As little as 15 minutes of meditation per day can lead to some very unexpected health perks.
Mindful meditation isn't only for new-agey, soul searching, hippy types. These days, this ancient practice of quieting the mind and deep breathing is being embraced the world over. From hulking NFL linebackers to jet-setter CEO's, effective people are using meditation to feel great and boost their health.
Here are 7 surprising benefits of a daily meditation practice:
1. Help with Hot Flashes
Numerous studies suggest that mindfulness meditation helps women deal with menopausal symptoms. Hot flashes, night sweats and anxiety can all be eased with focused, rhythmic breathing. A study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, recorded a 40% decrease in hot flashes among its participants in mindfulness meditation practice. Here's a guided video from Gaiam on meditation for menopause.
2. Increased serotonin production
Known as the "happy chemical", serotonin improves mood and lifts your spirits. People under high stress typically have depleted levels of serotonin. Low levels can lead to depression, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, migraines and insomnia. Meditation supports the release of serotonin. The stress producing parts of the brain, the right pre-frontal cortex and the amygdala, are inhibited by serotonin. People with higher levels of serotonin are also reported to handle pain more easily and sleep better.
Source: Brainwave Research Institute
3. Decreased stress/depression in mother's-to-be
According to a University of Michigan Health System study, pregnant women felt a significant drop in their depression after participating in a 10 week mindfulness program. Findings were published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice.
Source: Medical News Today
4. Increased grey matter in the brain
Harvard neuroscientists ran an eight-week mindfulness course with 16 people. Participants were led through guided meditations and helped to implement mindfulness into daily activities. MRI scans taken after the program show definite increase in grey matter in areas of the brain associated with memory and emotional regulation.
Various studies also show greater volumes of grey matter in the hippocampal and frontal brain areas of long-time meditators.
5. Improved decision making and information processing abilities
Professors at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging have discovered that long-term meditators have increased levels of brain gyrification, which may support faster information processing. Scientists believe that gyrification makes our brains better at processing information, forming memories, making decisions and improving attention.
Source: UCLA Newsroom
6. Meditation promotes compassion and decreases worry
Following a 9-week compassion cultivation training, participants showed significant improvements in all three domains of compassion – compassion for others, receiving compassion from others, and self-compassion. In a similar situation, practitioners also experienced decreased levels of worry and emotional suppression.
Source: Stanford School of Medicine
7. Mindfulness training helps prevent rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory afflictions
In a study conducted by neuro-scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, two groups of people were exposed to different methods of stress control. One group practiced mindfulness training, while the other received nutritional education, exercise and music therapy. The study found that mindfulness techniques were more effective in relieving inflammatory symptoms than other activities.
Source: Medical News Today