Some say science and spiritual practices are poles apart – but are they, really? On that note, if you feel something is good for you, do you really need science to confirm its positive effects? However paradoxical it may sound to a diehard scientologist, science and spirituality rely on the same cornerstone: belief. But while the goal of science is to conjure solid evidence to support (or dispute) a certain claim and thus establish or reinforce a belief system, spirituality does not need evidence, simply because its focus rests on universal truths that require no elaboration or analysis. Funnily enough, science can – and in fact does – back up the gains behind meditation which, in itself, is spirituality in its purest form. So, what does science say about meditation and its ‘analyzable’ benefits for us mere mortals
1. MEDITATION CAN HELP ALLEVIATE ANXIETY, STRESS, AND DEPRESSION
Healthcare authorities around the world are warning that anxiety, stress, and depression have become a silent epidemic since the beginning of the 21st century – but scientific studies do hold a grain of hope in betterment. A recent Johns Hopkins research has found that the daily practice of mindfulness meditation has the potential to alleviate anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and even chronic pain. The message is clear: drop the pill – start chanting instead.
2. A FEW MINUTES OF OMMM CAN HELP CURB EMOTIONAL NOM-NOM?
Binge eating usually has deep emotional roots: most people over-indulge in comfort foods when lonely, sad, agitated, or simply bored. And while emotional munching seems to be beyond scientific repair, some studies show that meditation can help control food binges. According to a 2014 review of 14 studies, although mindfulness meditation practices cannot directly promote weight loss, they can produce positive effects in the fight against emotional overeating and consequent weight gain.
3. MEDITATION CAN HELP IMPROVE FOCUS AND COGNITIVE FUNCTION
A 2013 study published in the Psychological Science journal has found that mindfulness meditation can enhance focus and improve cognitive performance in university students. Undergraduates in the mindfulness-trained group exhibited an impressive improvement in the GRE verbal score, and they also achieved better results in tests on working memory and focus compared to the control group of students.
4. BE MINDFUL OF YOUR POISON- OR BETTER STILL, DISS IT ALTOGETHER
A 2014 pilot study found that meditation can help reduce relapse in hazardous addictions such as alcohol abuse. Based on the study’s findings, abstainers who regularly practiced mindfulness meditation were less likely to pick up the bottle again, and they also reported lower intensity of withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, depression, stress, and craving.
5. MEDITATE YOUR WAY TO IMPROVED CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH
A 2006 study into the effects of meditation on cardiovascular health has found that coronary heart disease patients managed to improve blood pressure, insulin resistance, and cardiac autonomic nervous system functions by practicing transcendental meditation every day in the course of 16 weeks. This is extremely good news for people suffering from cardiovascular problems: if you master these techniques, you can ease into reducing your stress levels, which will positively affect both your blood pressure and cortisol levels. There will no longer be a need to go for a checkup as often – and with the advent of modern technology, you can easily schedule an online doctor consultation, and skip the waiting room.
Other science-backed benefits of meditation include increase in creativity and insight problem solving skills, improved spatial and verbal memory, enhanced immune system functions, as well as considerable reduction in physical and emotional pain (an Ommm a day beats pain far more efficiently than even morphine).
Ironic as it may sound, science is crystal clear when it comes to the effect of spiritual practices on human health. Meditation can help cure, prevent, or at least alleviate an array of physical, mental, and emotional issues, and even spirituality-suspicious scientists can’t deny its benefits. Surprised? Don’t be: ancient civilisations were privy to the Zen power, and they were so mindful as to pass the knowledge on to us. All you need to do is put the ancient teachings to good use.
Author Bio – Samantha has a B.Sc. in nutrition, and has spent two years working as a personal trainer. Since then, she has embarked on a mission to conquer the blogosphere. When not in the gym or on the track, you can find her on Twitter, or in a tea shop.