The Science Behind Mindfulness Meditation

Can mindfulness meditation really bring benefits? What’s the science behind mindfulness meditation? What are the hard facts? I did a detailed research on many studies conducted by leading universities and medical experts to find answers.

My observation is that the science is still “catching up”. Science has found that there are many benefits. However, exactly how it happens is still under investigation. 

The American Psychological Association explains the science behind mindfulness meditation as follows.

Mindfulness meditation appears to develop the skill of self-observation, which neurologically disengages the automatic pathways that were created by prior learning and enables present-moment input to be integrated in a new way. Meditation also activates the brain region associated with more adaptive responses to stressful or negative situations. Activation of this region corresponds with faster recovery to baseline after being negatively provoked.”

The following is useful information on scientific research conducted by various organizations on mindfulness meditation. Please note that information on this page should not be considered as medical advice. You must see a qualified medical practitioner for any health concerns. Don’t use these articles to replace conventional care or as a reason to postpone seeing a health care provider about a medical problem.

American Psychological Association

In an article published by The American Psychological Association, various methods of research on mindfulness meditation have found the following benefits.

Reduced rumination: In case you don’t know what rumination is, it’s the process of continuously thinking the same negative and depressing thoughts, this can cause mental disorders and intensify depression. In a study conducted in 2008, 20 novice meditators were asked to participate in a 10-day intensive mindfulness meditation retreat. After the retreat, the group had significantly higher self-reported mindfulness, decreased negative self-talk, fewer depression symptoms, less rumination and significantly better working memory capacity.

Stress reduction: There were 39 studies conducted in 2010 that explored the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. 

The researchers concluded that mindfulness-based therapy may be useful to:

  • Improve working memory capacity
  • Increase your ability to focus
  • Help disengage from emotionally upsetting pictures 
  • Help in forming satisfying relationships

Harvard University Research on the science behind mindfulness meditation

Harvard scientist Dr. Herbert Benson has insisted that the mind plays a critical role in the body’s health and disease states. He says that a simple intervention aimed at emptying the mind of the constant barrage of intrusive thoughts can achieve major benefits for the body.

Another article published by Harvard University has said mindfulness meditation can benefit against an array of conditions both physical and mental, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and psoriasis.

Watch this video from Harvard University

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

An article published by The National Institute of Health says the following:

Many studies have investigated meditation for different conditions, and there’s evidence that it may reduce blood pressure as well as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and flare-ups in people who have had ulcerative colitis. It may ease symptoms of anxiety and depression and may help people with insomnia.”

The article also says:

Some research suggests that meditation may physically change the brain and body and could potentially help to improve many health problems and promote healthy behaviours.”

  • In a 2012 study, researchers compared brain images from 50 adults who meditate and 50 adults who don’t meditate. Results suggested that people who regularly practice mindfulness meditation have more folds in the outer layer of the brain. This process (called gyrification) may increase the brain’s ability to process information.
  • A 2013 review of three studies suggests that meditation may slow, stall, or even reverse changes that have taken place in the brain due to normal aging.
  • Results from a 2012 NCCIH-funded study suggested that meditation can affect activity in the amygdala (a part of the brain involved in processing emotions), and that different types of meditation can affect the amygdala differently even when the person is not meditating.
  • Research about meditation’s ability to reduce pain has produced mixed results. However, in some studies, scientists suggested that meditation activates certain areas of the brain in response to pain.

Read the full article here.

The above is just a fraction of information available on the science behind mindfulness meditation. The science and research have proven beyond any doubt that mindfulness and meditation can bring many health benefits.

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