I watched an ABC Catalyst program a year or so ago which focused on meditation and its supposed benefits. The program applied some modern technology to determine if meditation produces measurable benefits for the people who practice it.
The Catalyst presenter suggested that the many claims of people and organisations who supported meditation could be over-hyped in the media and his program intended to use science to determine if this was the case, or not.
Before he started his eight week meditation course, the presenter had his brain power scientifically measured. A neuroscientist tested his memory, focus and reaction time and an MRI machine measured his brain's physical structure.
During the 30 minute program, various doctors and scientists were interviewed and most made very positive comments about the health benefits of regular meditation. After eight weeks at a meditation course the Catalyst presenter went back to the scientists who conducted his earlier tests to compare the "before" and "after" results. He had been sceptical at the beginning but the results certainly changed his mind. The brain tests clearly demonstrated an improvement in memory, focus and reaction time. His stress levels had declined and there was a substantial increase in the volume of new brain cells being created. It's safe to say that the scepticism displayed by the presenter at the beginning of the program was replaced by a strong belief in the health benefits of regular meditation.
This program is just one more confirmation to add to the hundreds of other tests proving the various benefits of regular meditation. A Google search will show strong endorsements for meditation from a variety of organisations including the Mayo Clinic and Harvard University.
So it's clearly not just some new age fad or an exotic Buddhist ritual. It's a practical tool that we can all use to lower anxiety and stress, improve our mental health and our brains' performance. It's not difficult to do and the practice of sitting quietly for five, 10 or 20 minutes and getting away from all the noise, pressure and stress of our modern world is quite enjoyable.
Meditation courses are widely available and a Google search in your town or suburb or even a check of your local Yellow Pages will probably find a few.
Our book How to stay Healthy, Active and Sharp in Retirement contains a chapter on how to meditate as well as information on how to improve both your physical and mental health. If you would like to find out more about this book, or order a copy, visit retirementbooks.com.au.