Meditation is all the rave today, thanks to the growing communities of meditation and yoga teachers and meditation apps that make meditating easier and accessible to everyone in just a few clicks. But more than the proliferation of literature and digital apps, one thing that makes meditation so hugely popular are the mounting studies and personal accounts of practitioners proving that it works, regardless if you just do two minutes biweekly or an hour daily.
If you haven’t tried meditation yet, here are 5 science-backed reasons why you definitely should.
1. It reduces blood pressure.
In a 2018 study released in the Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine, researchers found that subjects who engaged in meditation for eight weeks showed a remarkable decrease in blood pressure. In the study, it was revealed that meditation positively affected 172 genes that are responsible forglucose metabolism, circadian rhythms , and inflammation regulations. The researchers noted that the calming effect of meditation helps elicit relaxation response, which leads to lower blood pressure.
2. It lowers stress.
One of the key principles of meditation is focus. By encouraging present-moment awareness and tuning into the now, including your breathing and bodily sensations in a gentle, non-judgmental manner, meditation trains your mind to refrain from rehasjing the past or worrying too much about the future. Countless studies state that placing your attention to the present during meditation helps inculcate a sense of calm and inner peace.
One such study was conducted by Cleveland Clinic researchers over the course of one year, and involved placing 161 employees of a high-stress call center under an eight-week mindfulness program that included meditation. At the end of the study, the researchers noted that 31 percent showed a decrease in stress levels, and 28 percent exhibited increased vitality.
3. It improves focus.
Apart from a study by neuroscientist Giuseppe Pagnoni which used brain scans to compare the cognitive performance and focus by Zen meditators and non-meditators, there’s also a study by Yale University revealing how mindfulness meditation reduces activity in the brain’s default mode network (DMN). Also called monkey mind, the DMN is responsible for “me” thoughts and mind-wandering. Overactivity in the DMN is associated with feelings of over worrying, unsatisfaction, and unhappiness. With meditation, the DMN is tamed, and thus the mind is able to focus better and easily snap out of mind-wandering whenever it occurs
4. It improves memory.
Engaging in activities that helps you focus on your posture, thoughts, bodily sensations, and breathing such as meditation positively impacts cognitive functions, including working memory. This was proven by a study carried out by researchers at University of California at Santa Barbara, who involved 48 undergraduate students in a two-week study.
Participants were asked to choose between a mindfulness class or a nutrition class. Subjects were required to spend 45 minutes four times a week for their chosen class. They took the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) – a standardized exam for graduating students – before and after the two-week period.
Results showed that not only did students who took the mindfulness class showed marked improvements on focus and working memory, but that those students also went from an average of 460 to 520.