There is growing evidence to show that meditation can make people healthier and happier. It may even increase lifespan, alter brain structure and change personality.
Now, mainstream medicine is beginning to take notice of meditation’s effects. For example, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), which is about 80 percent meditation, has been approved in Britain for use with people who have experienced three or more episodes of depression.
MRI scans of long-term meditators have shown greater activity in brain circuits involved in paying attention. Long-term meditation can also cause changes in the actual structure of your cortex, the outer layer of your brain. Brain regions associated with attention and sensory processing have been shown to be thicker in meditators.
Studies suggest that meditation can help you to train your attention and focus, even in the midst of distractions. For instance, when disturbing noises were played to a group of experienced meditators undergoing an MRI, they had little effect on the brain areas involved in emotion and decision-making.
About 10 million people meditate every day in the West, and many more in other parts of the world.
Sources: The London Times March 14, 2008