The Power of Meditation

18 February 2016
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There is a growing body of research that suggests that mindfulness meditation can produce real health benefits. Mindfulness meditation is the practice of spending time being aware of the present moment. It involves being aware of our thoughts, feelings, body and surrounding environment, as an observer, without judgment.

New research is helping people understand how mindful-meditation benefits health, spirit and overall wellbeing. The practice of mindfulness meditation is designed to reduce stress, anxiety and develop greater balance, control and fuller participation in your life.

According to researcher David Creswell from Carnegie Mellon University, several initial studies suggest that “mindful meditation training is said to reduce inflammatory biomarkers’ which alter brain connectivity. As part of the study*, a sample of 35 unemployed and highly stressed adults where invited to attend a three day retreat. Some of the stressed adults participated in mindfulness meditation and some simply took the opportunity to relax with no focus on mindfulness.

Brain scans conducted before and after the retreat revealed that, “the brains of the people who’d completed the mindfulness retreat developed increased functional connectivity”. In practical terms, this means that the brain cells responsible for attention and executive control worked better after three days of mindfulness training. Those participants that simply relaxed at the retreat did not see the same changes.

Four months after the retreat the researchers compared blood samples from these two groups, and they found that the group that participated in mindful meditation had “reduced levels of Interleukin – a biomarker that can indicate unhealthy levels of inflammation in the body”. The participants that simply relaxed at the retreat did not have the same benefit.

Although the study was very limited and more research is required before a definitive link can be made, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests mindfulness meditation produces real health benefits that may improve the brains ability to manage stress. Given the simplicity of this practice one could say, that choosing to become mindful, is simply choosing to bring a greater sense of calm, clarity and contentment to any situation in life.

*Published in Biological Psychiatry