Carl Sagan, a famous astronomer, astrophysicist, and science populariser, once said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.” He’s absolutely right. Without proof, it’s hard to convince people.
That’s probably why meditation, in general, has more sceptics than believers. Despite the numerous psychological benefits practitioners tout to others, meditation is not as popular as it should be. People need tangible proof, and if there’s none, they won’t buy it.
But that’s changing now. Meditation has gained significant traction, attracting more and more followers all over the world and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Thanks to “Neural Correlates of Mindfulness Meditation-Related Anxiety Relief”, a study published on June 3, 2013 in the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience journal, scientific evidence now exists to back up meditation. The results researchers found were strong; not to mention, overwhelming. If you take the time to read it, you’ll have no other choice but to believe.
Overview of the Study
Focusing on meditation-related anxiety relief, the researchers chose fifteen perfect candidates for the study. At the time, each recruit was physically healthy, free from any form of anxiety disorder, and a first-timer in meditation.
All participants underwent four 20-minute classes to learn mindfulness meditation, a technique that focuses on breathing and body sensations. At the same time, they learnt how to detach themselves from distracting thoughts and emotions they might encounter during the meditation sessions.
Using pulsed arterial spin labelling MRI, the researchers identified the brain mechanisms involved in mindfulness meditation and monitored the brain activities of each participant before and after meditation. They observed that mindfulness meditation activated three regions in the brain—anterior cingulate cortex, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and anterior insula—that are significantly responsible for relieving anxiety and worry. Meditation’s Relationship to Anxiety Relief.
In addition, these regions are associated with the body’s executive functions, also known as cognitive control: working memory, reasoning, task flexibility, problem solving, and planning and execution.
However, the primary area of concern is the anterior cingulate cortex. Compared to the others, it’s the region responsible for thinking and emotions. Researchers, understandably, pointed it out as the main reason behind anxiety relief.
Regardless, it’s clear. Mindfulness meditation works! If this study isn’t enough to be considered as solid proof, perhaps nothing will be.
Besides, mindfulness meditation requires no more than 20 minutes. It’s a small price to pay for the major psychological benefit it offers. Remember, the less anxiety we have, the happier our lives will be.