The Scientific Side of Meditation


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There will always be skeptics out there who don’t believe that meditation actually has any health benefits. Luckily, there are now published scientific studies to back up its many emotional and physical health benefits. Some of these studies are summarized in Psychology Today’s article “20 Scientific Reasons to Start Meditating Today”.

For example, a study looking at the alterations in brain and immune function produced by Mindfulness Meditation showed that a short program in the practice produced positive effects on the brain. It also improved overall immune functions and decreased pain. A separate study on how the brain handles pain when meditating in the presence of a bad smell showed a decrease in “pain-unpleasantness by 57% and pain-intensity ratings by 40%.” (F. Zeidan, K.T. Martucci, […], and R.C. Coghill “Brain Mechanisms Supporting Modulation of Pain by Mindfulness Meditation”).

The article also outlines how meditation boosts our overall happiness. In a study looking at how meditation affects the process of the brain in people with depression, it was found that meditation greatly helped decrease worrisome thoughts (Viveka Remal et al “The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Cognitive Processes and Affect in Patients with Past Depression – Springer”).

Meditation has also been shown to positively impact one’s social life by increasing social connections and emotional intelligence. In a study looking at the effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction training on the elements of loneliness and pro-inflammatory gene expression, it was shown that those practicing mindfulness meditation showed noticeable reductions in both elements (J. David Creswella et al “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training reduces loneliness and pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults: A small randomized controlled trial”).

Meditation has also been shown to boost self-control as well as the ability to regulate emotions. It even increases grey matter especially in areas related to attention and memory. Studies have shown that the cortical thickness of people familiar with insight meditation is thicker in the areas of the brain associated with attention, interception, and sensory processing (Sara W. Lazar et al “Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness”).

Although the jury may still be out about whether or not evidence really shows meditation to have health benefits, studies like those outlined above, and many others, clearly show a trend in the right direction.

To your inner peace – Anna

References:

Seppala, Emma M. “20 Scientific Reasons to Start Meditating Today.” Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness Find a Therapist. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/feeling-it/201309/20-scientific-reasons-start-meditating-today>.

“Brain Mechanisms Supporting Modulation of Pain by Mindfulness Meditation.” Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3090218/#!po=2.17391>

Et Al, Wiveka Ramel. “The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Cognitive Processes and Affect in Patients with Past Depression – Springer.” Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/B:COTR.0000045557.15923.96>.

“Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Training Reduces Loneliness and Pro-inflammatory Gene Expression in Older Adults: A Small Randomized Controlled Trial.” Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159112001894 20>.

Et Al, J. David Creswella,. “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Training Reduces Loneliness and Pro-inflammatory Gene Expression in Older Adults: A Small Randomized Controlled Trial.” Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159112001894 20>.

Sara W. Lazar, Et Al. “Meditation Experience Is Associated with Increased Cortical Thickness.” Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361002/#!po=4.54545>.

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