The Scientific Benefits of Meditation
Most of us have heard about wellness and the wonders of meditation. We know we feel refreshed after a meditation session, but many of us might not understand why or how meditation makes us feel better. There are just five scientific benefits behind why meditation and why it makes you feel "oh so good" after.
Longer Attention Span
The average human's attention span is more narrow than ever. With so many stimuli and the constant stream of information from being constantly connected via technology, your mind rarely gets a break. The average attention span of a human is 8.25 seconds which is slightly shorter than that of a goldfish. That doesn't mean that all hope is lost. Scientific studies have shown that mindful meditation activities like meditation are proven to increase Executive Control of Attention and Sustained Attention. Executive Control of Attention refers to your memory in the short term and your ability to block out potential distractions while Sustained Attention is how long you can keep your attention on one focal point. This is because when you practice meditation you are switching to an observer's stance and focusing on only what you are thinking, feelings, or your surroundings. Mediation is a time when you are in complete control of your attention.
Lowers Stress and Anxiety
With how connected the world is now it's no surprise that more and more people are struggling with stress and anxiety. While the best way to address chronic anxiety is to talk to a mental health specialist, meditation is a great coping skill that is proven to decrease anxiety and stress. Meditation has a natural calming effect due to the increased focus on your breath and the reduced focus on any thoughts that might be causing stress.
Self-Awareness is a central part of meditation. Self-Awareness is defined by psychologists Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund as, "Self-awareness is the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, or emotions do or don't align with your internal standards. If you're highly self-aware, you can objectively evaluate yourself, manage your emotions, align your behavior with your values, and understand correctly how others perceive you." Meditation has been proven to change areas in your brain that help to increase self-awareness such as increased grey matter in the hippocampus.
Much like mediation improves stress and anxiety, mediation has also been proven to improve sleep for similar reasons. Meditation helps bring calmness to the mind and body both of which are important when it comes to sleep. Meditation is proven to counteract the physical stress responses in our body such as Fight-or-Flight. It also helps calm stress pathways such as heart rate and blood pressure and helps ease mental tension. All of which are optimal for a great night's sleep.
Helps with Pain Management
While meditating isn't going to take away your pain, it can help you manage it better. When you're meditating you are observing and accepting all sensations in the body, including pain which can in turn increase your pain tolerance. Meditation has also been proven to release endorphins which also helps with pain tolerance. A 2016 study by Haggai et al. found the chemicals released during meditation to be significant in reducing pain.