The word ‘meditation’ often elicits aversive reactions in the minds of the non-spiritual. To them, the word conjures up images of praying monks in brightly coloured robes and hippies smoking marijuana rambling about enlightenment.
The act of mindfulness meditation, however, has nothing to do with religion or spirituality. I’m a skeptic and an atheist and I meditate everyday.
The buddha invented meditation as a means to train the mind to disassociate from unhelpful emotional drives like resentment, anger and the need to acquire status through material goods.
In other words, meditation is an ancient form of brain training. But, unlike today’s brain training, there is a ton of scientific evidence showing that meditation really can transform your life.
Below I’ll list some of the most interesting studies that show just how powerful mindfulness meditation really is.
1. Meditation Reduces Anxiety and Stress
One of the most effective methods of reducing anxiety and stress is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In CBT, one challenges their negative automatic thoughts with rational questions.
When you sit down and train your mind to focus on your breath, after a short while, thoughts will start to enter you mind organically. Meditation trains you to see these thoughts as only thoughts. Day dreams that you don’t have to identify with.
By practicing meditation regularly, you’ll develop a natural skepticism toward your own negative thoughts and as a result, reduce stress and anxiety.
2. Meditation Lowers Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is one of the biggest killers in the world – 1 in 3 Americans will suffer from it. High blood pressure significantly increases your chances of getting a stroke, as well as kidney and heart disease.
If you happen to suffer from high blood pressure, mindfulness meditation can help you lower it. A study from the University of Kentucky showed that practicing mindfulness meditation is equivalent to adding another high-blood pressure drug onto your ongoing regime.
3. Meditation Improves Decision Making
A healthy lifestyle depends on healthy choices. Being healthy is something that most people can attain if only they choose to consistently eat the right foods, and exercise the right way.
By practicing meditation for just 15 minutes each day, studies have shown that we can focus more on the present moment and make smarter decisions because of it.
When we are overly fixated on the past, we can make emotional decisions that can lead to unhealthy food and lifestyle choices.
4. Meditation Makes You More Creative
Creativity depends on two cognitive processes: the ability to come up with ideas rapidly, and the ability to find the one idea out of the many that will actually solve a single problem.
A study from Leiden University showed that mediation improves both cognitive processes. Participants were able to not only come up with more ideas, but solve a higher percentage of problems after a brief spell of meditation.
5. Meditation Improves Your Sleep
Sleep is a natural wonder drug. It improves our mood, our appearance and of course, our health. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re handicapping yourself in life.
In a study done on 11 insomnia patients, meditation techniques performed in the day were shown to improve the patients sleep at night.
Every aspect of their sleep improved from the total sleep time to how quickly they fell asleep to how deep their REM phases were.
6. Meditation Protects Your Brain
Even if we keep our heart healthy, as we age we can still suffer from cognitive decline or in a worst case scenario, neurodegenerative disease.
By practicing mindfulness meditation we can significantly reduce the chances of this happening to us.
In a study conducted at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the researchers showed that after an 8 week mindfulness meditation program, patients suffering from Alzheimer’s endured less cognitive degeneration than the control group who didn’t meditate.
There is also evidence to suggest mindfulness meditation prevents other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and Parkinson’s.
Meditation can improve you physical, mental health, and your life as a whole.
If you’re not sure how to mediate yet, be sure to subscribe for the Health Today newsletter. In an upcoming article we’ll show you exactly how.