Studies suggest that people with jam-packed schedules and intimidating to-do lists stand to benefit most from meditation, which can help reduce stress, improve focus, and even increase one's ability to relate to others.
Like a car that never gets maintenance, the mind can also need some downtime to continue running on all cylinders. You never know when you’ll need to solve a tough problem, focus intently on a task, or search for creative inspiration for a project.
Still, the idea of sitting in a quiet room seemingly “doing nothing” for a few minutes each day can sound absurd unless you understand what might really be happening on the physical and psychological level.
So here’s a peek at what is happening “under the covers” when you meditate:
1. Meditation helps us gain perspective.
Being able to observe your thoughts as a spectator helps you to realize that thoughts and experiences are temporary, which is known as decentering.
In one study of people with severe depression, gains in decentering ability were linked with a reduced rate of relapse and better outcomes in terms of life satisfaction and overall feelings of well-being.
2. Meditation can also reduce stress by helping us deal with negative feelings we might otherwise ignore.
It is common in our western culture to push aside those feelings that we judge, completely ignoring them.
A large review of studies involving close to 3,000 people found that mindfulness meditation was linked with a reduction in feelings of depression, anxiety, and even physical pain.
3. Meditation may also help improve our memory,
Researchers at University of California at Santa Barbara studied undergraduate students. 2 groups of students took a GRE exam twice. One group of 48 students met 4 times per week to meditate for 2 weeks prior to the second GRE exam. Another group of students focused on nutrition during that time. After retaking the course, the average score of the meditating class improved from 460 to 520. There was no change in the group that focused on nutrition.
4. And it may strengthen our ability to relate to others.
A group of researchers at Stanford University showed that meditation can increase positive social interaction
5. People with a steady meditation practice also see decreases in blood pressure.
A study of 200 people over 5 years, half following a healthy life-style, the other half meditating regularly, found the meditators not only reduced their blood pressure, but reduced their chance of heart attack by half over the healthy life-style folks!
6. Meditators experience less fatigue.
For a small study in 2016, researchers had over a dozen participants aged 24 to 76 spend a week at a spiritual retreat. The researchers scanned the brains of their participants before and after to observe the behavior of two chemicals linked with mood — dopamine and serotonin. Following the retreat, the participants' saw marked improvements in their perceived physical health, while negative feelings like stress and fatigue decreased.
7. Meditators may get sick less frequently than those who don't meditate regularly.
For a recent study, researchers split people into two groups and had one complete an eight-week meditation course. After 8 weeks, the researchers injected both groups with the flu vaccine and checked their immune response by measuring flu-fighting antibodies their bodies produced. The meditators showed significantly more antibodies than those who did not meditate, suggesting meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function.
An insurance study of 2000 people showed that meditators had fewer hospital visits, fewer heart attacks, and spent substantially less on medical bills than meditators.
8. There’s also some evidence that suggests that regular meditation can help prevent or repair genetic damage.
One study in distressed cancer survivors who completed a meditation program showed that the meditator's telomeres — special protein complexes that help protect our DNA — had grown longer. Whereas, the non-meditators grew shorter. It is currently believed that the length of telomeres relate to aging.
These all seem like worth wile benefits for anyone, anywhere, anytime! We'd love to hear from any of our readers who used to think they were too busy to meditate...until they began!