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How can meditation catalyze relaxation? Ask your amygdala.

The science behind the benefits of consistent meditation.

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Studies show that mediation can be a powerful tool for improving physical and mental health. And while the scientific measurement of this are on the newer side (relatively speaking) the practice is anything but. Archaeologists working in the Indus Valley in South Asia found depictions of meditation in wall art dating to as early as 5,000 BCE. Some historians believe that meditation became globalized by way of the Silk Road, a few thousand years later, along with goods, cultures, and religions. But the popularity of meditation didn’t stop there.

Today, it’s estimated that 200-500 million people practice meditation worldwide. In the US, the number of adults who meditate more than tripled from 2012 to 2017, according to a study by the National Center for Health Statistics. It’s a topic that trends on social media, in wellness guides, and more. But evidence supporting the multifold benefits of a consistent meditation practice extend beyond the anecdotal.

In a 2016 study, people who meditated weekly for an entire year experienced a 31 percent decrease in stress levels – and a 28 percent increase in “vitality.” In the last two decades alone, a plethora of studies have looked at the ways in which meditation can be an effective tool in the treatment of diseases and disorders from anxiety to high blood pressure to migraines to immune system function – and more.

One element nearly every study into the effects of meditation has in common? Stress. Invariably, looking at the effectiveness of meditation is to look at how meditation can reduce stress – on both the body and the mind. It’s central to the studies for a reason. Stress can affect “all systems of the body” including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems.” So methods which can provide consistent stress relief – for both the mind and body – can be invaluable. Like meditation.

So how exactly does meditation decrease stress? On a neurological level, studies have found that the brain’s “fight or flight” region, also known as the amygdala, actually shrinks after consistent meditation. Not only that, but meditation practices have been shown to create connections in the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, the regions of the brain that are thought to release tension.

Looking to create a mindfulness practice of your own? Use your Fitbit to reduce stress and feel calmer with the Relax app’s guided breathing sessions. Fitbit even offers an electrodermal activity (EDA) scan app that monitors your body’s response to a mindfulness session by detecting tiny electrical changes called electrodermal activity responses on your skin. And to get access to even more mindfulness and meditation sessions, join Fitbit Premium.

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