By AFP/Relaxnews – Re-Blogged From Newsmax Health
A new study looking at the long-term effects of meditation has found that those who follow the practice can benefit from improvements in their attention for up to seven years.
Led by researchers at the University of California, Davis, Center for Mind and Brain, the study is based on the Shamatha Project, the most comprehensive longitudinal study of intensive meditation to be carried out so far.
The project followed 60 experienced meditators who attended an intensive three-month meditation retreat, attending group meditation sessions twice a day and practicing individually for about six hours a day.
The researchers found that immediately after the study, all participants showed improvements in their attention, general well-being, and ability to cope with stress.
During the most recent follow-up, held seven years after the retreat, the researchers also found that the 40 attendees who had continued to participate in the study and meditate for around one hour a day still showed improvements in their attention.
This effect was particularly pronounced in the older participants, who had maintained a stricter practice over the seven years and did not show typical patterns of decline in attention usually associated with aging.
However, first author Anthony Zanesco did note that the benefits appeared to plateau after the retreat, even in those who meditated the most, suggesting that there may be limits to how much meditation can influence cognition.
However, the body of evidence that meditation has benefits both our physical and mental health is growing.
One of the biggest benefits appears to be a reduction in stress levels. A 2016 study found that 35 stressed out adults benefited more from meditation than they did from relaxation techniques, while a study published last year found that just ten minutes a day of meditation could help reduce anxiety.
It could even be effective in reducing some cases of physical pain; with a study looking at 342 adults suffering from lower back pain finding that those treated with meditation-based stress reduction and yoga showed larger improvements than those treated with conventional pain medication.
The current research was published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement.