Meditation alleviates stress, lowers blood pressure and increases energy levels, among other benefits. And now, according to recent studies, meditation might provide another benefit: decreasing aging in the brain.
As people age, they are at increased risk for mental illness and neurogenerative disease. However, UCLA researchers conducted a study in which they found that meditation seems to help preserve gray matter in the brain, which contains neurons, and is a sign of decreased aging. After comparing 50 people who meditated for years with 50 people who did not, scientists found that those who meditated had more gray matter in the brain than those who did not.
Dr. Florian Kurth, who co-authored the study, said in a university statement: “We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating. Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”
Note that meditation might not be the sole factor in reducing aging in the brain, according to the researchers. Lifestyle choices, personality traits and genetic brain differences can also play a role in preserving gray matter in the brain.
In addition to possibly reducing aging, meditation can also potentially help reduce chronic neck pain, according to research published in The Journal of Pain.
After comparing the effects of meditation on pain, stress and psychological well-being, German researchers hypothesized that an eight-week meditation program will decrease pain more effectively than exercise, as well as relieve stress.
The benefits of meditation do not end there; meditation might also help seniors get a better night’s sleep. Researchers conducted a study and found that among 49 seniors with sleep problems, those who learned mindful meditation exercises had improved sleep within six weeks.
Meditation exercises include concentration meditation, which means focusing on a single point; mindfulness meditation, which involves observing wandering thoughts; and walking meditation, which involves being aware of each step and breath.
Want to live a longer, healthier life? Maybe it’s time for more meditation exercises.