The 5 Most Important Things We Learned About Mindfulness This Year

2014 may have been the year of the “mindful revolution,” but 2015 proved that mindfulness is here to stay.

The more we learn about mindfulness — the cultivation of a focused awareness on the present moment, most commonly through meditation — the more health and well-being benefits we discover. This year, researchers delved further into the science of meditation and uncovered even more surprising evidence of the practice’s powerful effects on the mind and body.

Here are the five most incredible scientific findings on mindfulness of 2015.

We figured out how mindfulness improves health.

We know that mindfulness is linked to a number of physical and mental health benefits, including reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and depression, as well as lower blood pressure and improved immune system functioning. What’s been less clear is exactly how mindfulness leads to so many positive health outcomes.

In a study published in February in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, Carnegie Mellon researchers found that mindfulness positively influences health via stress reduction pathways. They developed a model to show that mindfulness increases activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is responsible for deliberation and planning and which can regulate and “turn down” the biological stress response.

By better understanding the mechanisms by which mindfulness improves physical health, doctors may one day be able to develop more targeted mindfulness-based interventions.

Meditation keeps the brain young.

Meditation doesn’t just make you feel good — it can actually keep you young. A study from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that the brains of long-term meditators seem to age at a slower pace than those of other people.

Brain scans revealed that these meditators showed less age-related reduction of gray matter volume. Gray matter is a layer of tissue critical to —> Read More