Science About the Effects of Meditation

by Aaron Finch

Years of research into various forms of meditation has brought to light a myriad of benefits. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, improve concentration and help manage chronic pain. And if that’s not enough, research also suggests that meditation can make you smarter and more empathic.

To learn more about the science behind meditation and how it can improve your life and your health, please continue reading this blog post !

What is Meditation? 

The word “meditation” stems from the Latin term “meditari,” which translates as “to think or ponder.” In a broad sense, it refers to the act of resting in thoughts, emotions or the present moment. The word has been used in a variety of ways and across cultures. For example, many ancient cultures have ceremonial methods of meditation during rites and rituals.

Meditation is not always about sitting alone on a cushion and focusing on emptiness. Meditation can take many different forms including: yoga meditation (dana), tai chi, qigong and transcendental meditation to name just a few. All these mindfulness practices are forms of meditation as well as other practices such as fasting, prayer or rote repetition.

Effects of Meditation :

1. Meditation is Good for You

It may seem paradoxical, but meditation actually helps you live a healthier life. Recent studies have found that people who meditate regularly have lower blood pressure, reduced stress, improved sleep, and better immune function. In short, meditation appears to be a natural antidote to chronic stress and can even help with pain management.

2. Enhanced Cognitive Function

Meditation can actually make you smarter. Research involving over 8,000 participants has shown that people who practice mindfulness meditation have greater focus and concentration. Although this may seem counter-intuitive, people who meditate regularly are able to direct their attention easily – even during overstimulating situations.

3. Greater Empathy and Lower Stress Levels

Mindfulness meditation can help improve your relationships, increase your self-awareness, and even make you more compassionate toward others. Certain studies suggest that meditation increases left prefrontal cortex activity (the area of the brain associated with empathy) and decreases right prefrontal cortex activity (the area of the brain associated with stress).

 In other words, meditation can increase your ability to empathize with others. And the good news is that greater empathy can lower stress levels – at least in certain very specific situations.

4. Pain Management

It is no surprise that meditation has been shown to be effective in reducing chronic pain and even certain types of physical pain such as back and joint pain. In fact, research suggests that it may even be more effective than some conventional pain medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen and gabapentin (a drug used to treat nerve pain).

5. Heart Disease

Meditation has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate variability and slow the progression of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a disease that can lead to clogged arteries – a condition called hardening of the arteries. Studies have shown that people who practice yoga meditation can reduce this risk by as much as 47 percent.

How Does Meditation Work?

As mentioned earlier, meditation doesn’t always involve sitting alone on a cushion while focusing on emptiness. The term “mindfulness” refers to an active awareness of thoughts, feelings and sensations in the present moment – a very important aspect of meditation practice.

Meditation may help improve focus and concentration by helping you manage stress, lower anxiety and improve your ability to deal with overstimulation. Mindfulness meditation can also help reduce cravings by allowing you to detach yourself from thoughts, especially destructive ones – a common theme in many addictive behaviors.

6. Anti-Aging

Meditation may also help slow down the aging process. Recent studies have shown that meditation can increase telomerase activity – an enzyme that helps protect the ends of DNA strands in chromosomes, thereby slowing down cell death and promoting longer, healthier lives. In fact, researchers have found that meditation can even prolong life by 5 years on average.

7. Depression and Anxiety

Meditation can also help people suffering from depression and anxiety by teaching them how to detach from destructive thoughts. Research suggests that mindfulness meditation may even be an effective treatment for acute depression, though some recent studies suggest that it may not be as effective in improving long-term outcomes or in reducing social anxiety and fear of public speaking.

8. Addiction Recovery

Recent research has shown that mindfulness meditation can help people with addictions recover from their habits by decreasing urges, cravings and relapse rates. For example, one study found that mindfulness meditation led to reduced rates of cocaine use, cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse among teens who were considered to be at high-risk for addiction development.

9. Enhanced Learning and Memory

Another benefit of meditation is it can help improve learning and memory. Many studies have found that mindfulness meditation helps improve concentration, attention, memory and the speed with which intellectual tasks are performed.

Leave a Comment