Many top 500 Forbes companies have regular meditation practice for their employees because of the increase in productivity and wellbeing. This report presents the proven scientific benefits including studies that used random control tests and were peer reviewed to ensure better quality of research.
To study the effects of meditation, studies have been made on meditators using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) and EEG (electroencephalography). The results showed the positive changes within the brain and bodily changes, (Tang YY, Posner MI).
The 6 key benefits of meditation are:
Better focus and attention
Stress reduction and anxiety
Increase in creativity
A growing sense of peace
1. Better focus and attention
A study with very experienced meditators who had practised for over 10,000 hours, found evidence of the meditators having a high degree of gamma activity in the brain (Lutz et al., 2004). Gamma waves are related to focused attention. Meditation training can eventually help reduce the effort it takes to focus your attention. Ultimately, sustaining focus becomes effortless.
However, even short-term meditation training can improve attention and self-regulation (Tang et al., 2007). After only a month of mindfulness meditation (only 11 hours of practice in total - a half hour, 5 days a week) the subjects improved attention and self-regulation.
Meditation can change both brain activity and structures, and may give us unique control over attention by promoting broadening and focus, (Fernandez et. al, 2013). The well renowned meditation author, Sharon Salzburg, stated “training attention through meditation opens our eyes.”
2. Stress reduction and anxiety
In the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction study (Department of Epidemiology) it was proven that meditation induces brain changes similar to traditional long-term meditation practice.
In this study they systematically reviewed the participants for evidence of the secular mindfulness techniques for the function and structure of the brain. This was controlled from MRI throughout the study to state the conscious changes. The results showed increased activity, connectivity and volume in all of the participants. The overall findings gave an increased emotional and behavioral changes which overall benefited the participants.
A clinical Trial of Meditation for Work Stress, Anxiety and Depressed Mood in Full-Time Workers was conducted from 2002 to 2003 in Sydney Australia (Pirotta MV.) During the trial 178 adult workers were to compare mental silence approach to meditation with the benefits they received. The findings showed that during and after the trial it reduced work stress and the depressed mood state, with resulted in more productivity.
3. More energy
Dr Brett Steenbarger is a clinical psychologist who has specialised in the psychology of stock market traders and recommends meditation. He advises people to “think of life as a gymnasium and the obstacles we encounter as the weights we must lift to get stronger. When you can view challenges or resources toward development and not as unfortunate obstacles to be avoided, you'll be well along the path toward brain fitness.” Meditation rewires the brain by strengthening concentration so our energy is not wasted by distractions.
If we don’t meditate, Deepak Chopra, warns we will face a lack of energy. “The worst curse to befall anyone is stagnation, a banal existence, the quiet desperation that comes out of a need for conformity.” When you meditate you spring clean your mind so that you have more energy for tasks that are useful.
4. Increase in creativity
The creative process is a roller-coaster of creative blocks and sudden inspirations. Steve Hagen is the author of Meditation Now or Never and sees meditation as a way of living. He says, “If you can get past resistance to meditation, nothing else in life will be an obstacle.”
Creativity is deviating from past experiences and known procedures. To increase our creativity we need to create space for new ideas and meditation releases old stagnant thoughts which allows fresh ideas to surface. Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, "all true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness". Deepak Chopra advises “you must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible”.
In a university study, 40 individuals participated and had to meditate for 25 minutes before doing their thinking tasks (Lorenza, 2014). They performed better in divergent thinking after mindfulness meditation. Divergent thinking is a method of creativity and is allowing new ideas to be generated.
5. More clarity
Matthieu Ricard is a French scientist and meditation expert who extensively researches meditation and the brain. He is the author of the bestseller, The Art of Meditation. He talks of the intuition that comes from practising meditation and how this clarity of mind can present itself in our daily life. “Let us live simply in the freshness of the present moment, in the clarity of pure awakened mind.”
Even a short term meditation practice can reduce stress levels to contribute to more clarity. In a randomised control test, 66 subjects were put into either a control group or into the meditation group (Creswell et al. 2014). The meditation group completed a brief 3-day (25-min per day) mindfulness meditation-training program. The results were that after brief mindfulness meditation training it not only buffers self-reported psychological stress reactivity, but it also increases cortisol reactivity to stress. This pattern may indicate that initially brief mindfulness meditation training fosters greater active coping efforts, resulting in reduced psychological stress appraisals and greater cortisol reactivity during social stressors. There is a taming of the mind as meditation teaches us to reduce the impact of stressors, quieten our thoughts and remain in the present.
As stated by Yi-Yuan Tang, a Texas Tech Neuroscientist), mindfulness meditation has been shown to cause distinct changes in brain structure and brain function. Sharon Salzburg discussed how a meditation practice could promote clarity rather than reactivity. “It is about having a balanced awareness about what’s happening around you, so that you can understand it rather than just react to it.”
6. A growing sense of peace
Matthieu Ricard stated that, “while it may be difficult to change the world, it is always possible to change the way we look at it.”
An article in the Psychological Bulletin which showed EGG (electroencephalogram) slows down because of meditation. Within the human nervous system of the parasympathetic system meditation slows the individuals breathing, heart rate along with other involuntary motor functions, (Cahn, B. Rael; Polich, John).
Eckhart Tolle noticed “People tend to dwell more on negative things than on good things. So the mind then becomes obsessed with negative things, with judgements, guilt and anxiety produced by thoughts about the future and so on.” An interesting point is that meditation does not block negative things “meditation can help us embrace our worries, our fear, our anger; and that is very healing. We let our own natural capacity of healing to do the work.” -Thich Nhat Hanh.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”, Albert Einstein. Meditation offers benefits in our daily lives as we can better solve problems, as we become more aware and less reactionary. Matthieu Ricard stresses the importance of internal peace, “Nothing goes right on the outside when nothing is going right on the inside.”
The overall benefits
There are so many benefits and scientific research that proves what meditation can do for you. This section it is listing everything you could experience when practicing regular meditation.
· Increases positive emotion
· Increases immune function
· Inner peace
· Decreases stress and anxiety
· Increases productivity
· Increases your focus and attention
· Improves your memory
Tang YY, Posner MI (Jan 2013). "Special issue on mindfulness neuroscience". Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience. 8 (1): 1–3.
Creswell, J. D., Pacilio, L. E., Lindsay, E. K., & Brown, K. W. (2014). Brief mindfulness meditation training alters psychological and neuroendocrine responses to social evaluative stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 44, 1-12.
Fernandez, A., Goldberg, E. and Michelon, P. The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: How to Optimize Brain Health and Performance at Any Age. SharpBrains, 2013.
Leiden University. "Meditation makes you more creative, study suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 October 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141028082355.htm>.
Lorenza S. Colzato, Ayca Szapora, Dominique Lippelt, Bernhard Hommel. Prior Meditation Practice Modulates Performance and Strategy Use in Convergent- and Divergent-Thinking Problems. Mindfulness, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s12671-014-0352-9
Lutz, A., Greishar, L.L., Rawlings, N. B., Ricard, M., & Davidson, R. J. (2004). Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice. PNAS, 101 (46), 16369-16373.
Tang, Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feng, S., Lu, Q., et al. (2007). Short term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(43), 17152-17156
Cahn, B. Rael; Polich, John (March 2006). "Meditation states and traits: EEG, ERP, and neuroimaging studies". Psychological Bulletin. 132 (2): 180–211.
Pirotta MV, Cohen MM, Kotsirilos V, Farish SJ. Complementary therapies: have they become accepted in general practice? Medical Journal of Australia. 2000;172(3):105–109.
Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus Brain Cogn. 2016 Jul 15;108:32-41. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2016.07.001