Sometimes we feel like we’re on a hamster wheel. Running as fast as we can to get everything done, but feeling that we’re not really getting anywhere. We get stressed. We get burned out. We can’t see a way out.
And that’s where meditation comes in. It sounds too simple to be true, but a regular daily meditation practice can change everything, putting us back in control, dialing down the stress, and gradually improving the quality of life in a broad range of ways. Here are just some of the things that the last fifty years of research on the benefits of meditation have shown:
The Benefits Of Meditation
1. We exhibit improved memory.
Studies have shown that regular meditation can improve our working memory. Two hundred students were prescribed daily meditation or daily yoga. The group practicing daily mindfulness meditation was shown to have significantly better working memories than the other group. So committing to just a short session of meditation each day can really give our memories a boost.
2. We make better decisions.
Stress has been shown to affect our executive function, that is our attention to detail, our organizational skills, our time management, and other vital day-to-day abilities. Meditation lowers stress and in turn improves executive function, thereby helping us to make better decisions in our personal and professional lives.
3. We handle stress better.
High-stress levels trigger the amygdala in the brain (the ancient part of the brain dealing with fear and strong emotion), and in doing so, shuts off the pre-frontal cortex which deals with logic, decision-making, morality, self-awareness, and empathy. A regular meditation practice can gradually calm the amygdala, easing fears and anxieties, and allow the prefrontal cortex to engage, bringing a more stress-free, logical, calm, and calculating approach to our everyday lives. Incredibly, mindfulness has actually been shown to shrink the amygdala and thicken the pre-frontal cortex.
4. Our verbal skills improve.
As we become more relaxed and calm through a mindfulness meditation practice, our verbal skills improve. Finding the right words quickly is always easier when calm and this becomes easier and easier as the powerful effects of meditation soothe our minds.
5. We super-charge our brain.
Through regular meditation, our brain gets faster and more efficient at processing information. The outer surface of the brain has many convoluted folds formed by a process called gyrification. These folds allow the brain to work faster and more efficiently. Research has shown that people who meditate regularly in the long term have a larger rate of gyrification, which leads to an increased speed of brain cell communication. The cortical folds allow for cells to be closer to one other, requiring less time and energy to transmit neuronal electrical impulses between them.
Meditation is a simple technique and it can take a minimal amount of time out of the day. But the list of the benefits of meditation keeps growing as more and more research is performed on the effects of this ancient practice.
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