Do you often feel there just aren't enough hours in the day? Running from meeting to meeting, and no matter how efficient your planning skills, you feel as if you are perpetually playing catch-up. Mindfulness meditation can help. It optimizes the body's relaxation response and allows you to decelerate the incessant thoughts and stress hormones that swirl through your brain and body when you are feeling overwhelmed. It helps you stay in the present moment and take notice of your thoughts and actions by taking a step back, focusing on the breath, and mindfully observing what is happening in the here and now. Even fifteen minutes a day can work wonders.
Over the past few decades, researchers have backed up what we knew must be true: that mindfulness meditation can boost your health and contribute to longevity. Still not convinced? Read on, for scientific proof.
1. Better concentration.
Researchers have discovered that the human mind tends to wander for approximately half of your waking hours. By design, mindfulness anchors your attention in the present moment. One particular workplace study by Case Western Reserve University confirmed that mindfulness improves three qualities of attention -- stability, control and efficiency. It is well known that many forward-thinking organizations such as Google and Aetna have implemented mindfulness training into their corporate culture and are reaping the benefits of employees who are more focused and productive.
2. Lower blood pressure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three Americans currently suffers from high blood pressure. That is roughly 75 million people. Numerous studies have been conducted that draw positive correlations between mindfulness meditation and a reduction in high blood pressure. Kent State Universities researchers found that mindfulness-based stress reduction (referred to as MBSR - which includes meditation) can reduce high blood pressure for patients with borderline high blood pressure or "prehypertension." The study affirmed that mindfulness-based practices may act as a valuable substitute to help prevent or delay the need for medication.
3. Improved digestion.
You may have heard of the brain-gut axis or brain-gut connection. This is the term for the interconnected relationship between the nervous system and your digestive system. This symbiotic relationship can be seriously impacted by prolonged stress. Chronic stress can also damage the beneficial bacteria that contribute to healthy digestion, nutrient absorption and immune function. Mindfulness meditation can improve several gut related health issues by lowering elevated stress levels. In one trial, patients with digestive issues who participated in a meditation-based relaxation response course showed a significant drop in symptoms, and were able to reprogram their stress response.
4. More control over emotions.
Meditation is known to increase serotonin -- which naturally boosts your mood. There is a growing number of researchers examining the connection between meditation and mental health. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that meditation can be useful for relieving anxiety, pain, and depression. Another group of researchers discovered found that meditation can even increase brain gray matter volume in part of the brain that governs mood. When practiced regularly mindfulness meditation builds emotional resilience and composure, allowing you to make better decisions, and handle adversity.
5. Reduces inflammation.
Inflammation is associated with many debilitating, yet all too common diseases today, such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer's. One interesting study found that meditation lowers NfK-B inflammation. NfK-B is a complex protein that plays a significant role in the body's inflammatory response. Many people also look to mindfulness meditation as a healthy alternative to help manage chronic pain.
6. Improved relationships with others.
A healthy bi-product of mindfulness meditation is an increased sense of connection to others. One recent discovery even recommended meditating with another person to boost feelings of social connectedness. Group meditation studios and classes are on trend -- providing a sacred space for people to practice together. We also know that mindfulness meditation enhances emotional regulation -- two key factors that contribute to forming and maintaining healthy relationships.
7. More success at work.
Gaining alignment with others is essential in business, and is the key to building a reserve of emotional resilience. Mindfulness meditation is known to help build empathy and emotional regulation, thereby improving your communication skills and the capacity to handle conflict. These are the main proponents of our research-based Meaningful Alignment program that was created to help individuals and teams learn how to communicate mindfully, build trust, and manage difficult conversations.
8. More self-love.
Want better relationships? It may sound trite, but it all starts by loving and accepting yourself. A study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, linked mindfulness meditation to increased feelings of self-esteem.
9. Quells addictive behavior.
A growing number of medical centers are teaching mindfulness meditation to patients for treatment of substance abuse and other addictions. Mindfulness meditation has been proven to help prevent addictive behavior relapse. The practice can be a valuable tool for anyone looking to strengthen their resolve in order to change their patterns of behavior.