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When Science Meets Meditation


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The popularity of meditation is increasing as more people discover its benefits.

Meditation is a habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts.
You can use it to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Many people think of it as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration.
People also use the practice to develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns and even increased pain tolerance.

In this article, we're going to take a look at some science-based benefits of meditation.

REDUCES STRESS


Stress reduction is one of the most common reasons people try meditation.
One study including over 3,500 adults showed that it lives up to its reputation for stress reduction.

Normally, mental and physical stress cause increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This produces many of the harmful effects of stress, such as the release of inflammation-promoting chemicals called cytokines.

These effects can disrupt sleep, promote depression and anxiety, increase blood pressure and contribute to fatigue and cloudy thinking. 
In an eight-week study, a meditation style called "mindfulness meditation" reduced the inflammation response caused by stress. 
Another study in nearly 1,300 adults demonstrated that meditation may decrease stress. Notably, this effect was strongest in individuals with the highest levels of stress.
Research has shown that meditation may also improve symptoms of stress-related conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder and fibromyalgia.

Promotes Emotional Health


Some forms of meditation can also lead to an improved self-image and more positive outlook on life.

Two studies of mindfulness meditation found decreased depression in over 4,600 adults.
One study followed 18 volunteers as they practiced meditation over three years. The study found that participants experienced long-term decreases in depression. 
A review of several studies suggests meditation may reduce depression by decreasing some of the body's inflammatory chemicals.

Another controlled study compared electrical activity between the brains of people who practiced mindfulness meditation and the brains of others who did not.

Those who meditated showed measurable changes in activity in areas related to positive thinking and optimism.

Enhances Self-Awareness


Some forms of meditation may help you develop a stronger understanding of yourself, helping you grow into your best self.
For example, self-inquiry meditation explicitly aims to help you develop a greater understanding of yourself and how you relate to those around you.

Other forms teach you to recognize thoughts that may be harmful or self-defeating. The idea is that as you gain greater awareness of your thought habits, you can steer them toward more constructive patterns.
A study of 21 women fighting breast cancer found that when they took part in a tai chi program, their self-esteem improved more than it did than in those who received social support sessions.
In another study, 40 senior men and women who took a mindfulness meditation program experienced reduced feelings of loneliness, compared to a control group that had been placed on a wait list for the program. 

Also, experience in meditation may cultivate more creative problem solving.

Lengthens Attention Span


Focused-attention meditation is like weight lifting for your attention span. It helps increase the strength and endurance of your attention. 
For example, a study looked at the effects of an eight-week mindfulness meditation course and found it improved participants' ability to reorient and maintain their attention.
A similar study showed that human resource workers who regularly practiced mindfulness meditation stayed focused on a task for longer.

These workers also remembered details of their tasks better than their peers who did not practice meditation.
Moreover, one review concluded that meditation may even reverse patterns in the brain that contribute to mind-wandering, worrying and poor attention. 
Even meditating for a short period may benefit you.
One study found that four days of practicing meditation may be enough to increase attention span.

Improves Sleep


Nearly half the population will struggle with insomnia at some point.
One study compared two mindfulness-based meditation programs by randomly assigning participants to one of two groups. One group practiced meditation, while the other didn't.
Participants who meditated fell asleep sooner and stayed asleep longer, compared to those who didn't meditate. 

Becoming skilled in meditation may help you control or redirect the racing or "runaway" thoughts that often lead to insomnia. 
Additionally, it can help relax your body, releasing tension and placing you in a peaceful state in which you're more likely to fall asleep.

IN CONCLUSION


Ah, we could talk about the benefits of meditation all day! These are some (there are a lot more!) of the benefits you'll enjoy once you make it a habit. 

Now, go practise and don't forget enjoy the present moment!

By: Lora  

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