Scientists have studied mindfulness more and more in recent years. It’s the practices intended to help people develop a present state of awareness of themselves and their surroundings. A “being in the moment” mindset. While there’s a considerable interest in the concept, they may have blown the whole philosophy surrounding meditation and mindfulness practices out of proportion – leaving a large amount of doubt in its wake.
The science supporting meditation has endured substandard research. In fact, a paper published in Perspectives on Psychological Science titled: “Mind the Hype: A Critical Evaluation and Prescriptive Agenda for Research on Mindfulness and Meditation”- reveals there is more to understand about these concepts. However, there are some interesting findings on the subject.
With major corporations such as Google and Apple implementing meditation into schedules, there seems to be a reason why this mindfulness movement is taking the world by storm.
So, what happens when science meets mindfulness? What are the benefits of meditation?
A Closer Look at the Benefits of Meditation
Improved Attention Span
Since the practice itself is focused on being mindful, it’s only natural that meditation would directly impact attention. During their “More Meditation, Less Habituation? The Effect of Mindfulness Practice on the Acoustic Startle Reflex” study, scientists observed that meditation combats habituation – a learned behavior in which an individual’s response to stimuli decreases over time. In other words, the likelihood to stop noticing new information in your environment. Meanwhile, another study funded by the Israel Science Foundation revealed that mindfulness meditation could reduce brain rigidity, mind-wandering, and improve the ability to solve problems.
Meanwhile, studies have also indicated that these changes in the brain last up to 5 years after the sustained practice, leading to the conclusion that it is feasible for meditation to create long-term behavioral changes.
This, in turn, leads to questions like whether these advantages pertain to people who have attention-deficit disorders? Well, at the moment, there’s not enough research to support that statement, but as scientists delve deeper into the mindfulness movement, a more controlled study would enlighten us on this.
Increased Resiliency To Stress
Studies have shown that a long-term, consistent meditation practice seems to increase your adaptability to stress, which means that it helps both your mind and body to bounce back from stress and stressful situations, including the impacts of the COVID pandemic.
Neuroscience research discovered reduced stress in experienced meditators as compared to non-meditators. Mindfulness practices lower activity in your amygdala and increases the connections between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex – both of which help lessen your reactions to stressors and allow better recovery from stress when you experience it.
Studies have also shown that mindfulness meditation could positively influence your relationships. Mainly in the context of your relationship quality and conflict resolution. A study published in Hormones and Behaviour found that couples who were more mindful were able to resolve conflicts quicker.
While a paper published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies showed that it is also linked to better relationships with your children. Mindfulness practice is shown to reduce stress and anxiety in parents of young children and children with disabilities. Plus, once you read how stress impacts your health, you don’t have to think twice.
The kids benefit too since a paper published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology reveals that mindful parenting fosters more positive behavior in children.
Increases Compassion & Reduces Prejudice
Although we “all” advocate for compassionate ideals, we often suffer when we see another suffering – creating a state of withdrawal or avoidance. A paper published in the Psychological Science Journal reveals that meditation does appear to increase your compassion and makes it more effective – meaning you are more likely to take action to ease someone’s suffering.
This goes hand in hand with the next one – in which multiple studies reveal that meditation can reduce many kinds of bias, such as prejudice towards homeless people, as well as racial discrimination. With the latter being a sore point for much of 2020, meditating for the greater good of society might not be such a bad idea.
Meditation & Mental Health
Meditation does improve mental health, but it’s not proven to be more effective than other treatments, such as healthy eating, regular exercise, therapy, or prescription medication – as revealed in a meta-analysis in JAMA Internal Medicine. The study showed that meditation programs resulted in only slight to moderate reductions in anxiety and depression.
Meditation & Physical Health
Meditation has also been linked to physical health benefits, but the findings are modest. An NCCIH paper titled: Meditation: In Depth analyzed various studies on meditation and found that the practice has been tested for many physical conditions. Across the board, findings indicate that it may lower blood pressure, alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, as well as help people with insomnia.
Why Not Join The Mindfulness Movement?
While meditation is certainly not a universal remedy or cure-all, there is undoubtedly a lot of research that it’s clearly good for your overall wellbeing – in essence, your mind, body, and soul. An interesting thing to note is that the benefits of meditation can be felt after a seemingly short amount of time.
Try to take a few minutes in the morning or evening to quieten your mind, or begin by paying attention to what you’re thinking. As you breathe in and out, let your thoughts come to you and then release them without reacting or focusing on any specific one. If the science is right, just a few minutes of meditation will make a big difference.