The benefits of mindfulness meditation are many. When we engage in this type of exercise, we can increase our awareness and response to what is happening around us. We can gain a greater sense of ourselves and can take better care of ourselves. This practice can reduce stress, anxiety and other common symptoms associated with dealing with the demands of life. If we are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, we may find that practicing mindfulness can help us regain control of our lives and provide relief from the symptoms of stress.
There are several characteristics of mindful meditation that make it unique from other forms of relaxation. Most forms of relaxation focus on the moment or on relaxing the body, both of which may contribute to our stress levels. While mindful meditation allows us to focus on the present moment, it also allows us to leave the past and future far behind, focusing instead on the moment right now. Because of these two characteristics, this form of meditation has been called a ‘neuroplasticity therapy.’
Neuroplasticity refers to the ability of the mind to change with experience. Because the effects of stress and other events can have an effect on our brains, we may find that the way we think about events can change as a result of those experiences. This means that even if we do not realize it at first, the way we think about things can change as a result of experience. The process of mindfulness meditation has been used to study these changes. The results have been promising. During a five-week period of mindfulness meditation, individuals who participated in the study were found to experience:
In one study, participants underwent standardized imagery exercises and neurofeedback exercises. Both exercises were found to increase levels of beta-endorphin in the brain. beta-endorphin increases are believed to be associated with feelings of well-being and reduced levels of stress. In addition, beta-endorphins were found to decrease the stress hormone cortisone in the body. While this is not the only research that links mindfulness meditation with reducing stress, it is one of the few studies to show a direct relation between the two.
Another study that directly ties mindfulness meditation with reducing stress was a study performed at the University of Glasgow. During a study, adults sat in a room for an hour without talking or doing any other activities. They were then given a series of memory and cognitive tests. Those who participated in daily mindfulness meditation were found to have lower cortisol levels than those in a control group.
The current study is one of the first to look at how meditation impacts levels of cortisol. However, future studies will need to examine whether or not the observed effect is dependent upon the type of meditation used. For instance, many studies have found that mindful meditators have better control over their breathing, which may lead to a lower stress level overall. Meta-analyses will help researchers determine what types of meditation have the greatest potential for reducing or eliminating negative emotional and physical symptoms.