Author: Sydney University (Luigi Fontana)
Here are five scientifically proven benefits of mindfulness meditation:
- Decreased stress and anxiety. Stress is the physiological reaction to a peril, while anxiety is a reaction to stress itself. Chronic stress and anxiety result in irritability, muscle tension, headaches, poor concentration and insomnia. It can also affect health by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and the risk of developing a heart attack. Performing regular aerobic exercise is very effective in reducing stress and anxiety. But mindful meditation has also been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, anxiety, and addictive-compulsive behaviours, while elevating and stabilising mood, and improving sleep quality.
- Reduced negative thoughts. Cognitive rumination consists of repetitively thinking about the causes, consequences and symptoms of one’s negative emotions without finding a solution. When someone is depressed, the ruminative thoughts are usually about being inadequate or useless. The repetition and the sensation of inadequacy increase stress and anxiety, which interfere with solving the problem. A study published in the prestigious journal Science has shown that people who spend their time ruminating over past or future events are much more unhappy than those living in the present and able to focus their attention primarily on the things they are doing.
- Reduced emotional reactivity. Fast recovery from emotional challenges and better tolerance to negative emotions, such as sadness, anger, disgust, guilt, and fear, are emblems of a healthy mind. Mindfulness training can improve these outcomes and increase emotional stability. Mindful people are in better control of their emotions. In one study, for instance, practising mindfulness meditation for eight weeks helped people to gain insight into their emotions and to reduce physical distress, anxiety and depression induced by watching sad movies.
- Reduced systemic inflammation. Chronic or repeated mental stress has been associated with increased circulating stress hormones and inflammatory cytokines, which play a key role in the development of many chronic diseases. Data from a well-performed randomised clinical trial show that 8-weeks of mindfulness meditation training in patients affected by generalized anxiety syndrome improves resilience to stressful psychological challenges and reduces systemic inflammation.
- Enhanced concentration capacity. Most people cannot focus on what’s important and let go of all of the distractions that are unrelated to the task at hand. Practising mindfulness can help to improve this ability. One study showed experienced meditators perform better on all measures of attention and have increased information-processing speed. In another study, three months of intensive meditation training enhanced attentional stability.
PROFESSOR LUIGI FONTANA, MD PhD FRACP
Scientific Director, Charles Perkins Centre RPA Clinic and Healthy Longevity Program, University of Sydney; Author of the Path to Longevity (Hardie Grant, 2020); Youtube channel: https://youtube.com/c/lfontana1969