If you meditate regularly, you’ve probably already noticed how it calms you, elevates your mood, and improves your focus. That’s reason enough to continue your practice right there.
But there are plenty more reasons to meditate daily, and scientists have only just begun to quantify them. Here are a couple. In a recent study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, it was found that stressed adults who practiced mindfulness meditation for just four months had reduced signs of inflammation in their bodies. Their brains were also positively altered, so that the regions involved in attention and executive control showed greater connectivity.
The reduction in inflammation is important. Low grade inflammation has been linked to long-term, chronic health problems such as auto-immunity, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer, so reduced inflammation is a great predictor of better health, and a longer life.
In another study published in the journal Psychiatry Research, 89 people with generalized anxiety disorder were divided into two groups. One group took an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course, while the other took a course on Stress Management Education. This course included tips for improved sleep and nutrition, as well as other wellness topics.
Before and after the study, each of the participants was required to give a speech before an audience, an activity that most people dread. The study participants who took mindfulness-based stress training showed significantly reduced signs of stress immediately after the speech, including lower blood cortisol levels and inflammation markers. By comparison, the subjects who took the general stress reduction course experienced no reduction in blood cortisol levels and no reduction in inflammation. In other words, resilience to stress increased markedly after just 8 weeks of mindfulness-based training.
When you combine these results with the impressive study released in 2014, where mindfulness was found to control depression as well as many anti-depressant drugs, it becomes increasingly clear that mindfulness meditation is something we should all be doing. In a world that just keeps spinning faster and faster, and where problems only multiply, now is a great time to start. To begin, search out meditation courses near you, or pick up a good book on the subject. Authors like Sharon Salzberg or Jack Kornfield, who have decades of experience in meditation instruction, are particularly recommended.
About the author: Rebecca Wong has an honours degree in English Literature from the University of Waterloo, and has been working in the herbal business since 2000. She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.