Have you ever considered meditation? If you lead a stressful life or get angry easily and feel constantly on edge, it could be a good idea for you. We all have friends who swear by it and rave about the benefits they’re seeing on the daily basis. But chances are, you probably never tried it, or just decided that it’s not for you. A lot of people think meditation is something for hippies and Tibetan monks, it’s something that takes up a lot of time and it’s really more of a placebo than a real cure for anything. I thought so too. But turns out the benefits of meditation are actually backed up by science. So let’s take a look at 9 scientific reasons to start meditating today.
1. Decrease Stress, Anxiety, Depression
Unless you’re Amish or you live in a small village in the mountains or on a deserted island, you probably feel stressed a lot of the time. And stress is not good for you. Not only does it mess with you mentally, but it’s a huge contributor to a lot of physical illnesses too. Well there’s been a lot of medical studies done on the effects of meditation on the human body, and all of them suggest that meditating on a daily basis can seriously reduce the effects of stress, anxiety and even depression.
2. Decreased Pain
However weird it may sound, meditation is actually effective for pain relief. A medical study on Brain Mechanisms Supporting Modulation of Pain by Mindfulness Meditation has proven that meditation can help manage pain better and make you less sensitive to it just after 4 days of mindful meditation.
3. Increased Happiness
Practicing meditation for only 10 minutes every day has proven to make people feel happier and more in control of their life and their emotions. However, when we’re talking about meditation, we don’t mean just sitting and relaxing in silence for 10 minutes. For this to work you have to practice mindful meditation, focus on your breathing and let go of passing thoughts. According to the study on the effects of brief and sham mindfulness meditation on mood and cardiovascular variables the results are noticeable after just 3 days.
4. Stronger Immune System
Do you get sick often? A study called Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation proved that mindful meditation can make your immune system stronger. In order to prove this an experiment was conducted. A group of people took part in an 8 week meditation course, and afterwards they were given influenza vaccines. And another group of people who weren’t meditating were also given influenza shots. The meditating group showed way better results when coping with the influenza shot, their bodies produced a lot more antibodies than the non-meditating group.
5. Improved Attention and Focus
If you find it hard to focus on any given task and find your brain wondering, you might want to consider meditation. A study titled “The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information Environment” done by researchers at the University of Washington proved that those who practice mindful meditation are better at multitasking, can focus for longer periods of time and make less mistakes in their work. Another study also suggested that mindful meditation can help people think more clearly even when they’re under pressure.
6. Reduced Inflammation
If you suffer from inflammation meditation can help you. Multiple studies suggest that daily meditation can reduce the inflammation on a cellular level. In fact there’s been a study that proved that only 12 minutes of mindful meditation per day can alter how your body works. The subjects of the study saw incredible results after just eight weeks. As a result, those who practiced mindful meditation started producing more antibodies and less pro-inflammatory cytokines, that cause inflammation in the first place.
7. Increased Grey Matter
Meditation can actually help you grow grey matter in your brain in parts that affect your memory, emotions and sense of self. A study done by the Massachusetts General Hospital had 16 participants do an MRI, then undergo 8 weeks of meditation training, and then have another MRI. The results showed that those people who meditated for 8 weeks grew more grey matter in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is critical for learning and memory. It also showed increased grey matter in brain regions associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. What’s even more interesting is that the study also showed a decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, a part of the brain that is responsible for reacting to anxiety and stress.
8. Slow The Aging Process
A lot of people worry about showing signs of aging. But most of us really worry about aging because that is usually accompanied by a lot of illnesses and diseases. Well good news – meditation can help. A Nobel Prize winner and a brilliant scientist, Elizabeth Blackburn led a research group that has shown meditation can slow the aging process. So you know, if you want to look young, you better start meditating.
9. Better Sleep
Good sleep is crucial for mental and physical health. When you sleep you body gets to rest, regenerate and heal itself. However, when it comes to sleep, the quality of your sleep is most important. If you toss and turn all night – your body and mind doesn’t get to reap all the benefits of a good night’s rest. As you can probably guess meditation can be a great aid in this. Meditating in the evening, focusing on your breathing and learning to let go of all thoughts just before you go to bed can really help you fall asleep faster, and sleep better.