If you think mindful meditation is just for people struggling with mental health, think again. Research shows that adults aged 45-64 are more likely to meditate than any other age group, with almost 50% more women choosing meditation than men.
And there’s good reason mindfulness and meditation have become common place within the wellbeing vocabulary. Scientific studies are proving what has been known by practitioners for some time: that mindful meditation is a universal strategy to help anyone enhance their ability to connect, perform and solve problems in their everyday lives.
In a post-COVID world with more uncertainty and less freedom, more and more people are integrating mindful meditation practices as a way of reclaiming some control over their lives.
Here are 9 benefits of mindfulness meditation, backed by scientific research:
1. Decreased anxiety levels. There have been numerous studies suggesting that mindfulness reduces anxiety. Results from a recent hospital study found that COVID patients awaiting diagnosis who took part in a mindfulness exercise showed considerably higher scores for life satisfaction and lower scores for emotions like anxiety, anger, distress and depression, with the reduction in anxiety being most impressive.
2. Increased creativity and performance. There’s a common misconception that you have to be an expert before you can enjoy the benefits of mindfulness, but the research continues to suggest otherwise. A study conducted by Harvard Business Review showed as little as 10 minutes of guided meditation before a productive period of work could boost creativity levels in people with no previous experience in meditation. It’s a quick and simple way to stimulate cognition and help those around you gain access to increased creativity.
3. Increased engagement and collaboration. Practicing mindfulness has been shown to increase productivity by as much as 120% – that’s effectively doubling rates of achievement at work and naturally boosting morale. When overseeing an extended project or working remotely, (especially in a post-pandemic world) it can be difficult to maintain a sense of interest or dedication at work. In fact, a recent study of millennials in the workplace found a lack of ongoing engagement was one of the main barriers to productivity. It’s also a great team building exercise: The New York Times recently investigated the benefits of group meditation to improve collaboration among staff.
4. Increased immune function. A US study found that a group of meditators had more flu antibodies after completing an 8 week mindfulness meditation course than their control group. Both groups had received the flu vaccine. A similar study found an increase in antibody response with HIV patients and improvement in the inflammatory skin condition psoriasis after meditation.
5. Heart-health improvement. Studies of individuals with pre-hypertension showed a reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, whilst another study of individuals with respiratory sinus arrhythmia showed improved results in breathing from a 6 minute walking test, which is the usual indicator of survival in the event of a heart attack.
6. Improved focus and working memory. Did you know that practicing meditation for just 4 days can already have a noticeable impact on your attention span? In a world with so many distractions, being able to hone your focus back on a task is a key skill for the 21st-century, and meditation can help. While it’s generally thought that your memory can only decline as you get older, 50% of people who practice meditation do so to enhance their memory. Just 30 minutes of mindful meditation a day can boost the production of new learning and memory-building grey matter in the hippocampus.
7. Greater capacity for emotional self-regulation. When it comes to building emotional resilience, an article by the American Psychological Association (APA) suggested that people with as little as one month’s experience in mindful meditation gain the ability to disconnect more effectively from situations that are emotionally upsetting. This isn’t about a lack of empathy, rather it’s about the ability to control our reaction over an emotional situation and remain resilient.. As if there weren’t enough individual benefits attached to practicing mindfulness, there’s also evidence mindful meditation can help cultivate a more compassionate attitude towards others. Meditation has long been associated with having a positive effect on how we relate to those around us, including an increased sense of empathy. A recent study reported in The Atlantic even found that eight weeks of daily meditation could triple the tendency for benevolent behaviour in a person.
9. Improved capacity to cope with change. Having collectively lived through the global pandemic and witnessed bushfires, floods and war, the one thing we’re experiencing in the world is a state of flux. In the end, the only thing that isn’t changing is change itself. Studies of mindfulness on brain function show that mindfulness increases the ability to disengage from stressful stimuli and reduce emotional reactivity to change, ultimately increasing our ability to find acceptance of things outside of our control.