Many of you have heard of the transformative effects and benefits of mindfulness practices. Here are 4 scientific studies that prove the positive, beneficial effects of mindfulness on health, wellbeing, and quality of life.
Mindfulness Significantly Reduces Pain and Anxiety
A study in the Journal of Neuroscience showed that mindfulness meditation reduces pain through multiple brain mechanisms. Just 4 days of mindfulness meditation, pain unpleasantness was reduced by more than half and pain intensity ratings by 40%, compared to those who did not practice.
Another study conducted at the University of Montreal analyzed 209 studies involving more than 12,000 participants, showed large and clinically significant effects in treating anxiety and depression, and the gains were maintained at follow-up.
Since our fast-paced lifestyles are often full of stress, practicing mindfulness may help with stress, anxiety and chronic pain.
Mindfulness Rewires your Brain
Did you know mindfulness can rewire your brain? In a study conducted at Harvard Medical School, 16 people who practiced mindfulness for about 30 minutes a day over a period of 8 weeks showed increases in the gray matter concentration in the part of brain responsible for learning and memory. It also showed a reduction of the gray matter in the region connected to anxiety and stress.
Another study by neuroscientist Sara Lazar showed that mindfulness meditation is involved in the integration of emotion and cognition. An awareness of the sensory stimuli during mindfulness practice can equip the practitioner to use this self-awareness to more successfully navigate through potentially stressful encounters throughout the day. It also suggested that mindfulness may be the key to fighting age-related declines in the brain.
Mindfulness Improves Decision Making
A 2012 UCLA study examined cortical gyrification in association with mindfulness practices. Gyrification refers to the increase in brain surface area and improves neural processing. The study found that long-term mindfulness practitioners have larger amounts of gyrification, implying regular mindfulness practice can lead to an improvement in the way the brain processes information, concentrates and makes decisions.
Mindfulness Boosts Creativity
Mindfulness helps you avoid distractions and become an unbiased observer of what happens around you. This improves your ability to gain insights. A 2011 study found direct evidence for the role of meditation in promoting insight. The study further suggested that watchfulness in meditation contributed to insight.
That means the next time you are stuck with a problem, simply relax and be mindful of the present for a few minutes. After a while, try solving the problem again. Practicing mindfulness in the long term helps boost creativity by helping you gain insight and new perspectives.
Nick Palladino-King teaches students and clients how to reduce stress, to increase happiness and to elevate health through yoga, wellness coaching and strength training.