05/03/2017 / By Amy Goodrich
Taking a few moments each day to quiet your mind can reduce stress, depression, pain, and fight inflammatory diseases on a genetic level. While the scientific world often remains skeptical about the healing powers of this ancient technique, sometimes we don’t need scientific proof since there is no denying that this non-invasive technique works on so many levels. Although the practice of meditation is more than a thousand years old, research on its health benefits only started recently.
Thanks to the growing health-conscious population, meditation is rapidly gaining popularity in the West. With more people turning to this ancient technique, it got some scientists wondering. Curious to find out more, researchers around the world are slowly unraveling the secrets of meditation.
According to new research conducted at the UCLA School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology, anti-aging of the brain can now be added to the growing list of meditation benefits.
The fact that meditation has a strong influence on our body and mind is nothing new. Previous research already showed that meditation can rebuild the brain’s gray matter in just eight weeks. Meditation can also have a significant impact on our stress levels and the clinical symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Furthermore, scientists recently discovered that meditation forges a network of specific anti-aging genes while improving the overall health of our cells. Building on these previous findings, the UCLA researchers were eager to find out whether the regular practice of meditation is linked to reduced brain age.
The study found that long-term meditators have younger brains, with a higher concentration of brain tissue that is normally depleted as we age. According to the researchers’ findings, long-term meditation can protect our brain against age-related brain decline, thus keeping our brains younger.
They reported that, on average, the brains of long-term meditators were 7.5 years younger at the age of 50 than the brains of people who do not meditate. Additionally, they noted that for every year after 50, the meditators’ brains were an extra one month and 22 days younger compared to the non-meditating group.
Though the years of meditation experience ranged from 4 to 46 years, by the age of 50, most volunteers that participated in the study had close to 20 years of meditation experience. The authors of the study explained that their findings are consistent with prior research that detected significant differences in brain structure among people that meditate on a regular basis.
The results, however, did not reveal how many years of meditation are necessary to have the anti-aging effect. More research will be needed to find the answer to that question. Whatever the answer is, if you are not already engaging in this powerful ancient technique, now is the time to start, regardless of your age.
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding meditation. Fundamentally, most people think meditation is not for them or they can’t meditate if they don’t sit still in a lotus pose for at least 30 minutes to empty their mind.
While these are common concerns, they are usually based on inaccurate information. Everybody can meditate, and you don’t necessarily have to sit still in a forced lotus pose for extended periods of time. Some like to meditate while laying down, walking around, or while sitting in a chair. Also, while we often hear we should empty our minds, which can be difficult for many of us, meditation is more a practice of letting your thoughts, feelings, and emotions flow, but without judging or focusing attention on them.
If you are worried that you aren’t doing it right or don’t exactly know how to start, just remember there is no wrong way to meditate. If you want some more guidance, you can find tons of beginner videos on YouTube to get you started, or look for a local class.