Measurable benefits of meditation

For centuries meditation has been a staple practice in many religions as well as a popular topic of debate among philosophers and scientists. With awareness surrounding mental health improving in our fast paced and consumer driven 21st century society, the benefits of this practice have become increasingly evident.
Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and cognitive tests, empirical evidence has emerged supporting the theory that meditation can alter aspects of your psychology, temperament and physical health in dramatic ways.
For example, take the obscure phenomenon ‘attentional blink’. Occuring when one misses a stimulus such as a number flashing on screen when rapidly followed by another, we might understand it as a form of absent mindedness. This cognitive blip has been shown to significantly decrease after practicing meditation for a sustained period of time.
Meditation has also long been believed to enhance emotional well-being. Consistent with the hypothesis that emotional stability involves withholding impulsive reactions to emotionally intensive stimuli, fMRI has shown that in meditators the amygdala, the brain’s centre for emotional processing and memories, was far less active than in non-meditators.
meditation2In addition, fMRI shows that brain circuits linked to empathy and sharing of emotions are much more active in long-term meditators.  Although perhaps a far-fetched interpretation of the results, the fountain of youthfulness often associated with meditation could be explained by increased telomerase activity, the enzyme protecting against cellular aging.So could meditation become a substitute for medication? It can be practiced anywhere and results show that even novices that have only meditated for 20 minutes on 3 consecutive days show improvements. However, Clifford Saron, an expert at the Centre for Mind and Brain at the University of California, disagrees. He warns that teaching meditation as a ‘quick fix’ will strip away its subtleties that are integral for successful practice.

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