Meditation for Cynics

Yes even the most cynical of you CAN and SHOULD meditation And here's why!

Meditation is a hot topic these days.  It seems like everyone is talking about it.  Recently, I heard that sports teams are using it as a part of their practice and to improve their performance.  But what is all the hype?  Although there are still skeptics, research is coming out almost daily on the benefits of meditation.  When doing a recent search, I started compiling the benefits that I found listed.  Here it is:

According to Emma Seppala, PhD, (Associate Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education) and 10 years of research at Stanford, the benefits include:

·       Increases Positive Emotions

·       Increases Life Satisfaction

·       Boosts Immune Functioning

·       Decreases Pain

·       Decreases Inflammation

·       Increases Social Connection

·       Reduces Loneliness

·       Increases Memory and Attention

·       Increases Cortical Thickness, esp. in areas related to introspection and attention

·       Increases Grey Matter in hippocampus (memory) and frontal areas (thought, planning, organization); prevents or slows normal aging

·       Increases Brain Volume, esp. in areas of emotion regulation, positive emotions, and self-control

·       Improves Empathy

·       Generates Helpfulness

·       Increases Resilience (Better able to handle hard times)

·       Increases Wisdom

·       Gives you Perspective: helps you see the big picture

·       Decreases Anxiety

·       Decreases Stress

·       Decreases Depression

While the results of research coming out of Stanford might be the most stringent scientifically, still others are reported.  In another article by Belle Beth Cooper, “What Happens to the Brain When You Mediate (And How it Benefits You)” {}, she sighted changes in the frontal and parietal lobes, as well as the thalamus and reticular formation leading to benefits such as:

·       Increased Focus

·       Decreased Anxiety

·       Increased Creativity

·       Increased Compassion for self and others

·       Improved Memory

·       Decreased Stress

·       Increased Grey Matter

Still other studies report:

·       Changes in DNA/gene-expression that increased health promoting genes and decreased health-depleting genes (John Denninger, MD, PhD, Director of research at Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Yoga Journal, June 2014 issue)

·       Reduces Negative Emotions

·       Increases Self-Awareness

·       In some studies it has been reported that meditation was able to surpass the benefits of blood pressure medications for reducing blood pressure and even morphine, for reducing pain.

While there may always be skeptics and while not every benefit listed may stand up to the test of strict scientific protocol, there are certainly enough potential benefits, as well as scientifically validated benefits to warrant giving it a try.  Honesty, if these lists aren’t enough reasons to get you going, then I don’t know what is! 

Just remember, when beginning a practice, start slow.  Benefits have been noted with just 2 minutes a day.  Be patient and kind with yourself.  This is a practice, not a perfect (hokey, I know, but it fits).  Finally, pick a type of meditation that feels right for you.  Most people can’t dive in with long periods of absolute silence and stillness.  Perhaps begin with a guided meditation or some music.

For more, watch for my next blog on How to Meditate.  But I hope this wets your appetite and gets you to consider the journey.

Be Well,