Article by Joseph P. Kauffman
Meditation has been practiced for centuries by cultures around the world and by people of all ages. It is not a religious practice, though it can be spiritual. It is more of a psychological and therapeutic technique for one to be able to control their mind, their life experience, and their own state of being. This can only be achieved when one is fully and totally aware of one’s attention in the present moment.
Though meditation has been known for millennia, the scientifically proven benefits of meditation have come to light in more recent years. Science has now proven to us that meditation has numerous benefits.
Physical Benefits of Meditation
- Lowers high blood pressure.
- Lowers the levels of blood lactate, reducing anxiety attacks.
- Decreases tension-related pain, such as tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems.
- Increases serotonin production that improves mood and behavior.
- Improves the immune system.
- Increases the energy level, as you gain an inner source of energy.
Mental Benefits of Mediation
- Decreases anxiety.
- Improves emotional stability.
- Increases creativity.
- Increases happiness.
- Reduces stress.
- Develops intuition.
- Allows you to gain clarity and peace of mind.
- Makes problems smaller and less important.
- Sharpens the mind by increasing focus, and expands the mind through relaxation.
Modern studies suggest that meditation helps the mind and body quickly recover from stress and stressful situations. For example, practicing meditation lessens the inflammatory response in people exposed to psychological stressors, particularly for long-term meditators. According to neuroscience research, mindfulness practices dampen activity in our amygdala and increase the connections between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. Both of these parts of the brain help us to be less reactive to stressors and to recover better from stress when we experience it.
Many well-designed studies have also shown that practicing loving-kindness meditation increases our willingness to take action to relieve another’s suffering. It appears to do this by lessening amygdala activity in the presence of suffering, while also activating circuits in the brain that are connected to good feelings and love.
For longtime meditators, activity in the “default network”—the part of our brains that, when not busy with focused activity, ruminates on thoughts, feelings, and experiences—quiets down, suggesting less rumination about ourselves and our place in the world.
There are many studies that have also discovered a positive link between mindfulness and relationship quality. For example, in one 2016 study, researchers measured mindfulness in 88 couples. They then took cortisol levels in each couple before and after they discussed a conflict in their relationship. As one might expect, cortisol levels spiked during the discussion, a sign of high stress. But levels in the most mindful people—both men and women—were quicker to return to normal after the conflict ended, suggesting they were able to remain calm.
Mindfulness practice is also linked to better relationships with your kids. Studies have found that mindfulness practice can lessen stress, depression, and anxiety in parents of preschoolers and children with disabilities. Mindful parenting is also linked to more positive behavior in kids.
Incorporating Meditation Into Your Life
There are numerous studies that scientifically reveal the benefits of meditation, but the true benefit of it comes from your own personal experience. While even one meditation session can provide a moment of peace and ease, to really receive the benefits of meditation, frequent practice is necessary. Even as little as ten minutes a day can make a drastic improvement in your health and wellness. Meditation is something that should be enjoyed; it should be seen as something fun and relaxing, not a discipline that is a struggle to practice. It may be a difficult practice to begin, but start slowly. Dedicate yourself to 5 minutes a day, and then increase the amount of time as it feels appropriate for you. In time, you’ll discover that your mind is more calm, your body is more relaxed, and you are more present and alive to the direct experience of your life.