If you’ve thought that meditation is too time consuming, a new study suggests that it doesn’t have to be. New research suggests that meditating for just 13 minutes a day–roughly the time it takes to listen to a few songs–over eight weeks can improve your mood, stress level, and memory.
Researchers selected and randomized study participants who were relatively healthy, non-smokers, and had never meditated before–a profile they hoped many Americans could relate to. Intervention participants listened to a 13-minute guided meditation every day for eight weeks, while control group participants listened to a lively science and philosophy podcast for the same amount of time.
The guided meditation incorporated breathing exercises, instruction to notice the way the body feels and how it moves with each breath, and periods of silence where listeners could breathe at their own pace and allow their thoughts to wander freely. As listeners become increasingly aware of their emotional and physical presence, even if just for a brief time, they are meant to feel more at peace.
Last year, PHP reported that 59% of Americans think as a nation we’ve hit a low point when it comes to stress. We worry about everything from where we work to what we eat to the state of the nation and the future of the planet. Those are legitimate concerns, but too much worrying can have serious health consequences. Sustained stress over time causes our muscles to tense, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and a higher heart rate, as well as other types of physical and emotional discomfort. Most people exercise or listen to music to cope with stressors; only 14% of us meditate.
NIH also reported that US adults use of meditation tripled between 2012 and 2017, indicating that meditation might be culturally catching on.
Meditation, once considered a mystical practice in Western medicine, has slowly emerged as a legitimate medical treatment. In a 2010 message, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said, “The literature on meditation suggests that it is a very powerful tool for learning control of attention, regulating emotion, and increasing self-awareness or cultivation of the state called mindfulness. These insights are old. But what is new in the last 15 years or so is scientific data.”
NIH has reported that meditation may reduce blood pressure, pain, and other stress-related ailments. NIH also reported that US adults use of meditation tripled between 2012 and 2017, indicating that meditation might be culturally catching on.
Understanding that there are positive effects of meditating for even short periods of time should make meditation seem more accessible–especially for busy people. Here’s to hoping it does.