Research is increasing into the science behind the effects of mindfulness meditation on health and wellbeing.
Whilst the amount of available research papers are huge, The Mental Health Foundation’s 2010 study concluded that evidence from research into mindfulness and wellbeing suggested (amongst other things) that more mindful people were less likely to suffer anxiety and depression, were better at communicating, had higher emotional intelligence (EQ), and felt more in control of their behaviour.
The report also supported the view that meditation practices generally were shown to increase blood flow, reduce high blood pressure/protect against the risk of it developing, reduce the risk of developing/dying from heart disease, and that it had many varied physical benefits.
For more details on this, see the full report at: http://livingmindfully.co.uk/downloads/Mindfulness_Report.pdf
One of the earliest and most well known studies on the physiological changes as a result of meditation took place in 1972 (Herbert Benson’s study – where he coined the phrase “the relaxation response”). Those who took part meditated for 20-30 minutes, and were observed for the same period before and after.
Regardless of their previous experience, within 5-10 minutes of starting meditation, their bodies started to show changes comparable with experienced meditators, including slowed metabolism, and rapid reductions in oxygen consumption, rate and volume of breathing, and heart rate.
All returned to pre-meditation levels within a few minutes after ceasing meditation. The signs observed were very different from those seen in other states of relaxation, such as sleep or hyponosis.
For more details on this, see the paper:
The physiology of meditation: Wallace, Robert K; Benson, Herbert
Scientific American, Vol 226(2), Feb 1972, 84-90
Further research is being published all the time – take a look, and make up your own mind on the science behind meditation!