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10 Things We Know About the Science of Meditation - Mindful

Meditation increases compassion

Meditation also makes our compassion more effective.

  • Practicing loving-kindness meditation for others increases our willingness to take action to relieve suffering. 
  • For long-term meditators, activity in the part of our brains that reflects on thoughts, feelings, and experiences quiets down, suggesting less rumination about ourselves and our place in the world.

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10 Things We Know About the Science of Meditation - Mindful

10 Things We Know About the Science of Meditation - Mindful

https://www.mindful.org/10-things-we-know-about-the-science-of-meditation/

mindful.org

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Key Ideas

Mindfulness

... is a collection of practices aimed at helping us to cultivate moment-to-moment awareness of ourselves and our environment.

Meditation sharpens your attention

Meditation helps to counter our tendency to stop paying attention to new information in our environment. Other studies have found that mindfulness meditation can reduce mind-wandering and improve attention.

Larger randomized controlled trials are still needed to understand how meditation might work with other treatments to help people manage attention-deficit disorders.

Consistent meditation

Long-term, consistent meditation mindfulness changes our ability to handle stress in a better, more sustainable way.

  • Practicing meditation reduces the inflammatory response in people exposed to psychological stressors.
  • Mindfulness practices help us to be less reactive to stressors and to recover better from stress when we experience it. 

Meditation increases compassion

Meditation also makes our compassion more effective.

  • Practicing loving-kindness meditation for others increases our willingness to take action to relieve suffering. 
  • For long-term meditators, activity in the part of our brains that reflects on thoughts, feelings, and experiences quiets down, suggesting less rumination about ourselves and our place in the world.

Meditation improves mental health

Meditation does seem to be generally effective for your well-being, but it is equal to many other steps you can take to stay healthy, such as exercise or therapy.

Mindfulness and relationship quality

Studies have found a positive link between mindfulness and relationship quality in romantic relationships and relationships with kids.

Mindfulness practice seems to activate the part of the brain involved in empathy and emotional regulation.

Mindfulness reduces biases

  • Brief loving-kindness meditation may reduce prejudice toward homeless people.
  • A brief mindfulness training may decrease unconscious bias against black people and elderly people.
  • Mindfulness may reduce the sunk-cost bias.
  • Mindfulness may decrease the negativity bias.

Meditation impacts physical health

There is some good evidence that meditation affects physiological indices of health, but other factors like education or exercise could also have a role to play.

Meditation might be bad for some

For individuals who have experienced some sort of trauma, meditating can evoke painful experiences that they may not be prepared to confront.

One study found many of the participants experienced fear, anxiety, panic, numbness, or extreme sensitivity to light and sound that they attributed to meditation.

Meditation that is right for you

The type of meditation you choose matters if you want to tackle a specific issue.

Studies have been made to compare four different types of meditation and they found that each type has its own unique benefits. 

How much is “enough”

Research has yet to arrive at a consensus about how long meditation should take.

Perhaps the best guide is “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day—unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour" - Old Zen saying.

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Reducing Stress

Many styles of meditation can help reduce stress.

  • In an eight-week study, a meditation style called "mindfulness meditation" reduced the inflammation response caused by stres...
Controlling Anxiety

Less stress leads to less anxiety.

Regular meditation helps reduce anxiety and anxiety-related mental health issues like social anxiety, phobias and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Promoting Emotional Health

Some types of meditation can improve depression and help you maintain these benefits.

  • Two studies of mindfulness meditation found decreased depression in over 4,600 adults.
  • One study found that participants experienced a long-term decrease in depression.

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Mindfulness is no longer considered a “soft skill,” but an essential part of overall health care.

Meditation helps you navigate stress, both acute and chronic

Mindful breathing can interrupt our stress and fight-or-flight reactions—meditation may “quiet” the amygdala, the area of the brain that responds to stress.

Regular mindfulness practice improves mental focus

 When we multitask, our concentration levels deplete But the simple act of returning to the breath, over and over again, builds the “muscle” of attention, helping you both stay on task and recognize distractions. 

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Not backed up by science
Not backed up by science

While popular, researchers say there is a serious lack of evidence to back up mindfulness apps, even though they are increasingly perceived as proven treatments for mental health. 

Seeking scientific validation

A handful of studies have been published on the efficacy of mindfulness apps, thanks in part to Headspace, one of the most popular apps in the field. In hopes of getting its app scientifically validated, the organization has partnered on more than 60 studies with 35 academic institutions. In the meantime, in lieu of research proving that apps work, marketers tend to draw misleading, but attractive claims.

The paradox of mindfulness apps

Mindfulness disrupts unhelpful habits. If you get distracted easily or have addictions, mindfulness helps curb these habits. But, in contrast, apps become popular and profitable by getting users lightly addicted to repetitive use. So, can an app really treat addiction, or is it inherently part of the problem? As of now, we don’t know the answer to that question.

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