It may seem as if meditation and mindfulness are very new concepts, or perhaps New Age concepts, but they are actually ancient practices that date back to about 1500 BCE. The ancient practices were first developed in India, Japan, and China, and are also linked to religions including Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity.
In Europe, meditation was first introduced in the 1700s. It continued to be a source of interest for scholars and leading thinkers of the time. However, it was not widely known or recognized by the general public. By the 1960s and the 1970s, meditation and mindfulness were utilized without the religious connotations as a way to connect more closely with the universe and the inner being.
Today, science has caught up to these ancient practices and provides some surprising insight into the value of meditation for people of all ages. While there is still a lot of anecdotal information about the value of meditation, there are also some highly respected, peer-reviewed research papers showing the positive impact of choosing to include a regular meditation practice in your daily life.
Increases Resiliency to Stress
One of the issues that have come to light during the COVID-19 pandemic is the importance that resiliency to stress has for individuals. Resiliency is the ability to recover after stressful situations and events. In studies and research in neuroscience, consistent meditation is linked to better connections between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, allowing the body to move from “flight, fight, and freeze” to problem solving more easily and quickly.
Increases Ability to Solve Problems
Regular mediation is linked to increasing the ability to think outside of the box and to tap into unique options. In studies of groups that meditated on a regular basis and those that did not, problem solving was more diverse and unique with the group reporting regular meditation.
Better Interpersonal Relationships
Individuals who regularly meditate have faster decreases in the stress hormone level cortisol, which spikes during any type of confrontation or when someone is feeling threatened. Lower amounts of cortisol in the body are associated with being able to stay calm and cool and reduce impulsive behaviors that can lead to increased conflict in any relationship.
At the same time, meditation is also linked to increased levels of empathy, which also helps in lowering conflict and building better interpersonal relationships.
In a study using the GRE, a general test of verbal reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing, individuals who meditated and used mindfulness for just two weeks had a decrease in mind wandering and an increase in performance on the test in reading-comprehension and questions involving working memory.
There are other research studies on the use of meditation in the management of chronic pain and in self-regulation during addiction recovery treatment. Other studies found a change in the functioning of the brain for improved emotional regulation, positive feelings about self, and better mood control.