Many people have said that practicing mindfulness meditation changed their life. Research scholars have been working to find the biological reason behind it for the past 40 years. Mindfulness helps you to deal with many physical and mental health issues. Today, we’ll discuss the science of mindfulness or the science of meditation, and back the explanation with scientific studies.
Before jumping into the discussion of the science of mindfulness or the science of meditation, first, we should discuss mindfulness, meditation, and mindfulness meditation in detail.
Mindfulness is the capability of a person to stay in the current and present moment. It means being aware of where you are, what you’re doing, and not reacting or being overwhelmed by the things going on around you.
Meditation is when you explore things, not avoid or erase them, and remain in the current and present moment. When you meditate, then the focus of your mind is on your thoughts, emotions (love, hate, loathe, craving), and body sensations (breathing of air in and out of your lungs).
Mindfulness meditation is when you let go of judgment and prejudice of your mind, set free the natural curiosity of your mind in terms of the current moment. Here you allow yourself to be in the current and existing moment and be kind and tender to yourself and others.
It may seem like an interesting idea to some people, and weird thought to other people. Studies have shown that this type of non-judgmental mindset has a great nourishing impact on the well-being of yourself and the community in which you’re living in.
Science of Mindfulness backed by Research Studies
Let’s discuss the science of mindfulness or the science of meditation; some of the main research studies on mindfulness meditation that would help you to improve your mental health and well-being are as follows;
Lower Anxiety & Depress
According to the meta-analysis of 47 studies, meditation treats mental health issues like stress, depression, and anxiety. Researchers discovered that mindfulness meditations like mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), and other programs lower the negative elements of psychological stress. Their impact is similar to what you expect from the usage of antidepressant medications.
While comparing the treatments of MBTC and antidepressants of a review study of 9 clinical trials published in JAMA Psychiatry. William Kuyken and his colleagues discovered that MBTC is an effective treatment for patients that are exhibiting high depression symptoms. It also lowers the relapse risk regardless of relationship status, education, age, or sex.
Jon Kabat Zinn and Richard A. Davidson conducted a randomized controlled study and published it in Psychosomatic Medicine. It showed that people that participated in the 8-weeks mindfulness meditation training program that they had more antibodies than non-participant after receiving the flu vaccination. They further measured the brain activity of both participants and non-participants; they discovered a better antibody response to the immune system and positive feelings among participants.
David Cresswell conducted a study at the University of California that showed that MBSR amplifies immunity among HIV patients. The improved immune system explains the reason why psoriasis treatment has amplified the healing.
Nicholas Cherubin and Dr. Eileen Luders conducted a study in Australia and UCLA School of Medicine showed that practicing mindfulness meditation for a long time protects your brain from gray matter atrophy. Another study in 2017 showed that meditation amplifies the attention of your brain.
A controlled study comprised of people aged from 55 to 77 years old and it was focusing on practicing control activity and breathing meditation for 8 weeks. The participants were to perform the Stroop test in order to measure their emotional control and attention level of the brain through electroencephalography. The participant went through the breathing training program; they performed better in the Stroop test and had better attention than non-participants.
Meta-analysis of 18 studies comprised of 8 weeks of MBCT and MBSR discovered that mindfulness meditation improves the elements of cognition. Meta awareness, cognitive flexibility, autobiographical memory, and short-term memory are some of the main skills that allow a person to be aware of the negative thought pattern to better respond and develop to new experiences.
Focused Mind & Less Wandering
DMN (default mode network) is a part of the brain that deals with the process of self-referential and mind-wandering. It becomes more active when you’re performing multitasking. A research study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that when you perform advanced meditation, then DMN isn’t active. Those who meditate seasonally, then mind remains at a restful state and wanders less.
A study on heart disease patients, randomly assigned patients either to practice mindfulness meditation or stay there on the waitlist for their treatment turn. The patients who participated in the meditation program performed better in the cardio 6 minutes walking test, their heart rate was slower than those who simply stayed there in the waiting room. In fact, meditation is good for a healthy heart.
Improved Mental Health
Mental health researchers say that when you include mindfulness meditation in the treatment plan, then it turned out to be effective in dealing with issues like chronically relapsing depression, drug addiction, borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other conditions. People have gone through the 8-week MBSR program, and then they can differentiate their addictive and impulsive behavior, repetitive destructive emotions, and ruminative thoughts, and disentangle them.
Slow Cellular Aging
The aging of cells is a natural process and the cell division increases due to stress and distress. Meditation impacts the protein telomeres that are at the end of the chromosomes and that prevents them from aging. Research studies have found that for people who practice meditation, their telomeres are longer in length.
A research review study in 2018 developed a link that mindfulness meditation amplifies telomere activity. Another study showed that kindness and love meditation slows down the biological aging process.
Self-Confidence & Leadership
AD Amar and his colleagues evaluated the leadership and self-perception skill of senior managers in London and then asked to go through a secular meditation training program for 12 weeks. They published their results in the Academy of Management Proceedings, and it found that the training has increased their personal skills like moral intelligence, inspiring a shared vision, and their self-confidence level.
Research scientists at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research conducted a study on six people in order to measure EEG monitoring and our brain response to breathing exercises. They ask the participants to practice normal-paced breathing, fast-paced, and cycling between paces of 8th time. Next, they have to count their breaths inhaling/exhaling for short intervals, and finally, they have to perform the focusing task. Various breathing styles not only impact the brain stem, but also the brain regions like body awareness, emotions, and attention. When you practice breathing exercises, then you can manage experiences, thoughts, and moods.
A study funded by NCCIH focused on 54 chronic insomnia patients, and it showed that MBSR helps them to deal with insomnia. MBTI (mindfulness-based therapy for insomnia) offers effective results for severe insomnia patients than simple MBSR.
Conclusion: Science of Mindfulness & Science of Meditation
After an in-depth study of the science of mindfulness and the science of meditation; we’ve realized that mindfulness meditation could play a significant role in our lives. If you want to improve your mental activity, then practice meditation in your routine life.
Ahsan is an accomplished researcher and has a deep insight in worldly life affairs. He goes Live 3 days a week on various social media platforms. Other than research writing, he’s a very interesting person.