Meditation makes you a better researcher
What meditation really brings you - 7 unbeatable arguments from scientific research
Inspiration, food for thought and tips for a good and fulfilling life
Sitting on pillows all day and meditating, what's the point?
You think meditation is only for Asians, esotericists and hippies? That you are not spiritual enough, too restless for that? Or that this guru nonsense doesn't work anyway - at least not for you?
If you feel addressed by these questions, or rather clichés, you should definitely read on and let yourself be taught better. Because the research interest around meditation has not risen in vain lately. Scientists are discovering more and more fascinating effects of meditation. On body and mind. And there are quite a few of them. Stress reduction or pain relief are just two.
In today's article I have packed the most important findings from scientific research into 7 unbeatable arguments for you. They show you how effective the training from the Far East actually is. They will give you convincing answers to the question "why meditate?" And who want you to start right away tomorrow ;-).
What is meditation all about?
First of all, we should make sure that you and I are talking about the same thing. Because meditation is not the same as meditation. Especially with such a hotly debated term, the understanding of what is meant by it differs quite a bit. For a long time meditation was lumped together with esotericism. Maybe you associate it with it in part. The best proof that this is not the case is the fact that, among other things, it has established itself over the last few decades as an effective relaxation method.
It is now becoming more and more clear that meditation is much more than that. A mental training with impressive effectiveness. The fact that meditation undoubtedly has religious roots, but can in no way be reduced to them, also confirms the origin of the word."Meditation" comes from Latin. "Meditari" means something like to think, to ponder, to consider.
So it's about putting yourself in a state of consciousness of yourself, turning inward
Meditation means to be present, that is, to be in the here and now. As an observer, a silent witness, without evaluating what happened. It just means to be there. Without goals, intentions and tasks, without having to do anything. It also means letting the constant flow of your thoughts come to rest and practicing mindfulness and awareness for everyday life and your feelings. To accept what is in the moment and to experience silence, emptiness, freedom, being and peace.
As you can see from this description, meditation works without any problems without excessive spirituality. It is simply not a strict, rigid and religiously oriented undertaking that is only reserved for an elite of monks and nuns or ultra-spiritual disciples of yoga. On the contrary: the path to meditation is open to everyone.
Now we come to the "why meditate" question. What would you get out of it if you found a suitable form of meditation and let it move into your life?
1. Meditation reinforces positive feelings and sets your happiness spiral in motion
In their study How Positive Emotions Build Physical Health (2013) the wellbeing researcher Barbara Fredrickson investigated the healing effects of meditation. 65 office workers led the so-called for 6 weeks according to instructions Loving Kindness Meditation (also Loving-Kindness Meditation).
In an upright sitting position, you should speak to yourself thoughts of goodness related to your own well-being for 15 minutes a day. Sentences like "May I be full of joy" or "May I be happy and contented". These thoughts expand every week. After thoughts that focus on yourself, loved ones, acquaintances and finally all of humanity will gradually be included. That works with sentences like these:
- "May those I love be full of joy."
- "May my friends and also strangers be happy."
- "May all people be cheerful."
The result was clear.Six weeks after the training, the participants perceived significantly more joy, hope, gratitude, love and fewer negative feelings than non-participants. After all, you experienced that tooRelationships with other people more positiveand closer. This in turn resulted in positive physical changes in the autonomic nervous system. The participants in the training had higher vagus nerve activity, which is an objective sign of health and relaxation. Because the vagus nerve is active when organs such as the heart or the abdomen relax. A higher level of activity therefore stands for relaxation and well-being and is a marker of physical health. These results led the researcher to conclude that meditation sets in motion a spiral of wellbeing. Positive feelings, good togetherness, active vagus nerve, which in turn allows even more positive feelings.
The study also provides an explanation of why meditation works: Because feelings of joy are activated and you become more involved in the community. It also shows that you can actively improve your physical health with relatively simple daily exercise.
2. Meditation improves your gene activity
For the first time, an international research team was able to work in a new study prove that mindfulness and meditation also leave traces on a genetic level. In the study, they compared people who participated in a one-day intensive mindfulness meditation with those who had engaged in calm, but non-meditative activities for the same period of time.
After just eight hours of mindful meditation, a whole series was already showing genetic and molecular differences in meditators. But not in the control group.
“The most interesting thing about our observations is that the changes affect exactly the genes that anti-inflammatory and pain reliever drugs target,” explains Dr. Perla Kaliman from the Institute for Biomedical Research in Barcelona.
Meditation therefore downregulates or suppresses genes that promote inflammation. In the future, further studies should therefore show to what extent chronic inflammatory diseases can be treated through meditation.
3. Meditation lowers your blood pressure and thus your risk of heart attack
A research team led by Robert H. Schneider from Maharishi University in Fairfield led one Long-term studyover 5 ½ years. The team looked at how meditation affects high blood pressure. They randomly assigned 201 patients with coronary artery disease to a meditation group or a health education group. The participants in the meditation group practiced for 20 minutes each day.
The result clearly spoke in favor of the meditation group. Here there was a 48% reduction in the risk of heart attacks, strokes and mortality. This change was accompanied by a reduction in the so-called systolic blood pressure by an average of 4.9 mmHG.
Systol ... what?
Let me explain briefly: When your heart muscle pumps blood through your body, it does not do so in a flowing manner, but in a bursty manner. Every time your left ventricle contracts, the blood is suddenly pumped into your main artery, causing your blood pressure in the vessels to rise briefly. The maximum pressure reached is called the upper blood pressure value or systolic blood pressure. The phase in which this heart action takes place is called systole. This blood pressure is mentioned first when measuring blood pressure. For example, if your doctor says to you, "Your blood pressure is 125 over 85," 125 is your systolic value.
So why is the 4.9 mmHG drop found in the study good? It's simple: high blood pressure is dangerous and increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes. So if meditation causes your systolic blood pressure to drop by 4.9 mmHG, that's good for you. By the way, MmHG stands for "millimeters of mercury". The name comes from the time when blood pressure was still measured with devices that actually used the level of mercury as a blood pressure reference value.
Back to the study: In addition to the reduced blood pressure, stress and arousal also decreased in the participants. The three factors (high blood pressure, chronic stress and constant excitement) represent risk factors for a later heart attack. That is why the scientists see meditation as a promising way of preventing heart disease.
4. Meditate relieves your pain
The American researcher David Orme-Johnson of the Maharishi University of Management in Iowa examined the effects of meditation on subjective pain perception. The researchers divided the 24 participants into two groups. People in the first group had years of experience with transcendental meditation. This is a form of meditation that frees the mind from external stimuli and aims to concentrate fully on the inside. The other group consisted of people who had never meditated before.
In the first part of the study, the scientists examined the brain activities of all subjects while they were holding two fingers in water at 51 degrees Celsius. The people in the second group (control group) were then taught transcendental meditation for five months. The test was repeated once more after completing this training. As a result, the researchers found that although both groups rated the intensity of the pain roughly the same. Certain brain areas of the meditation-experienced participants reacted 40 to 50 percent weaker than those of the control group in the first test. In the second test, after the people in the control group had also been trained in meditation, this difference disappeared.
The effect was particularly evident in the areas of the brainwho are responsible for the emotional processing of pain. This suggests that regular meditation does not reduce the sensation of pain itself, but the suffering associated with it. For example, by reducing pain-aggravating physical reactions such as tension or stress. What exactly causes the effect is an exciting research question for the future.
Finally, I would like to emphasize a statement by the scientists that I hope is encouraging.Years of meditation practice are not necessary for a pain-relieving effect. After only five months of regular meditation, the reduced brain activity was just as evident in people in the control group as in test participants with more than 30 years of experience.
5. You can combat your stress effectively just by briefly meditating
Meditation procedures are a powerful way to influence your own mental processes, and thus your inner patterns to change. Many experts therefore refer to meditation as one of the sharpest weapons against your everyday stress. Such as, for example, the molecular biologist, behaviorist and founder of MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) Jon Kabat-Zinn. Many studies in this area support his claim.
For example, a study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology in 2014. She proves that already three 25-minute practical units inMindfulness meditation for three consecutive days are sufficient to impressively psychologicalstressdismantle. This clearly speaks against the claim that you have to meditate for a very long time before you can reap the fruits of your "labor". Specifically, 66 people between the ages of 18 and 30 took part in the study. The participants in the meditation group met on three consecutive days with training sessions of 25 minutes. They learned to focus on the breath and the present moment.
The control group received a cognitive training program. One of the things you should do is analyze poetry. After the respective training units, both groups had to solve language and math problems in front of a strict jury. The participants in the meditation group stated that they were less prone to stress as a result of the meditation. So as you can see, it is worthwhile to start meditating when you reduce your stresswant.
6. Meditation will help you lose weight and make you slim
Did you think meditation is just for relaxation and personal development? I tell you: this method can do a lot more! Like paving the way to your perfect beach figure, for example. Because it has been proven by experts that the Far Eastern technology can also score points in terms of physical fitness and weight reduction!
The team around Evelien van der Veerfrom Wageningen University in the Netherlands examined 400 meditators over a period of two years.
The scientists found out that they had learned to recognize whether they were really hungry or just craving chocolate and the like. Their conclusion: Meditation helps to find out what you really need at a certain moment and combats your cravings. So it sharpens your own senses for the essentials by strengthening your self-awareness and your self-control. And thus the most important factors if you want to change your eating behavior in the long term. If you want to declare war on unhealthy cravings, the experts advise you to hide your surroundings for a few minutes, e.g. with the help of a meditation listening program.
7. Meditating changes your brain in ways that are beneficial for your health
Meditation shifts your brain activities to positive areas. For example, brain cells and gray matter are built up that are responsible for your memory and attention. And they play a crucial role in dementia or depression. Harvard researchers working with Sara Lazar at the Massachusetts General Hospital were able to show these physiological changes using magnetic tomography (MRT).
In contrast to a control group, participants took part in mindfulness meditation training for 8 weeks. Both two weeks before the start the study and at the end of the eight-week program, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was taken of the brains of the participants in both groups.
The result: The participants in the meditation training reported that they felt less stressed after this. The MRI scans showed that the gray matter in the amygdala was decreasing, in the hippocampus and in the area of emotion regulation.
You most likely did not have any medical or other neuroscientific studies behind you.
Therefore again in German 😉
The amygdala is a brain structure whose main job is to process your emotions. In a manner of speaking, it analyzes the potential risk posed by the external stimuli that are currently affecting you. If it comes to the conclusion that there is a risk, it immediately initiates further processes. That's why your legs, for example, carry you so quickly. The amygdala is therefore highly active when there are strong emotions and strong arousal. Not only with fear, but also with stress. A lower amygdala activity, as in the study, is therefore the anatomical counterpart to a reduced experience of stress. And thus a sign of little (er) stress.
We continue with the hippocampus: It is the area of the brain that controls memory, learning, self-confidence, introspection and compassion. These are areas that you can all improve through meditation. The increased number of brain cells in the area of emotion regulation allows you to cultivate inner positivity more easily and helps you to remain emotionally stable.
In summary, through meditation you develop new neural circuits, synapses and processes. They make you more attentive, more sensitive, more productive and happier. If that's not enough of a reason to start? 😉
If you would like to learn more about what meditation can do to you and your brain, I can warmly recommend the Arte report “Monks in the laboratory - neurosciences discover meditation from the Far East”.
You can find the full 6 parts on youtube. Look at her. It's worth it 🙂.
Are you still asking yourself: why meditate, what's in it for me? I hope the answer is no. And I was able to convince you that meditation has so much to offer and that it can enrich your life enormously. The same applies to meditation: no master has yet fallen from heaven. Therefore one after the other. In the first step, it was important to me to free yourself from a prejudiced attitude and to familiarize yourself with the positive effects of meditation. There will be more articles on how to slowly approach meditation practice.
In the meantime, you can benefit from guided meditations
Like, for example, the Loving Kindness Meditation, which was part of one of the studies that I presented to you. I have one for you great sitefound, on which you can read all the important information again. But it also gives you concrete practical instructions with which you can get started right away.
The second guided meditation that I would like to introduce to you is one by Veit Lindau. If you're already drawn to spirituality, you might enjoy his meditations. In "Emotional Relaxation" he invites you to perceive and accept your current emotions and thereby relax. Have fun, rest and self-knowledge.
As a last practical impulse, I have a guided meditation by Peter Beer. Her name is "Self love & Gratitude" and thus addresses two very central basic building blocks for your long-term happy and fulfilled life. I wish you many relaxing and experience-rich moments with it.
First of all, it is important to me that you actually internalize a positive attitude towards meditation. That's why I have an assignment for you.
Try to get into an exchange with a person of your choice who is critical of meditation. Share the information above. In this way, they are guaranteed to be firmly anchored in your memory and you can check for yourself which of the scientific results is most important to you.
Please let me know with a comment what you think of meditation, what your meditation practice looks like if you already practice regularly and what a tip you would give a meditation beginner.
PS: Sharing is caring: If you liked the article and it helped, share it now with your loved ones and with all people who the knowledge can also help. Thank-you!
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HELLO, I AM ULRIKE.
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