The Science Behind Meditation

I am a science nerd, I love to understand the science behind the “magic” of things. This month I have been able to take a deep look into meditation and really dive into some of the scientifically proven benefits to meditating.

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Most people are aware of the claims that are made about meditation such as: it promotes calm, can reduce anxiety and increases focus. But not as many people are aware that these claims have been backed up by scientific research. Since 2015 there have been ~ 31,000 scientific articles published on the subject of meditation. Am I the only one that thinks that is awesome!?

Are there any Poirot fans in the house? In 2009 a study was done on the association of increased gray matter density (“the little gray cells” as Poirot would say) in the brain stem with long term meditation practices. Higher gray matter density was seen in the lower brain stem regions of experienced long term practitioners of meditation when compared with individuals who do not practice meditation.1 Gray matter is involved in muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control (so pretty much everything). This increase in gray matter is considered an explanation for the seen and felt benefits to mediation such as better memory, better immune system and better control over emotions (control over my emotions is the one I need!).

People who engage in mediation do so because they are seeking to be more mindful in their everyday lives. Well good news for everyone! The results of a recent study of meditation “suggest that regular, longer, and more closely adhered meditation practice…  leads to responding more mindfully in daily life, which promotes well-being.”2

While some claims of the benefits of meditation can seem a bit far fetched what can be concluded is the daily practice of checking in with yourself and allowing your brain a break from the constant barrage of stimulation it receives all day is needed and beneficial. So happy mediating to all, you may now do so knowing that science has got your back.

P.S. Just as a bonus this is one of my favorite TED talks about mediation!

1: Long-term meditation is associated with increased gray matter density in the brain stem Author: Peter Vestergaard-Poulsen, Martijn van Beek, Joshua Skewes, et al
Publication: NeuroReport Publisher: Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.
Date: Jan 28, 2009

2: Lacaille, J., Sadikaj, G., Nishioka, M., Carrière, K., Flanders, J. and Knäuper, B. (2018), Daily Mindful Responding Mediates the Effect of Meditation Practice on Stress and Mood: The Role of Practice Duration and Adherence. J. Clin. Psychol., 74: 109–122.

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