The Science of Meditation

There’s nothing new in using meditation as way of dealing with stress and improving your general health. It’s been practised in  Eastern Cultures for thousands of years. It’s now becoming much more widely accepted in the West, and science is finally proving what many have known to be true for thousands of years: that meditation can help you calm down and focus, and it has myriad other health benefits such as: reducing high blood pressure, helping with depression and preventing the likelihood of illness. Regular meditation can also help us control negative aspects of our personalities.

Cultures that have practiced meditation for generations have never questioned the benefits. They know very well that it works for them and have never shown any signs of packing it in. However, the health benefits being claimed are so extreme it’s easy to be skeptical when you first hear them. Can a few minutes of sitting still a day really have all the effects claimed? Let’s take a look at what the scientists are saying.

The health benefits of meditation

There have been countless studies examining the effects of meditation which back up the various health claims. For example, a study from the University of Bologna found that meditation fights both high blood pressure and the cognitive decline associated with aging. Another study performed at Harvard found that meditation helps the genes that deal with metabolism and insulin secretion and suppresses the genes that cause stress and inflammation.  So if you’ve never meditated before, it could really be worthwhile giving some free guided meditations a try.  It might actually make you healthier and increase your lifespan.

Controlling your personality traits

Regular mediation increases the thickness of the lateral prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain involved in regulating emotional responses. Essentially, this part of the brain allows you to think rationally and logically so that you do not just blindly follow your impulses but take control. Thickening of this part of the brain will stop you from taking things too personally. So if you meditate, you might find that you become more resilient and more optimistic.  

Meditation also affects the influence of the medial prefrontal cortex.  This part of the brain affects the time you spend fantasising and daydreaming. It can also influence your ability to empathise with others.  The changes which meditation can have on the medial prefrontal cortex will help to make you more productive, less likely to over-react, and more empathic.  

Research from Stanford University has shown that meditation decreases activity in the amygdala area of the brain.  This part of the brain is responsible for the “fight or flight” response which causes the body to react when under stress.  In the modern world, over-activity of this part of the brain can cause the heart to start racing and the body to feel tense when we are exposed to stressful situations.

So it seems that the claims are not without foundation.  If you want to give it a try why not find some meditation for beginners and take it from there?  Meditation really can produce a range of positive physical changes in your brain, which will improve not just your general health but also the way you perceive and react to the world around you.