5 evidence-based benefits of meditation, plus tips on how to start today based on the research

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5 evidence-based benefits of meditation, plus tips on how to start today based on the research

(NaturalHealth365) Meditation has been a bit of a trend lately, with dozens of new mindfulness apps coming out aimed to help you establish a meditation practice and learn new mindfulness strategies.  However, the practice itself has been around for thousands of years – and for good reason.

Many health benefits have been linked to regular meditation.  And the good news is that these benefits can be relatively long-lasting, as indicated by recent research out of the University of California Davis.

How committing to a meditation practice can maximize brain function – with as much as a 7+ year carryover effect

A study published in the September 2018 volume of the peer-reviewed Journal of Cognitive Enhancement shared some key findings from UC Davis’s Shamatha Project, which is a first-of-its-kind comprehensive and longitudinal study on meditation.

The study involved 60 experienced meditators who attended two three-month long meditation retreats in 2007 at Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado.  During these retreats, meditators received instruction and guidance from B. Alan Wallace (Wallace is a well-known Buddhist scholar and author from the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies).

They attended group meditation sessions twice a day and engaged in individual practice for about six hours a day.  Clearly, these retreats were intense: attendees went to twice a day group meditations and did solo meditation for as much as 6 hours per day. Plus, the meditators are all experienced.

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Even still, the study’s authors found that after 7 year, those participants who maintained a more diligent practice still demonstrated improved sustained attention, a benefit also seen immediately after the retreats ended.  “Importantly,” the authors add, “aging-related decrements in measures of response inhibition accuracy and reaction time variability were moderated by levels of continued meditation practice across the follow-up period.”

In other words, meditation practice was shown to be anti-aging.

But that’s not all! Research suggests that additional health benefits of meditation – even as little as 20 minutes per day a few days per week – include:

  • Improved resiliency to stress
  • Reduced pain severity
  • Improved self-control and regulation (which has major implications for people challenged by addiction)
  • Improved brain neuroplasticity (ability of the brain to grow new neurons)

Not sure how to meditate? Here are 5 ways to get started

Try these tips for starting a new meditation practice:

  1. Start small. Even just 5 minutes per day can be a great place to start. Gradually build up your length of time – most people recommend between 20 to 60 minutes per day, which can be broken up into smaller intervals.
  2. Be consistent. For optimal results, meditate daily, ideally at around the same time. This helps you build a consistent practice and allows you to gain the most benefits over time.
  3. Be comfortable. Most meditation teachers instruct students to sit in a chair or crossed-legged on the floor during meditation. There’s no specific position – the point is to find one that is comfortable for you.
  4. Don’t worry about doing it “wrong.”  There are many styles of meditation, but the most basic technique is to close your eyes and simply focus on your breath. People often believe they’re meditating “wrong” because they find themselves thinking.  This isn’t true!  The true point of meditation isn’t necessarily to “empty the mind,” but rather to recognize when thoughts come up, acknowledge them non-judgmentally, and then return your attention to the breath.
  5. Seek guidance. Find the support you like, whether that’s attending a class, downloading an app, or simply checking out guided meditations available online. You’ll be amazed at how this simple holistic, and FREE strategy can improve your mental health.

Sources for this article include: 

MedicalNewsToday.com
ScienceDaily.com
Springer.com