immune function!
The Last breath
These science backed benefits of meditation prove beyond doubt that meditation if used consistently can have some pretty remarkable effects on our brains and overall health. No longer is this a tool for only the spiritually enclined. Some of the worlds most successful and happy people use some form of meditation every day to maintain and cultivate a positive mindset with no religious reason. They simply want to be better, they want to feel better, and they want to get more done to enjoy what can often be a manic life.
If you aren't sure where to start when it comes to modern day mindfulness then check out a guide like the great app Buddhify which is a great way to gently introduce yourself to meditation techniques you can do ANYWHERE!
We hope this article sheds some light on the amazing benefits of meditation, and if you have been thinking about giving it a try then now you know that you should! The science proves those buddhist monks might be on to something, go and explore and you might unlock the secret realms of inner calm and happiness everyone wants. Remember to breath.