Sometimes it's as though science is catching up with ancient truth. Studies on meditation and prayer continue to build upon what religious leaders have been saying for centuries.
Mindfulness is a mental state where a person is focusing on the present moment. Mindfulness includes a number of practices, but meditation is perhaps the most common form. Meditation includes many different types of techniques that help a person achieve a clear or calm state of mind. Mindfulness has been used for thousands of years in religious traditions, but recently it’s had a rebirth in mainstream culture.
The rebirth of mindfulness is incredibly important for people today because we all lead busier lives, saturated with stimuli which is arguably contributing to higher rates of depression and anxiety. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety, reduce stress, and increase overall life satisfaction. So, if you want to feel happier and less anxious – mindfulness meditation needs to be part of your day.
What Does Science Say About Meditation?
In a 2018 study led by the University of California Davis, researchers found after following patients participating in meditation training for 7 years, that there were neurological and cognitive improvements across the board. These study participants experienced profound benefits in their daily lives. Lead author, Anthony Zanesco stated:
“This study is the first to offer evidence that intensive and continued meditation practice is associated with enduring improvements in sustained attention and response inhibition, with the potential to alter longitudinal trajectories of cognitive change across a person’s life.”
This means as you continue your mindfulness or meditation practice, your brain continues to benefit. What’s more, those who regularly meditate reported the ability to handle stress better and an increased sense of well-being. Who can't benefit from handling stressful situations better than they do presently?? They also experienced cognitive gains such as decreased anxiety and depression, a deeper satisfaction with their life, and the ability to maintain focus. Perhaps the most fascinating conclusion of this study is that those who regularly meditate don’t show typical age-related cognitive decline. So, it benefits actual brain function.
This study powerfully suggests we could all use a mindfulness practice. All those people you hear raving about meditation aren’t just a bunch of hippies telling you to do so because it feels good – science continues to show that there are actual physiological benefits to these practices.
5 Ways Mindfulness Meditation Boosts Your Immune System
On a 2017 systematic review of mindfulness meditation on the body, scientists found that it had a powerful positive impact on immune system health. Mindfulness meditation specifically supported the immune system and 5 different related physiological benefits, including:
Reducing circulating inflammatory proteins
Cellular transcription factors and gene expression
Boosting immune cell count
Reducing immune cell aging
Regulating antibody response
This review found that mindfulness meditation doesn’t just feel great, it actually has effects on inflammation markers, cell mediated immunity, and biological aging. How amazing is that?! Your body and immune system loves mindfulness on a cellular level!
Mediation Has Lasting Positive Effects
In a 2011 study on the same participants that were followed up with seven years later in the 2018 study mentioned above, researchers found short term benefits of meditation. Researchers took measurements to assess what they called adaptive socioemotional functioning, which included:
Openness to experience
Difficulties in emotion regulation
Make Sure You Have Mindfulness Practice
The mindfulness movement is really a return to ancient practices. When you continue to train your brain to be more mindful, present, and conscientious of the world around you, you will feel the psychological benefits.
Mindfulness brings a sense of calm, peace, and allows one to interact with the world around them in a more intentional way. Many people grew up in a culture of prayer, which is a beautiful way to talk to God daily, however, many people are more comfortable “doing” the act of prayer while meditating vs. sitting silently being present with God and hearing from Him.
While there’s conflicting research on how long you should meditate to gain benefits, studies suggest that even 7-minutes a day induces changes that improve positive feelings towards yourself and others. It’s hard to jump right into an hour of meditation each day, which is why it is recommend to start with 7-minutes and build up from there.
It’s all too easy to get caught up in our day-to-day lives, going from one task to another and never really taking the time to put a mindfulness practice in place. But I assure you, things like morning routines and meditation rituals have a way of benefiting nearly every aspect of your life. Many people wake up to pray and meditate before doing anything else......even waiting to have their coffee!
So if one form of a mindfulness practice doesn’t work for you, don't give up and throw in the towel, try another one. Keep in mind that meditation, just like any other skill, takes practice. You won’t become a monk or a holy-one overnight, so the most important thing to do, is stay consistent. Set aside time in your day for whatever practice you choose, and even if it goes poorly – keep at it! Remember, anything worth doing takes time and meditation is worth doing.......7-minutes of your time is all it takes.