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5 Benefits of Meditation

Meditation is as old as mankind, dating as far back as 1500 B.C.. It also isn’t indigenous to any singular culture.  Evidence of meditation has been found in Buddhist India, Taoist China, and even in Judaism.  Clearly, humans have been striving for mental introspection since the beginning.  From the days of horses to cars, from medieval warfare to jet planes, meditation has grown and flourished out of religious beginnings into the mainstream.  Now today every yoga class implements some level of mindfulness associated with meditation.  However, just because meditation has entered the mainstream doesn’t mean the benefits have disappeared.  Here are 5 reasons why meditation will change your life.

Can I Interest You With Less Stress?

Do you consider life stressful?  If the answer is no, you might be the only one as the year 2016 was the most stressful ever recorded, scientifically, of course.  With the proliferation of technology, we may know too much and our minds are constantly racing to keep up with the onslaught of information.  Whether positive or negative the never ending input from family, friends, work, politics, and life, in general, weigh on our minds. Meditation helps pause the feeding tube of information and guides our brains to a place of mindfulness.  

Mindful meditation has been studied at length and time and time again has proven to relieve stress and minimize anxiety.  Studies like this one from Oxford Academics, or another from General Hospital Psychiatry, or how about a study from Harvard Medical School.  The evidence is in: if you’ve got stress, don’t take a pill; take 30 minutes and meditate.    

Would You Like To Be Happier?

In Psychology, there is a heavily scrutinized but generally accepted theory called the “Set Point” theory. It states that every human has an anchored point of average happiness that we fluctuate around based on a given mood.  So how does that relate to meditation?  According to clinical psychologist  Robert Puff in “Psychology Today,” it is possible to return to your set point and even raise it through meditation.  Puff references a study in which people meditated for one hour a day, six days a week.  Not only did test subject report being happier in follow-up exams, but they had developed more empathy and emotional acuity, as well as being happier!  Great results, especially when you consider meditation is free and can be done anywhere.

How about aging slower?

As humans age, our bodies start to fall apart.  Ask any middle-aged person and they’ll tell you.  Our joints, tendons, even our digestive systems start doing things they’ve never done before.  The same is true for human brains.  As we get older the brain deteriorates and we lose a critical component called gray matter, essential to our cognitive abilities.  

In a study published in Frontiers, the most cited open access publisher in psychology, Eileen Luders and Florian Kurth of the Department of Neurology, School of Medicine at the University of California and Nicolas Cherbuin of the Centre for Research on Ageing Health and Well being, Austrian National University found those who meditated saw a decrease in the loss of gray matter, while the control group of non-meditators on average lost more.  So if you’re concerned of Dementia, Alzheimer's, or simply want to keep your brain functioning at the highest level possible, evidence suggests meditation will help.

Tired of Being Sick?

Does it feel like you are always getting sick?  Are you battling fevers, coughs, and congestion, while friends and co-workers remain impervious to such ailments?  Everybody’s immune system is different because of various factors like the amount of sleep or exercise a person does.  However, there is evidence to suggest that meditation could improve your immune system in the same way more sleep and exercise would.  There is still more research to be done to corroborate such a finding but all signs point to yes.  

Can’t Concentrate?

Yes, you guessed it.  There are indeed studies that suggest meditation improves concentration, such as the one by Katherine Maclean from the University of California.  For all the studies referenced so far, improved concentration from meditation might be most obvious.  Meditation, essentially, is a mental exercise for your brain, particularly an exercise in concentration.  It would then make perfect sense that regularly exercising your brain through concentration would improve it.  Buddhist monks are famous for their unbelievable feats of concentration like sitting over a burning fire with no reaction.  That is obviously an insane level of concentration gained through a lifetime of meditation.  Lucky for the everyday Jane or Joe, a study by the University of North Carolina, referenced in the same article, found that as little as 20 minutes a day of meditation could substantially improve concentration.

Meditation ultimately is exercise for our brains. Human brains have proven they are capable of amazing accomplishments. Therefore it is not surprising that meditation has been scientifically proven to help us in a litany of ways.  However, it should be said that meditation is not a panacea and cannot cure all the problems in your life. Science, though, has proven it certainly can’t hurt.