With our stress levels creeping higher than ever before, we could all stand to reap the benefits of this mindful practice.
A recent study from Harvard University and the University of Sienna found that the powers of meditation move beyond the cultivation of self-awareness, improvement of concentration and protection of the heart and immune system -- it can actually alter the physiology of the human brain. Consistent practice can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression in people who often need it most.
In the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, the scientists selected 24 subjects who had never meditated before and guided them through an 8-week meditation course. Each participant completed a two-and-a-half hour session each week, where they learned about various components and styles of a meditation practice. Outside of the weekly session, they each meditated for 45 minutes daily.
Data gathered from the MRIs conducted before and after the meditation program, along with psychological evaluations, revealed that the subjects experienced a thickening in the part of the brain responsible for emotions and perception. Such changes strengthen the body's physiological resilience against worry, anxiety and depression.
For the increasing number of us struggling with the overwhelming demands of our lives, reserving a little time each day to tune into ourselves might not be such a bad idea. It takes a little prioritizing in an already-busy schedule, but the proven benefits can be well worth the effort.