As a doctor working in mental health for 10 years, I discovered the scientific benefits of mindfulness meditation in supporting my own health and also helping my clients flourish in their lives. The practice had transformative effects on my own life, and the research I discovered compelled me to teach those who came to me looking for ways to enhance their wellbeing and happiness. I created Mindful in May, the global online mindfulness challenge in 2012 and since then thousands of people have learned mindfulness and raised money to bring clean water to developing countries.
Meditation practices were once shrouded in a mystical cloak of spirituality, but these days innovative companies like Google and Twitter have become early adopters of mindfulness meditation practice by bringing it to their employees as a way of enhancing workplace wellbeing and effectiveness.
Here are five compelling studies that show the scientific benefits of mindfulness meditation when we integrate it into our daily lives.
Dr. Richie Davidson from the Center For Investigating Healthy Minds concluded in a study in 2003 that a short term mindfulness training program resulted in participants developing a stronger immune response when challenged with the flu injection. A healthy immune system often results in optimal physical health overall.
Research has demonstrated that people who suffer from depression and negative mood states have more electrical brain activity on the right side of the brain, compared with those who have more a positive, resilient attitude in life.
There was a study that demonstrated that with regular mindfulness practices, the electrical brain activity shifted from right to left, “left-sided anterior activation,” indicating a transition to more positive emotional states. Simply put, the scientific benefits of mindfulness meditation lead to greater happiness.
A study by Dr. Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Harvard University, revealed a correlation between regular mindfulness meditation and growth in the thickness of the pre-frontal cortex, a high-functioning area of the brain responsible for functions like focused attention and regulating the emotional responses. This research also suggested that meditation may impact reduce age-related decline in brain structure.
A groundbreaking study by Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD explored the effects of mindfulness meditation on an enzyme in the body called telomerase, which functions to protect DNA from age and stress-related damage. Interestingly enough, telomerase was increased in the group of regular meditators, suggesting that meditation can protect the cells from age-related damage.
A rigorous study by Teasdale and Segal revealed that mindfulness meditation could reduce the rate of relapse of depression by up to 44% in people who had suffered previous episodes. This effect was comparable with staying on a maintenance dose of anti-depressants.
Discover more about the benefits of scientific mindfulness meditation in my book The Happiness Plan
To read the next Mindful in May article, click here.
NOTE: This article was written by Dr. Elise Bialylew and is part of the Mindful in May series, the world’s largest online mindfulness meditation and fundraising campaign. Every May, thousands of people worldwide join the program featuring the world’s best experts and build mental resilience through committing to 10 minutes of meditation per day, while also raising funds to address the world’s most urgent global issues. Over the last eight years, Mindful in May has taught over 40,000 people to meditate while raising $800,000 to bring clean, safe drinking water to the developing world. Due to the unprecedented and catastrophic bushfires in Australia, this year Mindful in May’s fundraising efforts will be directed toward this cause.