When we talk about meditation, we tend to think of a solitary monk sitting at the top of a mountain. This is because culturally speaking, through cinema or literature, we have formed the wrong idea about what meditation represents.
We think that it is only practised by religious or spiritual people.
Or we simply believe it to be a waste of time. If this is your take on it, we suggest you read on to find out about all the proven benefits that meditation offers. Reconsidering concepts and ideas is very healthy for all of us.
MEDITATION CHANGES THE STRUCTURE OF THE BRAIN
Amazing but true. In 2011, Harvard University published a series of studies which found that meditating regularly for 8 weeks induced changes in some areas of the brain.
One of them is a cerebral region called the cingulate cortex. This area, for example, controls what we call mental digression. The studies found that people who practised meditation for two months were able to increase their concentration.
In the same way, they found an increase in the thickness of the left hippocampus. This part of the brain deals with learning and memorizing.
All of these changes cause us to be more focused, less distracted, learn more easily, retain what we have learned and improve our perspective in social interactions.
The study also showed that meditation reduces activity in the amygdala, which means we are directly working on the reduction of feelings such as fear, anxiety or stress. If you meditate, you will have a lower chance of experiencing these negative feelings.
MEDITATION HELPS YOU OVERCOME BAD HABITS
Meditation stimulates the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; this is where decision-making and willpower are formed. In 2014, Dr. Sarah Bowen studied a group of alcoholics and divided said group into two parts: one of them would do the typical 12 step program, while the other would meditate for 8 weeks. Only 8% of those who meditated went back to drinking; this number went up to 20% for those who did the 12 step program.
MEDITATION IMPROVES YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH AND SLOWS THE AGEING PROCESS
Another study, this time focusing on the elderly, managed to connect meditation to the reduction of C-reactive protein, which is beneficial against heart disease. Patients with hypertension also noticed a reduction of blood pressure after three months of meditation.
In 2010, another study, run by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine, found that meditation can even have a genetic effect over the body, as it can protect telomere length, which is an indicator of aging. As we grow older, telomeres (the protective structure at the end of each chromosome) get shorter. It is an inevitable process but if we can slow it down, we will also slow down ageing. Exercise, a healthy diet and meditation are the best options for doing this.
MEDITATION MAKES YOU HAPPIER
Dr. Richard Davidson ran a study in 2004 where he applied electrodes to Tibetan monks who had accumulated tens of thousands of hours of meditation. Scientists found that these people had more gamma waves, associated to intelligence, compassion, self-control, empathy and feelings of happiness.
Anybody can develop a meditation practice and benefit from the healthy advantages related to meditation. In the middle of a stressful, sometimes vertiginous, society, we are fortunate to have such a beneficial aid that can improve our lives on so many levels. Start meditating today and these benefits will be yours as well.