Buddha was once asked: “What have you gained from meditation?” To which he responded: “Nothing! However, let me tell you what I lost: anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear of old age and death.”
Science reveals that our mind and body benefit from taking time out of your daily life and meditate. The benefits of meditation are endless. It is proven to be an effective way of enhancing quality of life by improving physical, mental, and emotional well being. Meditation techniques are constantly undergoing scientific scrutiny. Research often provides new insights about the effects of meditation on both mind and body.
A new study published in in Translational Psychiatry proved how exactly meditation can benefit our health, as the molecular signature of meditators was found to be significantly different from those who don’t practice meditation on regular basis.
A group of American researchers performed a study on participants at a 5-day retreat offered regularly by Deepak Chopra’s infamous Chopra Center for Wellbeing (Carlsbad, CA, USA) at the vacation resort OMNI La Costa Resort and Spa. Researchers invited women between the ages of 30 and 60 who did not have experience meditating to participate in the study and then divided them into two groups: those who would participate in the retreat (“novice meditators”) and those who would simply stay at the resort (“vacationers”). Researchers compared their results against each other and also to those of women already enrolled in the retreat who were in the same age bracket and meditated regularly (“regular meditators”). The participants’ health was examined before and after five days of staying at the resort and then maintenance assessments were completed one month and 10 months later.
Although all three groups experienced significant improvements in mental health, novice meditators showed much greater improvements in regards to depression in comparison to the vacationers, especially at the 10-month marker. It is clear from these findings that short-term vacation effects improve well-being; however, it is evident that there are long-term benefits from learning meditation as well.
Researchers also identified what they referred to as a “meditation effect,” whereby the regular meditators were found to have a distinct network of genes with cellular functions that may be associated with anti-aging. Even though a vacation often benefits the expression of gene networks in regards to well-being, the “vacation effect” cannot be sustained throughout life because you cannot go on vacations all of the time. In contrast, the “meditation effect” can actually be sustained if you’re practicing meditation regularly, so you can continuously reap the rewards.
A study conducted by Harvard University determined that meditation rebuilds the brain’s grey matter in only eight weeks. This incredible discovery was made by taking magnetic resonance images (MRIs) of the 16 participants’ brains both two weeks before the study and after it was completed.
Another Harvard study found that meditation can even mitigate symptoms of Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS) and improve gut health. The study showed that by inducing the “relaxation response,” which is essentially the scientific term for meditation, participants showed reduced symptoms of IBS as well as decreased anxiety and overall better quality of life.
If you’re unfamiliar with meditation, keep an open mind and know that it truly is a practice meant for everyone. There is no skill involved, it is simply the act of silencing the mind and finding inner peace. Remember, it is not about stopping thoughts from happening in the first place; it is about letting them pass, without judgement or attachment.