Research Proves (repeatedly) The Benefits of Meditation
Westerners love proof, proof that diets work, proof that gadgets work, and proof that ideas work. So, when science proves the benefits of meditation and that it can help you deal with everything from stress to chronic pain, what prevents you from jumping on board and really going for it?
I used to do clinical research in the traditional arenas like pharmaceutical research and cognitive therapy as well as in the less traditional (and controversial) arenas of alternative medicine and – even – prayer at a distance!
I like to take the researcher’s approach to everything that I do in life; show me that it works, show me that it makes a difference, and I’ll give it a try.
I apply this kind of reasoning to many areas of my life, fitness, food, child-rearing, even relationships! So, when science tells me again and again that meditation can work wonders in my life, I love it…especially because I’m already practicing meditation.
If Science Told You That Meditation Could Bring You Happiness, Would You Meditate?
It’s strange to me that years after science and medicine have proven that smoking is bad for people and that it kills us with such diseases as stroke, heart disease, and cancer, people still smoke. It really upsets me when I see young kids smoking, like – what the hell?!?
Doesn’t it makes sense that if some things are shown to promote health and well-being, while others are shown to decrease it, we would chose the healthier path?
Science keeps on cranking out more data and literature on how the art and practice of meditation can help you…YOU to be healthier and happier. Even if you don’t give a damn about your health, wouldn’t you at least like to be happy?
Articles On Science and Meditation
Here are a few articles on the science of meditation and how it can help for you to alleviate stress, provide pain relief, increase your ability to respond compassionately, and maybe even live longer. I’m just offering a “taste” of what’s been published. I hope that you’ll check into the literature on meditation research, it’s great!
For this post I’m choosing some of the most recent studies found within peer-reviewed journals. Depending upon your sources, there are well over 3000 peer-reviewed articles on research into meditation. At the end of this post I’ll list some very good books on science and meditation.
- LONG-LASTING EFFECTS OF MEDITATION: In a very recent study published in the Frontiers in Neuroscience, researchers found that not only does meditation provide an immediate benefit to those who practice it, it also has long-lasting positive benefits. I don’t want to assume that you have a particular training in science, or not, but I’ve included this article because of its implications; meditation training has lasting benefit! This article is very heavy in the language of neuroscience and may be a bit “heady,” but if you read through it, you’ll gain some great insight into what neuroscience is looking at in terms of outcomes and benefits. Here’s the PDF for the full article.
- BENEFITS OF MEDITATION FOR THE TREATMENT OF PAIN: There’s been a lot of research done into the positive effects of meditation on the treatment of pain. Here’s a recent article from the journal, Pain, in which researchers looked at the benefits of a meditation practice for adults suffering from chronic pain. Here’s the PDF for the full article.
- COMPASSION MEDITATION HELPS THE MEDITATOR: The Dalai Lama has been quoted as saying that while meditating on compassion may be of some benefit for others, doing so can be 100% beneficial to the practitioner. Here’s an article from the journal, Clinical Psychology Review, that seems to prove the fact that practicing a compassionate meditation (CM) or loving-kindness meditation (LKM) can at least be beneficial to the practitioner if not also to the recipient of such compassion. It’s also a good article to learn about different methods of meditation practices. Here’s the PDF for the full article.
- MEDITATION HELPS YOU TO LIVE LONGER: I know that this kind of heading can sound deceptive, and while this article, from the Annals of the New Your Academy of Sciences, doesn’t say that meditation will help you to live longer, anecdotal evidence as well as articles such as this one seem to indicate that one of meditation’s benefits could be that not only can you be healthier through meditation practice, you may even live longer! Check it out. Here’s the PDF for the full article.
- MEDITATION CAN REWIRE YOUR BRAIN TO BE MORE POSITIVE: I’ve shared study before on this site, but it’s so cool that I thought I’d share it again. Sara Lazar, at Harvard University, has furthered the brain-research done by Dr. Richard Davidson (check out this link for all of the great research that he’s done) at the University of Wisconsin. In this study, Dr. Lazar found that in just eight weeks of meditation training, for 27-minutes a day, you can rewire your brain to help you to feel better and increase your quality of life. Here’s the link to that study.
A Few Books on Science and Meditation
There are so many books on meditation as well as on research into the benefits of meditation. Here are two of my favorites:
- Zen and the Brain. Written by James Austin, a Zen meditator and professor emeritus in neurology, this book is one of the most comprehensive texts on the interface of neuroscience and meditation. While it was published over a decade ago and there’s plenty of new research into the science of meditation, this book still stands out as an extraordinary example of how the discussion of science within the context of the meditative arts can be explained eloquently and elaborately.
- Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom. Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, Gandhi, and the Buddha all had brains built essentially like anyone else’s, yet they were able to harness their thoughts and shape their patterns of thinking in ways that changed history. With new breakthroughs in modern neuroscience and the wisdom of thousands of years of contemplative practice, it is possible for us to shape our own thoughts in a similar way for greater happiness, love, compassion, and wisdom.
Now That You Know that Science Has “Proved” the Benefits of Meditation
“Okay,” you say, now what?! It’s one thing to have scientists prove that meditation works to help you be more happy and healthy, it’s another thing to take on one more “to do” on your list.
First, don’t treat meditation as a “to do.” Treat it as a “for you.” Meditation is about being able to live your life more fully, being more present in your day-to-day life. So, instead of looking at meditation as being just another thing that you have to do, look at it as being a powerful tool to help you to enjoy what you’re already doing.
As an example, if you like to be healthy then you take the time to exercise, even when you don’t have the time, because you recognize the exercising will help you to remain healthy. In the same way, making the time to practice meditation means that you’ll experience all of the other things that you do in life in a happier state of mind, and in a healthier body. What do you have to lose?
Start Meditating Now
There’s really no time like the present to meditate, or to begin to learn how to meditate. If you already have a meditation practice, good for you – practice. And remember to integrate your practice into all of the opportunities that you have to practice while at work, in the car, in the shower…anywhere!
If you’re new to meditation, I’d suggest downloading the free ebooks available on this site, Can Meditation Change the Way You View Your World? and, How to Work with the Four Distractions to Meditation.
And, if you’d like a tip on the most important thing that you can do in your meditation, then check out this post, How to Meditate – The Most Important Practice…Plus One Great Tip!
Finally, here’s an amazing 10-part “how to” video series from the website, What Meditation Really Is. Check it out. The videos are easy to follow and are accessible to anyone with an interest in meditation.
This site has tons of tools for learning how to meditate and be compassionate.
I encourage you to look through the HUNDREDS of articles that I’ve written and especially check out my weekly meditation tips and other useful meditation materials provided for your health and well being. Please let me know if you’d like to discuss anything with me, have any questions or need clarification regarding anything that I’ve written about.
Other Great Meditation Resources and Information:
Please view the Related Stuff below for help getting started in your meditation practice! Also don’t forget to download my free e-book, Can Meditation Change the Way that You View Your World? and download the free e-book, How to Work with the Four Distractions to Meditation and get started learning how to deal with some of the major obstacles in meditation.
As always, please feel free to share your comments on meditation and contact me if you’d like to see additional content or other topics for discussion on this site.
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