Most of us tend to chalk up the practice of meditation as a glorified way of relaxing ritualistically. Espoused by wellness enthusiasts as being an integral part of maintaining calm and quietude in our ever-busy lives, this seemingly simple practice is steeped in anecdotal advice spanning well over a millennia.
And if that isn’t proof enough of its enduring popularity, the steady popularity of the wellness movement on social media indicates an exponential rise in this holistic approach among a younger audience keen on alternatives to conventional healthcare.
Explained as being the practice of fostering mental clarity and calm through mindfulness and concentration, the act of meditation typically involves distancing yourself from distractions and focusing on the present. But while the jury of public opinion remains skeptical (in no small part due to exaggerated claims), science does seem to indicate that it can give you a boost in more ways than initially imagined.
As expected, one of the most obvious benefits where meditation is concerned is in relieving stress. Studies conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison have shown that long-term, consistent meditation can help reduce the inflammatory reaction the body produces when experiencing stress.
This is further supported by research from the University of Calgary, which has observed a generally reduced stress response among cancer patients who practice meditation regularly.
A habit of meditating has also been credited to altering brain activity in those suffering from clinical depression, as demonstrated in research conducted by neuroscientist Gaëlle Desbordes and psychologist Benjamin Shapero. Through their work, it has been found that the amygdala, a part of the brain responsible for emotional meaning and response, reacted differently for those who meditated consistently.
If you’re prone to feeling stressed out often, a separate study has also noted increased connections between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala in participants who take up meditation, making them less reactive to stressful situations. So your ticket to serenity may just lie in a moment’s worth of mindful meditation every day.
As for those of you with fickle attention spans, getting your few minutes of meditation in every day can almost certainly improve your brain’s ability to focus. Several studies have shown that meditating often stops your mind from processing new distractions, with its effects lingering for up to as long as five years. Which goes to show that not only are the benefits tangible, they’re long-lasting, too.
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