Health TEDTalks

4 scientific studies on how meditation can affect your heart, brain and creativity

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Many people have tried to sell me on the idea of meditating. Sometimes I try it, and have an incredible, refreshing experience. But usually, as I close my eyes and focus on my breathing, while I know that I’m supposed to be letting all thoughts go, more and more fly through my mind. Soon I have a laundry-list of “to-dos” in my head … and then my legs fall asleep. It’s all downhill from there.

Today’s TED Talk, however, might actually convince me to give meditation another shot.

“We live in an incredibly busy world. Our pace of life is often frantic, our minds are always busy, and we’re always doing something,” says Andy Puddicombe at the TEDSalon London Fall 2012. “The sad fact is that we’re so distracted that we are no longer present in the world in which we live. We miss out on the things that are most important to us. The crazy thing is, people assume that’s just the way life is. But that’s not really how it has to be.”

In this talk, Puddicombe — who is as equally as turned off by incense as me — shares the fascinating story of how he become a monk, and gives a convincing argument for why it is worth it to take 10 minutes a day to refresh the mind.

“Most people assume that meditation is all about stopping thoughts, getting rid of emotions, somehow controlling the mind, but actually it’s much different than that,” says Puddicombe. “It’s more about stepping back, seeing the thought clearly — witnessing it coming and going — without judgment, but with a relaxed, focus mind.”

To see a demonstration, with juggling, watch this surprising talk. And after the jump, four recent scientific studies that bear out that there might actually be something to this meditation thing.

For years, meditation fans have said that the practice keeps them healthy. But a new study, published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes in November 2012, actually tested this. For the study, 201 people with coronary heart disease were asked to either (a) take a health education class promoting better diet and exercise or (b) take a class on transcendental meditation. Researchers followed up with participants for the next five years and found that those who took the meditation class had a 48% reduction in their overall risk of heart attack, stroke and death. It’s an initial study, but a promising one. [Time]

Is meditating a good way to increase creativity? Maybe, but it depends on what kind. Researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands looked at the way two types of meditation — focused-attention (for example, focusing on your breath) and open-monitoring (where participants focus on the both the internal and external) — affected two types of creative thinking — the ability to generate new ideas and solutions to problems. In a study published in April 2012 in Frontiers in Cognition, they revealed that the participants who practiced focused-attention meditation did not show improved results in the two creativity tasks. However, those who practiced open-monitoring meditation did perform better at task related to coming up with new ideas. [Meditation Research]

Researchers at UCLA wanted to study the brains of people who had been meditating for years, versus those who had never meditated or who had only done it for a short period of time. They took MRI scans of 100 people — half meditators and half non-meditators. They were fascinated to find that long-time meditators showed higher levels of gyrification (a folding of the cerebral cortex that may be associated with faster information processing). In a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in February of 2012, they shared that, the more years a person had been meditating, the more gyrification their MRIs revealed.  [UCLA Newsroom]

Distractions are everywhere. But can meditation help a person better navigate through them? A computer scientist at the University of Washington teamed up with a neuroscientist at the University of Arizona to test this. The pair recruited 45 human resources managers, and gave a third of them eight weeks of mindfulness-based meditation training, a third of them eight weeks of body relaxation training and a third of them no training at all. All the groups were given a stressful multitasking test before and after the eight weeks. In a study published in the Proceedings of Graphics Interface in May of 2012, they showed that the mindful-mediation group reported less stress as they performed the multitasking test than both of the other groups. [Washington.edu]

So, how do you feel about meditation?

Comments (122)

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  • Pingback: Benefits of Meditation: Scientific Studies « Vibrant Bliss

  • commented on Jan 13 2013

    Reblogged this on The Void.

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  • commented on Jan 12 2013

    Reblogged this on Dr. Easwar T.R and commented:
    Does Meditation help improve your health ? … here is an interesting TED talk that goes through some studies and researches on this on this

  • Pingback: Meditation Helper | Yoga IS Love, Truth, Beauty: Here, Now.

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  • Werner Vogt commented on Jan 12 2013

    In the Sense of realizing what is real, i would like to mention my Personal experience by doing meditation regularly.
    Meditation is surely a Great Gift, but it Happens to me, After advancing in the Meditation i spend nights with sleeplessness.
    My research in the internet showed Some results. For example:
    http://Www.sleepdisorder.dolyan.com/can-meditation-cause-sleep-disorders/. Of Course mostly i find only positive descriptions of the benefits from meditation.

  • commented on Jan 12 2013

    Reblogged this on wingchunarnis.

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  • commented on Jan 11 2013

    Reblogged this on Jennifer Bolus and commented:
    One of the #1 things you can do for your health! MEDITATE

  • Robert Tulip commented on Jan 11 2013

    These studies finding neural benefit from meditation are scientifically credible. Ringing the brain like a bell produces clarity of thought, control of mental processes and improved physical and spiritual awareness. Daily practice of mantra meditation can be extended into the imaginative practice of kundalini chakra energy as a way of visualising how the body connects the earth to the cosmos.

  • Pingback: Master Ji Ru to Lead One Day Meditation Retreat Sat. Feb. 9 | Little Village Buddhist Meditation Center (Centro de Meditación Budista)

  • Joy Gill commented on Jan 11 2013

    I have been trying to sit in Meditation every day, 16 years and 11 months be specific and it’s the hardest thing in the word. Whoever is willing to go through this task, need some sort of word to repeat? You can’t just sit and not think. It’s not meditation. What one have to do, as I was told is, repeat something so that do are doing repetition only & absolutely nothing else.
    And from my experience, I can say if anyone can site for 2 hours without much movement you are bound to feel completely unaware of yourself ( body). ONLY IF ONE CAN SIT FOR 2 HOURS WITHOUT MUCH MOVEMENT. I can bet on that, very few can do it. (Challenge welcome!!)
    Heart rate can go very low like 10 – 20 tick per minutes during those 2 hours. Only world class athlete with tremendous training, self-control & dedication can reach may be 40 ticks as regular heartbeat. You can imagine how much heart will be relieved if it’s only ticking 1/3. No wonder heart, brain can work wonders whoever can achieve this rate.

    I have done this experiment with myself several times; right after meditation my blood pressure usually is 90/62 to 95/65. Which is awesome? I have seen my lowest heart rate at 62 but looking forward toward seeing it in 20s.

    This is how in older days, in India, yogis used to sit in caves for several years without waking up from Meditation. The logic behind this was:: Using Meditation they can bring their heart rate and rest of the body to stand still. Very little energy is needed if we have ultra-slow heart beat. Something like hibernation but with control. There are several breathing exercises yogis used to do to quench their appetite,thirst and to deal with climate. One of the pranayama is sheetali pranayama which can be done if someone have no access to food or water for few hours ( may be days ) like in wilderness but wants to survive http://www.yogapoint.com/pranayama/sheetali.htm ( Please consult yoga teach before attempting to do any of these)

    Using breathing exercises they can also breathe at very slow rate. Even today, if we can do certain breathing exercises we can stop our breath for long time. Someone in recent past ( June 2012) just stopped their breath under water for 22 minutes. ( http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2154442/Free-diver-breaks-world-record-holding-breath-underwater-22-22-minutes.html)
    One little secret: We can live longer if we can reduce the number of breaths we waste daily. Our life is calculated by number of breaths we take not by years. This can be verified from numerous ancient scriptures. To give you a comparison. A turtle (Tortoise) in general takes 6 – 8 ticks per minute and nearly 0 in hibernation. Turtle can live anywhere from 150 to 200+ years . On the other side a Hamster heartbeat is 400 per minute. They only live 1 -2 years.

    My point here is that using Meditation we can control our life span. I can write lot more with evidence but may be for next time.

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  • commented on Jan 11 2013

    Reblogged this on juntamng.

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  • commented on Jan 11 2013

    Reblogged this on Tarot Salve and commented:
    I don’t usually reblog, but I just saw this and I know that many readers of this blog are hungry for more information about meditation. So, enjoy! Here is a quote from the TED post:
    “Most people assume that meditation is all about stopping thoughts, getting rid of emotions, somehow controlling the mind, but actually it’s much different than that,” says Puddicombe. “It’s more about stepping back, seeing the thought clearly — witnessing it coming and going — without judgment, but with a relaxed, focus mind.”
    Exactly!!!!!

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