We are sometimes asked whether there are any scientifically proven benefits of meditation, and for us at Beeja, this is a reminder that despite knowledge of meditation’s benefits becoming mainstream, there’s still work to be done communicating the amazing research being done in this area. As immersed in the world of meditation as we are, we know that the answer is an unequivocal yes! However, it isn’t necessarily obvious that meditation isn’t simply a spiritual or “wellness” practice – something that’s nice to do, but not particularly scientifically vigorous in terms of its benefits. This is why we’ve decided to put together a short rundown of some of the latest research into meditation and how it can help us.
While by no means exhaustive, this list provides an overview of some of the most promising and exciting research into this area, and may help you decide to take the plunge and learn this amazing technique!
The Scientifically Proven Benefits of Meditation: What The Research Tells Us
Studying meditation, unfortunately, isn’t always the easiest thing to do vigorously, and as a result of this scientists have often relied on small study groups and self-reported results. Over the course of the last 50 years or so, however, high-quality evidence has nonetheless been growing. There is always room for more studies, but this corpus of research means that there is plenty of scientific evidence behind meditation which we can share with confidence and clarity.
Regular meditators, of course, know the benefits of meditation first hand and are simply waiting for the research to catch up with their lived experience. Having taught over 7,000 people, we know there’s a vast base of anecdotal evidence to suggest that meditation really can be life-changing, and we love hearing people’s stories about how meditation has transformed their lives!
If you want to find out more, head to our reviews page, but in the meantime, here’s a short rundown of recent research into meditation and its benefits:
A note on studies concerning different forms of meditation. Transcendental Meditation is the closest form of meditation to Beeja (having the same root and utilising personalised mantras). However, studies into mindfulness are also a valid part of the literature into meditation from our perspective, as our technique increases present moment awareness (the key aspect of mindfulness) in what, we believe, is a more effortless way.
Meditation Really Does Change Your Brain
Research from a variety of sources has suggested that meditation leads to observable physical brain changes, which may go a long way to explain the source of many of the benefits attributed to this practice:
1. A study from UCLA found that long-term meditators had better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged.
2. Meditation reduces activity in the “me-centre” (the home of rumination).
3. Sara Lazar of Harvard University found evidence for meditation resulting in changing volume in key areas of the brain.
4. Meditation leads to increases in regional grey matter density.
5. A controlled study which compared electrical activity between the brains of people who practiced mindfulness meditation and the brains of others who did not, and found more activity in areas associated with positive thinking and optimism.
Research Shows That Meditation Helps Us Sleep
Poor sleep is what brought our founder, Will Williams, to meditation, and its effect was so profound and immediate that it inspired his long journey of learning to become a meditation teacher. We highly recommend this technique if you struggle with insomnia, and you can find below a small sample of studies into this subject.
1. In a 2015 study, participants who meditated fell asleep sooner and stayed asleep longer, compared to those who didn’t meditate.
2. A long-term study of meditation using personalised mantras found improvements in sleep and a waking state of “restful alertness”, which represents a form of deep physiological rest.
3. Older adults who experience sleep disturbances found their sleep improved by mindfulness meditation immediately after the intervention.
Regular Meditation Reduces Your Anxiety & Stress
When we think of meditation, often the image of a chilled-out and stress-free person is often not far behind. And luckily, the science is there to back this up:
1. Significantly greater effect of transcendental meditation in reducing trait anxiety than treatment-as-usual and other alternative treatments.
2. A study in 2,466 participants also showed that a variety of different meditation strategies may reduce anxiety levels.
3. Meditation using personalised mantras was found to reduce the symptoms of PTSD in refugees from the Congo.
4. A review of several studies suggests that meditation reduces the inflammatory chemicals (cytokines) caused by stress.
5. Yoga and meditation practices can reduce stress and anxiety through the modulation of brain chemicals.
Meditation Can Improve Heart Health
We tend to think of the benefits of meditation in psychological and spiritual terms, but it can also have a very tangible physical effect, one of the most beneficial of which is our heart health.
1. A 5-year randomized controlled study on patients with established coronary heart disease reported a 48% reduction in death, heart attack, and stroke in subjects in the transcendental meditation group compared to controls.
2. A study of 996 volunteers found that meditation using personalised mantras reduced blood pressure by about five points, on average.
3. A review concluded that several types of meditation produced improvements in blood pressure.
There are, of course, many more studies out there which suggest that meditation can make us kinder, delay age-related memory loss, improve our focus and attention, help us overcome addiction and promote our emotional health. If you are unsure about whether to join a meditation course, and are of a scientific frame of mind, we really recommend reading further into the literature to find out more about how meditation can help you.