Mindfulness Meditation is a simple yet powerful practice that has been practiced for thousands of years, and despite it’s solid reputation to improve quality of life, most still allow its possibilities to slip under our radar. It’s a classic case of thinking a simple answer can’t possibly be the remedy to a complex problem. But it is.
The concept of mindfulness is defined as: “The nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment.” Mindfulness invites us to pay attention to present moment experiences with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is. And the scientific community’s interest in mindfulness has exploded over the last several years, with most major Universities adding mindfulness centers on their campuses. And the number of research papers on it’s benefits is now limitless. Here are 10 research highlights of the benefits you can reap from incorporating just a few minutes of mindfulness meditation into your day:
1. It lowers stress — literally. Research published just last month in the journal Health Psychology shows that mindfulness is not only associated with feeling less stressed, it’s also linked with decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
2. It lets us get to know our true selves. Mindfulness can help us see beyond those rose-colored glasses when we need to really objectively analyze ourselves. A study in the journal Psychological Science shows that mindfulness can help us conquer common “blind spots,” which can amplify or diminish our own flaws beyond reality.
3. It can make your grades better. Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that college students who were trained in mindfulness performed better on the verbal reasoning section of the GRE, and also experienced improvements in their working memory. “Our results suggest that cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with wide-reaching consequences,” the researchers wrote in the Psychological Science study.
4. It changes the brain in a protective way. University of Oregon researchers found that integrative body-mind training — which is a meditation technique — can actually result in brain changes that may be protective against mental illness. The meditation practice was linked with increased signaling connections in the brain; something called axonal density, as well as increased protective tissue (myelin) around the axons in the anterior cingulate brain region.
5. It makes you a better person. Sure, we love all the things meditation does for us. But it could also benefit people we interact with, by making us more compassionate, according to a study in the journal Psychological Science. Researchers from Northeastern and Harvard universities found that meditation is linked with more virtuous, “do-good” behavior.
6. It could help the elderly feel less lonely. Loneliness among seniors can be dangerous, in that it’s known to raise risks for a number of health conditions. But researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that mindfulness meditation helped to decrease these feelings of loneliness among the elderly, and boost their health by reducing the expression of genes linked with inflammation.
7. It could make your health care bill a little lower. Not only will your health benefit from mindfulness meditation training, but your wallet might, too. Research in the American Journal of Health Promotion shows that practicing Transcendental Meditation is linked with lower yearly doctor costs, compared with people who don’t practice the meditation technique.
8. It lowers depression risk among pregnant women & teens. As many as one in five pregnant women will experience depression, but those who are at especially high risk for depression may benefit from some mindfulness yoga. “Research on the impact of mindfulness yoga on pregnant women is limited but encouraging,” study researcher Dr. Maria Muzik, M.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, said in a statement. “This study builds the foundation for further research on how yoga may lead to an empowered and positive feeling toward pregnancy.”
It also lowers depression risk among teens. Teaching teens how to practice mindfulness through school programs could help them experience less stress, anxiety and depression, according to a study from the University of Leuven.
9. It supports your weight-loss goals. Trying to shed a few pounds to get to a healthier weight? Mindfulness could be your best friend, according to a survey of psychologists conducted by Consumer Reports and the American Psychological Association. Mindfulness training was considered an “excellent” or “good” strategy for weight loss by seven out of 10 psychologists in the survey.
10. It helps you sleep better. We saved the best for last! A University of Utah study found that mindfulness training can not only help us better control our emotions and moods, but it can also help us sleep better at night. “People who reported higher levels of mindfulness described better control over their emotions and behaviors during the day. In addition, higher mindfulness was associated with lower activation at bedtime, which could have benefits for sleep quality and future ability to manage stress,” study researcher Holly Rau said in a statement.
We each have our own time when we are ready to go from “hearing about” something to actually incorporating it into our daily lives. When you’re ready, it’s there for you.
If you liked this you will also enjoy: “10 Things Science and Buddhism Say Will Make You Happy”.
Also: If you’re looking for a place to practice mindful meditation, we have some great recommendations.