Explore the Benefits
If you watch TV, read, use the internet, talk to people or regularly breathe, no doubt you’ve recently seen or read something about meditation. Many researchers now believe meditation can relieve stress, reduce anxiety, slow the aging process, enhance memory, help you sleep and just improve your overall quality of life. You’re probably thinking these benefits sound more like something promised on a late night infomercial. It’s okay to be skeptical, so many people are trying to sell you on the latest fad, however, research indicates that meditation actually can relieve stress, reduce anxiety, slow the aging process, enhance memory, help you sleep and improve your overall quality of life. With a little time and dedication, we’re sure you’ll notice some great changes.
Reduce Stress, Anxiety and Fear
Stress, anxiety, fear. “Jeez,” talk about three components for a bad day. These are some of the biggest impediments that affect personal and professional success. So many people lead busy lives, and hectic schedules can contribute to negative feelings and cloud a clear mind. A Harvard study found that meditation changes the brain structure, more specifically, daily meditation affects brain cell volume in the right hemisphere of the amygdala, the area responsible for stress, anxiety and fear. So clear out the bad limbic system vibes and breathe a little easier.
Hölzel, Britta K. et al. “Mindfulness Practice Leads to Increases in Regional Brain Gray Matter Density.” Psychiatry research 191.1 (2011): 36–43. PMC. Web. 21 Sept. 2016.
Desbordes, Gaëlle et al. “Effects of Mindful-Attention and Compassion Meditation Training on Amygdala Response to Emotional Stimuli in an Ordinary, Non-Meditative State.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 6 (2012): 292. PMC. Web. 3 Oct. 2016.
Slow the Aging Process
Meditation slows the aging process. That sounds about as believable as losing ten pounds in five days without changing your diet, right? Well, researchers at the University of California found that both chronic and perceived stress shorten telomere length. So what’s a telomere? A telomere is a protective cap at the end of a chromosome. Telomere length has been linked with stress exposure and depression. Data from a study revealed that women with the highest levels of perceived stress have telomeres shorter on average by at least one decade compared to low stress women. Have you heard 40 is the new 30, well maybe you can make 40 the new 20 with a little daily meditation.
Epel, E., Daubenmier, J., Moskowitz, J. T., Folkman, S. and Blackburn, E. (2009). Can Meditation Slow Rate of Cellular Aging? Cognitive Stress, Mindfulness, and Telomeres. Annals of New York Academy of Sciences, 1172: 34-53. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04414.x
“I don’t remember,” sounds like a number one song on iTunes. Unfortunately, most people probably use that phrase more than they’d like. One of the inevitable aspects of aging is memory loss. Luckily, meditation can improve your memory. The brain consists of gray matter and white matter. Gray matter regions in the brain control, muscles, sight, hearing, emotions, memory, etc. UCLA scientists compared the MRIs of 22 people that meditated regularly with 22 people that had never meditated. While both groups showed gray matter loss with age, the researchers discovered that meditation helped preserve neurons and slowed gray matter deterioration. Who couldn’t use a little extra help when remembering really important events or even everyday details?
Luders, Eileen et al. “The Underlying Anatomical Correlates of Long-Term Meditation: Larger Hippocampal and Frontal Volumes of Gray Matter.” NeuroImage 45.3 (2009): 672–678. Print.
Have you ever been in the zone, churning out ideas at work, and then suddenly started thinking about what to make for dinner, whether you should go to the gym or when to pick up your dry cleaning? The world constantly bombards us with information, or if not information, non-stop useless stimuli. Closing a window to the outside world for even a short period of time seems difficult, especially when you are trying to concentrate. Researchers compared fMRI data from people in two groups, one group consisted of experienced meditators and the other consisted of novice meditators. Evidence suggests that advanced levels of concentration significantly decrease emotionally reactive behavior. A decrease in emotional reaction improves the ability to concentrate. So keep your train of thought on the right track.
Davidson, Richard J., and Antoine Lutz. “Buddha’s Brain: Neuroplasticity and Meditation.” IEEE signal processing magazine 25.1 (2008): 176–174. Print.
Snoozing Isn’t Losing
Hit the pillow and drift off like a boss. According to a National Sleep Foundation survey and data from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, many people suffer from one of the nearly 90 distinct sleep disorders. Additionally, researchers found a correlation between poor sleep and long-term comorbidities like obesity and hypertension. Data from a study commissioned by the American Physiology Society detailed that consistent meditators spent more time in the Slow Wave Sleep (SWS), the deepest stage of non-REM sleep. Furthermore, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep was also enhanced. Electroencephalogram (EEG) results confirmed a stabilized state of higher consciousness in sleep.
John Ding-E. Young and Eugene Taylor. Jun-98. "Meditation as a Voluntary Hypometabolic State of Biological Estivation." News in Physiological Sciences: An International Journal of Physiology Produced Jointly by the International Union of Physiological Sciences and the American Physiological Society 13: 149-153.
S. Ancoli-Israel, T. Roth Characteristics of insomnia in the United States: results of the 1991 National Sleep Foundation survey I Sleep, 22 (Suppl 2) (1999), pp. S347–S353
NHLBI (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) National Sleep Disorders Research Plan, 2003 National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD (2003)
Many psychologists find some common ground in the Set-Point Theory of Happiness. What exactly is Set-Point Theory? Simply put, it’s a belief that humans have a happiness baseline, emotional fluctuations either increase or decrease happiness, however, after time an individual eventually will return to his or her baseline. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Wow, so and so always seems miserable,” or “Wow, so and so always seems so happy,” there might actually be something to that. Good news, researchers are linking meditation to increased levels of happiness. “Happy” people typically have more activity in their frontal lobe, and meditation can increase the frontal lobe activity. So, who knows, maybe you’ll never have to hear the idiom, “Turn that frown upside down,” ever again, and any amount of meditation is worth just that.
Brickman, P., Coates, D. and Janoff-Bulman, R. “Lottery Winners and Accident Victims: Is Happiness Relative?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36.8 (1978): 917-927. Print.
Fredrickson, Barbara L. et al. “Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources.” Journal of personality and social psychology 95.5 (2008): 1045–1062. PMC. Web. 1 Oct. 2016.