Scientific Benefits Of Meditation
People are starting to realise that meditating isn’t just for Buddhist monks and hippies in tie dye t-shirts. It’s for everyone, it’s easy and there are a lot of benefits, mentally and physically.
Makes You Happy
Meditation helps to increase the things in the brain that make you feel good and decrease the things that make you feel bad.
A 2004 study showed that people that were meditating a lot had increased levels of gamma rays in the brain. Gamma rays are correlated with happiness, empathy and patience. Studies have shown that the more you meditate regularly, the more these positive feelings will increase. A study on buddhist monks, who had been meditating religiously for years, had 30 times the gamma rays as expected.
Changes The Brain
Meditating for around 2 months can increase the brain size in beneficial areas according to a 2011 study, including: The Left Hippocampus which will improve your ability to learn new information as well as your ability to remember it; The Posterior Cingulate Cortex which will improve your ability to think, making it easier to control what you are thinking about when your mind wanders; The Temporo Parietal Junction which will increase your ability to feel empathy and compassion.
Decrease in Negative Feelings
Not only was there improvements in the positive parts of the brain, there was also improvements in negative parts of the brain.
A 2004 study showed that meditation helps you to control your stress, decreasing the negative side effects by a considerable amount. Professor Willem Kuyken suggested that meditation can help reduce depression levels “As much as commonly prescribed anti-depressant drugs.”
A 2010 study gave people, some meditating and some not, questions to answer in order to test their concentration and focus. The study showed that the meditators were much more focused and performed a lot better. Meditation increased the length that the test subjects were able to focus on a particular question.
Meditation can help protect the body against a lot of surprising health problems. It can help decrease the amount of c-reactive protein in blood which is associated with heart disease, a study done on older people showed. Studies have also seen a big decrease in inflammation and blood pressure on subjects that have been meditating compared to those who were not.
A study has also shown that meditation can help protect the Telomeres. A short telomere is a marker for accelerated ageing and meditation can slow down the process of Telomeres shortening. This means that meditation could possibly be slowing down the ageing process.
Turn off Thoughts
The goal of meditation is to stop thinking. The more you practice the better you get at keeping your mind still and not over-thinking.
When we allow our minds to wander we could end up thinking about anything. There’s no telling where a train of thought could lead – You start off thinking about a friend… but, can you trust them? Hang on, can you trust any of our friends? – 10 minutes later you could find yourself thinking about how you don’t feel like you can trust anyone. This might make you feel depressed and effect the rest of your day.
The better you get at controlling your thoughts during meditation the better you will get at doing it during the day. You’re training the part of your brain that deals with this, The Posterior Cingulate Cortex. If you stop those train of thoughts early you’ll let your mind wander to negative thoughts a lot less often.
People that have trouble sleeping have found that meditation helps them. A study showed that people who meditate fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. It helps you control your thoughts so you are a lot less likely to be lying awake thinking all night unable to nod off. Also, meditation can relax your body which makes falling asleep a lot smoother.