Seven reasons why meditation is increasingly becoming more popular
A popular eastern approach to health and well being, meditation has long been viewed by those in the west as a practice reserved for mystics or monks. However, western science is catching up. Recent research, for instance, has resulted in more information about the scientific benefits of meditation.
This research, popularized in a variety of scientific and lay magazines, has partly helped spread the word, so to speak, about meditation healing effects on both the mind and body. Another factor contributing to meditation's increasing popularity is that people have low-cost access to information via the internet.
More important than either of these two factors--scientific validation and the ability for individuals to conduct their own research--is the gradual word of mouth about meditation's real benefits. Were it not for these real results, meditation would not have gained much traction. People, however, are learning to meditate. Professionals are launching thriving businesses focused on providing meditation and well-being services. All one has to do is Google "wellbeing psychologists Brisbane" to discover these types of services being offered.
Meditation is becoming popular because it is real. It offers measurable solutions to important problems. Following are seven of the benefits meditation offers its practitioners.
- Reduces stress-induced inflammation
Stress is directly related to increased cortisol levels. Increased cortisol releases chemicals called cytokines, which result in high blood pressure and inflammation.
Researchers found that after eight weeks, a type of meditation called "mindfulness meditation" did not necessarily reduce cortisol levels; however, it did reduce the blood's level of cytokines. In turn, inflammation decreased throughout the body.
- Assists with anxiety
Yoga, which blends meditation and strength exercises, has been shown to reduce anxiety. This might seem obvious as increased strength often leads to a greater sense of self control and higher levels of confidence. However, an eight-week research study has shown that meditation alone also reduces reports of anxiety.
For instance, over eight weeks, practitioners of mindfulness meditation reported lower anxiety levels immediately following the research study. Additionally, on average, for many participants, anxiety was reported as being permanently lowered.
- Increased attention span
Meditators have a name for wandering attention: "monkey mind." When it comes to remaining focused, participants practicing mindfulness meditation outperformed non-meditators.
Additionally, following interruptions, practitioners performed better at re-orienting their attention. Following the process of re-orienting their attention, they were subsequently better at remaining focused.
Perhaps of greatest consequence for newcomers to meditation is the evidence showing that only four days of practice are needed to improve attention span.
- Increased brain mass
Some critics might disregard self reports of lowered anxiety. After all, measurable decreases in anxiety are somewhat difficult to prove and can be explained as anecdotal. However, what truly stunned researchers is the fact that mediation actually led to measurable increases the practitioners' brains' gray matter.
Specifically, practitioners were shown to have developed "larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter."
The hippocampus is responsible for long-term memory. Among other things, the front lobe's gray matter is responsible for sensory perception, memory, decision making, and self control. Increased brain mass is measurable, and when those increased areas are responsible for such things as memory or stress, the evidence becomes quite persuasive.
- Improved memory
Simply put, meditation improves memory by approximately 40 percent. For instance, research participants' base-line results in a word-recall test reflected, on average, a 25-percent accuracy rate. However, subjects who followed word-recall tests with periods of mindfulness meditation were later able to recall original words at a rate of 35 percent, a 40-percent increase over their original scores.
Conversely, participants following their word-recall tests with mind-wandering tasks showed no significant increase in their ability to recall test words.
- Evidence that it helps combat addiction
Practitioners of mindfulness meditation showed significant improvements in attempting to stop smoking. This reduction in addiction is explained by meditation's seeming ability to break the link between feeling the craving to smoke and wanting to smoke an actual cigarette.
Mediation's strange ability to help separate the craving from the action allows practitioners the ability to ride out the craving. Once the craving passes, future cravings are less intense. Eventually, more addicts are able to resist relapse more often. The particular type of meditation used to battle addiction is called mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP).
- The world: a better place
Regarding kindness, there is an old cliche that goes something as follows: "why can't we all just get along?" It appears, in fact, that meditation might contribute to achieving this goal. For instance, practitioners of Metta meditation become kinder. By this, researchers mean they become more empathetic and more altruistic, which is to say: more willing to help others and engage in helpful behavior for the behavior's sake rather than for the sake of some expected reward or benefit.
Evidently, part of the reason for this is because meditation is linked to greater emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is responsible for a person's ability to articulate and understand empathy toward others.
Additionally, meditation leads to greater self compassion, which, in turn, leads to increased compassion for others. Putting it simply, meditation helps people love themselves. In doing so, it enables them to love the world.
Researchers emphasize that this increased level of kindness is not some vague feeling toward others. Instead, it is a way of feeling that leads to specific behavioral skills. For instance, people who meditate have a better rate of working out problems with their spouses. Additionally, they have a lower tendency toward anger. Metta meditation's ability to increase the propensity for being compassionate toward others, along with its ability to lessen problematic symptoms of anger, combined, result in a much better society. In short, meditation leads to much better world.