Science Suggests Wide Ranging Benefits to Meditation
Despite claims that “meditation is its own reward”, scientists have sought to determine if there are benefits of meditation and a mindful outlook that can be tested, demonstrated and reproduced. Anecdotal evidence just doesn’t cut it in serious science.
While not all the reported benefits of mindfulness lend themselves to being tested, many purported benefits can and were measured. Wide ranging research from respectable institutions and credible experts have shed more light on the benefits of mindfulness meditation.
Such benefits include:
1. Improved Longevity
A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that there is evidence that elderly practitioners of mindfulness meditation and its cousin, transcendental meditation, experience improved longevity. The study followed a large number of seniors and found a significant decrease in mortality rates among those who meditate. Another way that meditation may improve longevity is through preventing cellular aging, a mechanism suggested in a National Institutes of Health study.
2. Decreases Loneliness
Mindfulness and meditation have also been found to decrease loneliness, or rather, “promote connectedness.” A UCLA study found that seniors who engaged in a simple eight week meditation program significantly decreased rates of self-reported loneliness. Since isolation is a crucial problem among seniors, this is a promising avenue of research. Researchers went on to hypothesize that, since gene inflammation has been linked to feelings of loneliness, meditation may in fact inhibit gene inflammation.
3. Mindfulness Can Be Taught in Senior Communities
It’s never too late to learn to practice mindfulness. A study in Geriatric Nursing indicated that teaching mindfulness meditation and related techniques in senior communities can help improve resident health and feelings of connectedness.
4. Meditation May Slow Alzheimer’s
A double-blind study performed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center indicates that meditation and breathing exercises may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers believe that this may work by protecting the brain against anxiety and stress, which can worsen Alzheimer’s symptoms.
5. Meditation Reduced Healthcare Costs
A study in Journal of Social Behavior and Personalityreportedly found that seniors who practiced meditation had significantly fewer hospitalizations. According to the study, the meditation group’s “five-year cumulative reduction in payments to physicians was 70% less than the control group’s [non-meditating group].
6. Improved Mood
A study conducted in Thailand supplemented walking therapy for seniors with a meditation component. They found that seniors who engaged in the meditation component had significantly better outcomes than seniors who merely were in the walking group: “Walking meditation was effective in reducing depression, improving functional fitness and vascular reactivity, and appears to confer greater overall improvements than walking without meditation.”
8. Their Caregivers Can Benefit Too
Another UCLA study has looked at caregivers of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and found that caregivers who engage in “in a brief, simple daily meditation reduced the stress levels of people who care for those stricken by Alzheimer’s and dementia.” Researchers added, “psycho-social interventions like meditation reduce the adverse effects of caregiver stress on physical and mental health.