Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it? The pill exists. It is meditation.
There are many scientific studies on the effects of meditation. A study from 2004, in which monks from the environment of the Dalai Lama were examined (Pollard (2004): "Meditation and brain function: a review", Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics, 14, 28-34). Very interesting effects and exclusively positive impacts of the meditation were found:
- Amazing activation of the left prefrontal cortex: Science has determined that when a person is unhappy, depressed or anxious, the right side is active in the front area of the brain. If someone is happy, glad or content, the left side of the front brain is active. In most people, the two sides of the brain are approximately equally active. The scientists have measured the activity of the meditating Tibetan monks of the Dalai Lama. The result was astonishing: activity in the left prefrontal cortex was several times more intense than in an average person. This means that these Tibetan monks experience a lot of satisfaction, joy and happiness in their lives and hardly any negative feelings.
- Fright reaction: The scientists wanted to find out how jumpy the Tibetan monks are in a meditation. Suddenly they made a loud noise. So far science has assumed that every human being has a fright reaction and that it cannot be suppressed. Even soldiers used to hear gunshots in their surroundings still had a fright reaction. Even if it was only very small. The Tibetan monks, on the other hand, no longer had a frightening reaction. This was a remarkable result, and it was the first documentation of people completely without a fright reaction in the history of mankind.
You don't have to meditate for decades like the Tibetan monks. No, meditation works fast. This has been revealed by another very well-known study. It was conducted by John Kabat-Zinn and Herbert Benson. It was not about experienced meditators, but about complete beginners. They had to participate in an 8-week meditation program as part of the study. The participants meditated for 45 minutes daily. The effects of meditation were impressive: