Four reasons you should meditate (according to the science) cover image

Four reasons you should meditate (according to the science)

Dorian Minors • October 13, 2015

This is an archived article from our predecessor website, The Dirt Psychology. The idea there was to take psychological scholarship and turn it into wisdom. The Armchair Collective tries to go a little further than just psychology. As such, these articles live here in archive form, until they're updated.

Have you thought about meditation? I bet you have. If not because you've heard it can be good for you, then because one of your mates has (and won't stop talking about it probably). Well, its no secret that people find it helpful. It's been used in eastern spiritual and health-related practices for longer than we could fathom. But does the fact that people find it helpful translate to actual, tangible benefits?

The two kinds of meditation

  1. The goal of concentrative meditation is to regulate our breathing, curtail the impact of the environment around us, create specific images in the mind (or free our mind from thought). We might possibly introduce physical positions to enhance this process (yogic positions).
  2. However, mindfulness meditation, is more about letting our thoughts and memories pass freely through the mind without a response from us.
Yep, yoga is supposed to be a form of meditation, not just a goofy way to stretch. Yep, yoga is supposed to be a form of meditation, not just a goofy way to stretch.

But what does the research say?

Let's face it. The idea of meditation is tied up with the 'Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability' market, or (as one major website cleverly re-branded it) 'mind, body, green' movement. It's a perfectly admirable movement, focused on personal development and healthy and sustainable living. Unfortunately, some of the most vocal advocates of the movement tend to be rather eccentric. I'll be honest, as soon as one puts on those multicoloured baggy pants, grows dreadlocks and discusses the benefits of shamanism through a cloud of green smoke, no matter one's academic scholarship, one loses face. So let's take meditation out of that context, avoiding vague references to eastern spiritual practices and look at the research.

If you aren't into literally altering your brain, at the worst it'll make you take some time out of your day. Gosh, you're probably on your phone right now, when you could be relaxing. If you aren't into literally altering your brain, at the worst it'll make you take some time out of your day. Gosh, you're probably on your phone right now, when you could be relaxing.

So what's the verdict?

Well it's pretty clear that mindfulness meditation has been fairly strongly linked to some positive outcomes. It's difficult to say that the links between concentrative meditation is as clear, but this is possibly because mindfulness meditation is easier to test in a clinical setting (much like the well studied cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and its vague cousin, psychodynamic therapy). But, much like CBT, I think I'll stick to the evidenced approach and reap the benefits I know, rather than the ones I hope to achieve. Only problem then is that, as Philip K. Dick most famously noted (which is weird because you'd think he'd have a more famous quote from ...Electric Sheep):

the problem with introspection is that it has no end

Considering meditation? Maybe you should look into hypnosis too (if only to do some mythbusting). Or, speaking of well-studied phenomenon, why do you learn how always being right makes you dumber? Giving you the dirt on your search for understanding, psychological freedom and 'the good life' at The Dirt Psychology.

Turning scholarship into wisdom we can use at The Armchair Collective.

Questions? Comments? Comment sections are a pain to moderate. But this inbox is always read, so send an email. You'll get a reply. Your question might even get a whole article of its own.

More articles? View them all, or check these out:

Dorian Minors

I mostly do brain science. Sometimes I train honeybees. I promise they're related. I made this site because there's no reason why scholars should be the only ones to own knowledge. My special interests are interpersonal relationships, the science of community, spirituality and the brain, and the neural basis of complex behaviour. I hope this stuff is as interesting to you as it is to me. You can find out more about me here.