Emma Seppala, PhD. is Associate Director at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University and a popular science writer and speaker. To stay updated on the science of happiness, health and social connection, see www.emmaseppala.com and follow Emma on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.
Whether we're long-term meditators or just getting started, we invest time out of our day to meditate because we believe or have experienced that meditation has benefits. Some of us may experience this as increased focus, others as decreased stress. What we may not be aware of, however, is the extent of the benefits that meditation can have. Recent scientific research shows that it can improve both our physical and mental health in surprising and significant ways. Not only can it sharpen our attention skills and lower our stress - as we would expect - but it can also boost our memory, increase our feelings of happiness, make us more compassionate to others, strengthen our immune function and make us more resilient! It even has the capacity to change our brain structure in beneficial ways. Of course, many of us know there is a certain intangible aspect to meditation that research may never be able to fully capture. However, the growing field of meditation research provides sufficient data to keep us inspired to continue with our daily practice! Below is an info graphic that summarizes some of the benefits research is showing: