Meditation: What science says about it?
Meditation has become so popular that it is used for a wide variety of purposes. Nowadays it is used in many areas of our life. But there are good reasons for this, because meditation has numerous benefits for our physical as well as mental health. Maybe that's why it's so popular.
Despite the benefits, however, many people reject meditation altogether because they don't "believe" in it. But meditation is not a religion. We do not have to believe that this technique works. Neither does it require luck or magic to meditate.
People believe meditating brings them many benefits. This has also been scientifically proven. And while gathering evidence, one finds many more benefits that meditation brings with it.
In recent years, researchers have compiled a lot of evidence about the benefits of meditation. In fact, the link between health and meditation continues to be researched to learn even more about the benefits of this technique. Probably the benefits we mention in this article are therefore only the beginning.
Meditation makes us more creative
One benefit of meditation worth knowing is that it can enhance and increase our creativity. In 2012 and 2014, two studies were conducted at the Universiteit Leiden (Netherlands). They found that certain meditation techniques promote creative thinking.
In these studies, the researchers examined a meditation technique called 'open monitoring', which is a mindfulness practice. When using this technique, we are open to all thoughts and sensations. In doing so, we should not focus on any particular concept or object. Some of the study participants were supposed to meditate in this way, but the control group was not: subsequent tasks were solved more creatively on average by the former; they used more new ideas than the control group.
These findings support the theory that meditation can have a lasting impact on cognition. This includes our ideation process and the way we perceive events. By the way, not only people who have been using this technique for a long time benefit from this method, but also newcomers.
Meditation reduces anxiety and stress
The greatest benefit of meditation is that stress is reduced or. can even be prevented. A study published in January 2017 by Georgetown University (Washington, D.C., USA) was published showed: Meditation reduces hormonal responses that are triggered by stress. This is especially true when we do mindfulness exercises. This study also provided evidence that conscious meditation can combat anxiety.
The researchers discovered that Patients with an anxiety disorder could dramatically reduce physical symptoms after taking a meditation course. Patients who completed a stress management course without meditation had worse outcomes.
Another study by researchers at the University of Waterloo, Canada, published in May 2017, looked at the impact of meditation on 82 participants who suffered from anxiety. The results show that even 10 minutes of meditation can help an anxious person to concentrate better. Circular thought processes decreased in intensity in the subjects as a result of being aware of the present moment. It is these circling thoughts, which are unnecessary and have no benefit, that are a distressing aspect of anxiety disorders.
The researchers explained that a person's mental wandering accounted for nearly half of the daily stream of consciousness. People who have an anxiety disorder suffer more from repetitive thought processes. Especially during the performance of duties it can reduce their performance. It can even prevent problem solving or, in the worst case, become a danger to the person.
Meditation improves mental and physical health and stress resistance
Many people who practice yoga and meditation report positive health effects of a mental and physical nature. However, it is not yet fully researched how these practices can positively affect our body and mind.
In August 2017, an article was published that looked at the effect of yoga and meditation on test participants. The subjects participated in an intensive three-month retreat. Researchers observed participants' physiological and immunological markers of stress and inflammation. The scientists found that these practices lowered markers of stress as well as inflammation. In addition, the participants' subjective well-being improved.
The participants also reported a Decreases in anxiety and depression, as well as an increase in mindfulness. The research team actually observed an increase in BDNF levels. BDNF is an endogenous signaling substance that makes targeted connections between neurons. This signaling substance plays an important role in learning and memory. It also regulates complex processes such as inflammation, immunity and mood swings. Stress and metabolism also depend on this substance.
Meditation changes our brain structure and gene expression
Another study looked at measurable changes in brain regions that can be achieved through meditation and mindfulness practice. This study was published by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (Massachusetts, USA) in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging. Meditation produced measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, self-image, empathy and stress. This was the first study of its kind.
Analysis of MRI images revealed a Higher gray matter density in the hippocampus. Gray matter is particularly important for learning and memory because it contains our "gray matter". The researchers continued to find an increase in this substance In the structures of the brain associated with self-awareness and introspection. The decrease in exposure to stress also correlated with a Decrease in gray matter density in the amygdala. This plays an important role in anxiety and stress.
Researchers from Wisconsin, Spain and France conducted another study in 2014. This was published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology. They reported specific molecular changes that occurred in the body after a period of conscious meditation.
The study examined the effect of intense mindfulness for the duration of a day on a group of experienced "meditators". The study compared the results with a group of untrained subjects who participated in quiet and non-meditative activities. After eight hours of mindfulness, "the meditators" showed a range of molecular differences. These differences are associated with rapid physical recovery in a stressful situation. Manufacturers of anti-inflammatory. Pain-relieving medications have the exact same goal. This is not to say, however, that meditation could replace a trip to the doctor's office.
Compensation for DNA responses caused by stress
Another study was realized in June 2017 by Coventry University (England, United Kingdom). This showed that mind-body interventions such as meditation, yoga and tai chi don't just simply relax us. They can also "reverse" certain parts of our DNA that may be risk factors, or. Balance.
The journal Frontiers in Immunology published this meta-study. Evaluated 18 studies on meditation that took place in the previous decade. These studies examined how different mind-body interventions affect our genes. The studies involved a total of 846 subjects, all of whom were over 11 years old. The result of this metastudy was that molecular changes are caused that follow a pattern. Mind-body interventions were responsible for these changes. In addition, it was found that these changes could improve the subject's mental and physical health.
Another focus of researchers was how mind-body interventions affected gene expression. Here, the researchers investigated the extent to which genes were activated by meditation. These activated genes produced proteins that then influenced the biological makeup of the body, brain and immune system.
Millions of people around the world already enjoy the health benefits of mind-body interventions like yoga or meditation. These benefits begin at the molecular level. Can modulate our genetic code. Researchers called this a "molecular signature" that can reverse the effects of stress or anxiety on our bodies.
Meditation relieves pain
Research is also interested in possible pain relief through meditation. Here's how Leeds Beckett University (England, United Kingdom) published another study in June 2017. The authors had found that meditation could be a low-cost alternative to traditional painkillers.
According to the study, just ten minutes of mindfulness can have the same effect as conventional painkillers. Meditation can also be used in addition to traditional therapies and medications to help reduce doses. Research findings suggest that A single ten-minute mindfulness session can improve pain tolerance, pain threshold and fear of pain. Such training could relieve pain after a short period of time, the scientists said.
These findings are especially important for those who can't or don't want to take painkillers (anymore) for a variety of reasons. These people are looking for a non-addictive way to relieve pain. The best thing about meditation for analgesia is that it has no side effects, like taking medication does.
A previous 2015 study conducted by the same center had already shown that conscious meditation relieved pain better than a placebo. The study took a two-way approach. It used pain scores and imaging diagnostics to determine whether mindfulness had a real effect.
The study showed that participants who practiced mindfulness spoke of greater pain relief than those who took the placebo. Brain scans showed that the brain activity of those who practiced mindfulness was actually different from that of subjects who took the placebo.
Research on the effects of meditation continues
Here we have mentioned just a few of the studies that looked at the effects of meditation. Undoubtedly, there is interest in meditation techniques that have so many benefits that go beyond myths and mere beliefs and the placebo effect.