The practice of meditation has been around for thousands of years. Recent studies show meditation and mindfulness can have a positive impact on stress, anxiety, focus, creativity and even relationships.
The psychological benefits of meditation are wide ranging: heightened creativity, decreased stress and anxiety, decreased irritability, improved memory and even increased happiness and emotional stability. Regular meditation can also help you to be a better problem solver, with a more focused mind, leading to greater overall productivity. In addition, psychologically speaking, meditation can increase awareness, while making self-actualization more probable, help with mood swings, boost confidence, increase self-acceptance & empathy.
Investigators from the Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital found that practicing meditation causes what is called the “relaxation response,” the opposite of the “fight-or-flight” response—what happens to our bodies when we get stressed. Their studies showed that the relaxation response alleviates anxiety and also has positive effects on heart rate, blood pressure, and brain activity.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating studies published on meditation is one from several years ago — but one that is good to keep in mind if you’re interested in mental health and brain plasticity. The study, led by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), found that meditating for only 8 weeks actually significantly changed the brain’s grey matter — a major part of the central nervous system that is associated with processing information, as well as providing nutrients and energy to neurons. This is why, the authors believe, that meditation has shown evidence in improving memory, empathy, sense of self, and stress relief.
Another recent study examining the health benefits of positive thinking found that mindfulness exercises like meditation or yoga actually changed the length of telomeres in breast cancer patients — which works to prevent chromosomes from declining. And in the past, researchers have found that people who practiced meditation actually had different brain structures than people who didn’t.
As you can see, when you meditate you build up your psychological resilience, giving you greater and greater ability to weather mental and emotional storms as they pass through, with the effects compounding and enabling you to calmly pass through ever greater issues.
If you would like to have some assistance as you begin the practice of meditation, the following apps might prove helpful to get you started:
Stop, Breathe and Think