Dating back to the ancient Indian Vedas of 1500 BCE, meditation is known to be deeply relaxing and plenty soothing during stressful times. But that’s not all: Science proves that its benefits go so much deeper. In fact, it’s literally mind-changing.
If you’re not into meditating now, here are four reasons why you might want to hop on the mindfulness wagon:
Meditation Literally Grows Your Brain
It might sound strange, but meditation is like a chia pet for your brain. When you meditate, the grey matter in your brain (the regions of the brain responsible for muscle control, sensory perception, self-control, and decision-making) grows larger.
In a study published in the journal NeuroImage, meditating participants showed enlarged regions of both the orbito-frontal and hippocampal areas of the brain, which are crucial to emotional regulation and response control. So, say you’re having a stressful day—the benefits of meditation may have changed your brain, helping to you keep your emotions stable and under control.
Meditation Can Make You More Zen
A study at Johns Hopkins showed a connection between mindful meditation and moderate relief of the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.
On top of that, a 2016 study published by Biological Psychiatry showed that meditation led to increased communication within the portions of the brain that handles stress, focus, and calm. We’ll have some of that, please.
Meditation May Decrease Inflammation
Turn in any direction, and you’ll hear inflammation being touted as the key culprit or symptom behind many of our conditions, including stress.
The good news? Various studies show a reduction in inflammation due to meditation, including one published by Georgetown University. The study took 89 people with panic disorder and divided them in half: Half the group took an eight-week mindful meditation course, while the other half spent eight weeks in a stress-management course.
Both before and after the study, the subjects took the Trier Social Stress Test, a tool for creating and monitoring a stress response in a lab setting. Basically, the stress test works by giving the participants rapid and anxiety-inducing instructions and then monitoring their responses.
The stress test specifically monitors blood-based markers of stress responses, including levels of the stress hormone cortisol and the inflammatory proteins. The group who took the stress management had increased anxiety and inflammation.
But the meditation group? Not so much. They showed drops in inflammation and stress markers.
Meditation Can Boost Your Attention Span
The verdict is in: Meditation increases your attention span. One study, published in Psychological Science, concluded that mindfulness training improved test scores and working memory capacity while also keep distracting thoughts at bay. Whether you’re a student taking a big test or an employee at work, having a great attention span is pretty key.
So, how much should you meditate to reap the rewards of mindfulness? According to Psychiatry Research, just 27 minutes of meditation per day can lead to benefits. Sign us up!