Why Meditate?July 12, 2020
You have probably heard that meditation is good for you. A workout for your brain akin to a weightlifting session for your body. Perhaps you are aware it helps reduce stress, but did you know that there are hundreds of studies pointing to other health benefits (mental and physical) ? The research is growing at an exponential rate, despite lacking funding from large pharmaceutical companies. Below I share just a few studies that demonstrate the ever-increasing list of reasons why we should meditate:
1) Stress Reduction
- In a 2010 meta-analysis by Hoffman et al, 39 studies using MBSR and MBCT were evaluated. Researchers concluded that mindfulness meditation may help improve anxiety and mood symptoms.1
- In another 2010 study (Farb et al), participants in the mindfulness therapy had lower depression scores after being asked to watch sad movies.2
2) Boost Memory and Focus
- In a 2010 study (Jha et al), the military group not assigned to mindfulness training had lower memory capacity over time.3
- In a 2009 study (Moore and Malinowski, 2009), a group of 25 Buddhist meditators had greater attentional functioning than a control group of non-meditators. 4
3) Less Emotional Reactivity
- In a 2007 study (Ortner et al), those in the mindfulness meditation group displayed less reactivity to unpleasant pictures. 5
- In a 2012 study (Desbordes et al), the study of 51 participants showed less reactivity in an amygdala after 8 weeks of meditation. 6
4) Cognitive Flexibility
- A number of studies have suggested that those who meditate display7
– More cognitive flexibility.
– Increased brain activity in the brain region associated with more adaptive responses to stressful events.
- Studies include Siegel, 2007; Cahn & Polich, 2006; Davidson et al., 2003; Davidson, 2000; Davidson, Jackson, & Kalin, 2000.
Neuroplasticity is the term used to describe the capacity for creating new neural connections and growing neurons in response to experience (Siegel 2010)
- In a 2005 study (Lazar et al), meditation experience in 20 participants showed evidence that forty minutes of daily meditation appears to thicken parts of the cerebral cortex involved in attention and sensory processing. 8
- A study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Davidson et al, 2010), found that research on the brain suggests that long-term practitioners had actually altered the structure and function of their brains.
- Another study in 2013 (Wilson et al), mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce the activity of the amygdala and even change the size of this area of the brain
– After eight weeks of mindfulness meditation training, overstressed businesspeople found that the size of the amygdala activity actually shrunk compared to those who were not practicing mindfulness
A literature review (Goldstein et al, 2012) evaluated 14 studies that showed reduction in blood pressure with meditation practices. 9
7) There are countless other studies on Diabetes, Sleep, Smoking Cessation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Chronic Pain, PST, Arthritis, Psoarasis, Inflammatory Markers, etc. (please see pubmed.gov to find other studies).
While it is important to note that research studies vary in quality (methodology, sample size, diversity of population, type of study i.e. meta-analysis is strongest summarizing a number of randomized control studies, and type of response – i.e. self-reported vs. brain scan), the vast amounts of data makes a very compelling case to why we should all meditate. Happy Meditating, everyone!
5) https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/harvard-researchers-study-how-mindfulness-may-change-the- brain-in-depressed-patients/
6) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11031-007-9076-7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3485650/