The top science-backed benefits of meditation on your brain and body
Real talk: The Covid-enforced working from home thing was a nice break in routine at first, but after the banana bread and Dalgona coffee fads died down, monotony and stress has started to set in amongst many Malaysians.
A nationwide survey by PWC Malaysia has found that employees are finding it difficult to achieve a work-life balance, thanks to the pressure to always be “on”. For many of us, that usually means a never-ending parade of Zoom meetings, feeling like we have to respond to work messages or emails late at night, on top of spending time with our families, and dealing with the general stress and physical isolation of living in a pandemic.
And as a knee-jerk response to the stress, some of us completely disconnect from our surroundings - and our own minds - by watching TV or taking a nap. However, that doesn’t do much to help your stress levels long-term, it just shunts the negative feelings aside for a moment, only for them to flood back when we shut off the TV or drag ourselves out of bed.
What we need are tools to manage our emotions and stress levels - and one amazingly helpful tool is meditation.
It sounds a little New Age-y, but as more and more people report glowing successes after having tried meditation, scientists are sitting up and taking note.
From stress management and memory enhancement, to boosted immunity and interpersonal skills, researchers are finding that meditation can benefit your life in almost every way.
Ready to explore the benefits of meditation? Here are seven of the top scientifically-backed benefits you could experience in your own life:
Experts have started using scientific imaging to literally see the massive benefits of meditation on your brain.
According to this study published in Psychiatry Research, regular and consistent meditation can cause changes in the concentration of your grey matter especially in your hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for learning and memory, boosting your ability to gain and retain information.
Reduces stress and anxiety
Searching “the benefits of meditation” online will bring up a whole host of articles touting meditation’s ability to reduce stress, and imaging proves those claims right.
Scans showed a reduction in the amygdala’s cell volume, the part of the brain that handles stress and fear, which theoretically would lead to a decrease in anxiety.
Sick of feeling sick? Meditation might help. UCLA researchers have found tentative results suggesting that regular mindfulness meditation boosts the number of antibodies in your blood, which helps to fight illness, and may even slow down cell ageing. While research also indicates that further studies will be needed to make these findings completely bulletproof, it seems like a good idea to just get started anyway!
Cranks up creativity
Studies like this one suggest that mindfulness meditation can kickstart your journey into creative thinking and problem-solving. Researchers found that non-meditators tended to tackle problems using outdated solutions instead of coming up with new ones, compared to meditators, who were able to creatively find new ways of looking at things.
Fires up productivity
Nobody likes that sluggish feeling we sometimes get on Mondays - but it’s much worse when that feeling persists all week. Doing even 10 minutes of meditation every day can combat that - and here’s how! According to research, meditation acts as a “workout” for your prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for decision-making, focus, behaviour, planning, and self-discipline. People who meditate were found to have increased grey matter in that area, which means your brain will find it easier to execute productive actions and decisions.
After being separated from friends and loved ones for so long, it’s natural to feel a struggle to reconnect. This, however, can be mitigated with meditation, which has been shown to fire neural connections to brain sites that regulate emotions like empathy and kindness. The deep state of flow - where your mind is in complete harmony with itself - that meditation ignites also makes it easier to build social connections, and makes us feel more affectionate and amicable.
Build on emotional intelligence
A lot of stress stems from our trouble understanding our own emotions, which leads to feelings of distress and confusion. Mindfulness meditation improves our emotional intelligence by giving us the tools we need to be aware of our feelings and emotions and to process them better.
Before you unroll that yoga mat and fire up that incense, it's also worth remembering that while meditation and mindfulness exercises impact the way our brains function, it’s also just one part of a holistic wellness plan: the food we eat plays a large role in our bodies’ ability to handle the rigors of daily life. Read our posts on the benefits of walnuts on our heart and joint health here, as well as this one on the benefits of raw, natural honey here.
We can't wait for you to embark on your journey towards a holistic, healthy lifestyle! Let us know how you're doing by sharing your journey with us on our Facebook or Instagram pages - we'd love to hear from you.