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  1. Benefits of meditation find roots in the west. The practice of meditation is growing in popularity in the West and so are the scientifically proven benefits of meditation. In a world which can sometimes seem chaotic, people are turning to meditation as an antidote to a multitasking, distracted lifestyle. Consequently increasing their mental and physical well-being. Meditation has its origins in prehistory. The earliest written records, the Vedas of ancient India, date from 1500 BC. As an umbrella term that covers a number of practices, meditation takes numerous forms. One of them is Mindfulness meditation. The participant focuses on the present moment, thoughts, emotions and sensations that arise. Another important one is Loving-kindness meditation. This derives from the Buddhist Vipassana tradition. It emphasises universal love and compassion for others. Many people practice those forms today. Science now backs the benefits of meditation that humans have instinctively understood for millennia.  These scientifically proven benefits mean that it is being recommended as an alternative therapy for a diverse range of conditions, including:  Stress Anxiety Depression Sleep difficulties Increasing happiness Promoting positive thinking Improving relationships Boosting cognitive abilities As science uncovers the secrets of how meditation can improve the function and even change the structures of the brain. Hence its place in increasing the well-being and happiness of both individuals and wider society is assured.  The benefits of meditation reach beyond the mind. Scientists began to attempt to study the effects of meditation on the mind and the body during the 1950s. However, there are flaws in this early science approaches. More recently, studies have used modern techniques such as EEG and fMRI to scan the brain before, during and after meditation. They are therefore allowing the link between meditation and physiological and psychological changes in the body to be studied in depth.  In 2013, a paper published by researchers at John Hopkins University identified 47 well-designed studies that had produced reliable results. Because of that, they concluded that meditation can be as effective as medication for some forms of depression and anxiety. A growing body of science supports the benefits of meditation which include:  Stress relief Doctors are coming to realise that stress is the root cause of many physical illnesses such as cardiovascular disease. Meditation allows the body and brain to relax deeply and effectively. Research on PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) patients shows that meditation works:  by balancing the nervous system improving brain coherence restoring hormonal levels to a state of equilibrium The study also provides scientifically proven evidence that meditation helps people to cope better with stressful situations.  Lowering the risk of heart disease High blood pressure is a recognised risk factor for coronary heart disease. A long term study by the AHA shows that the risk of patients suffering from cardiovascular conditions such as atherosclerosis, myocardial ischaemia and atherosclerosis of dying or suffering a heart attack stroke is reduced by 48% when compared to a control group in a similar physical condition who did not meditate.  Stopping smoking Meditation makes giving up smoking easier. The effect of meditating regularly is cumulative and as stress is reduced, so the impulse to smoke is lessened. One study of people meditating daily showed that 50% had given up smoking 2 years into the programme.  Improving cognitive abilities Recent research on a group of participants between 55-75 years old demonstrated that mindfulness meditation techniques improve goal-directed visuospatial attention span. Meditation techniques are useful strategies to slow the cognitive decline experienced in ageing.  Boosting happiness Studies at Kyoto University discovered that the precuneus area of the brain was larger in people who rated themselves as happy and upbeat than in those with a more negative outlook on life. Science has shown that regular meditation can actually boost the brain’s grey matter. It appears that we have the ability to grow our own happiness. Dr Wataru Sato furthermore says that now we understand that meditation increases grey matter in the precuneus, it will be possible to design scientifically-based programmes to grow a happier brain.  Improving the well-being and happiness of employees Contemplative practices such as mindfulness meditation and mindful yoga can be helpful to business in boosting the happiness and health of their employees: a happy, healthy workforce is a key to the success of a company. After offering a mindfulness course to 600 of their employees, Transport for London found that 80% had seen an improvement in their relationships and felt more relaxed, more than half felt happier at work and 64% experienced better sleep patterns. Another pay-off for the employer was that absentee rates due to sickness and stress dropped by an astounding 71%.  The scientifically-proven benefits of meditation in creating a happier, healthier and more compassionate society By encouraging us to focus on the present, meditation calms us, empowering us to lead a happier life and to cope with any difficulties life presents. Science shows that meditation is not only an effective therapy for many common diseases but also helps individuals improve their levels of happiness, grow compassion for others and boost their own physical and mental well-being, leading to the development of a compassionate, thriving and resilient society.  Update 24.03.2018: This article was published on January 30th 2017. Meanwhile a new book "Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body" by Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson was published. Altered Traits is a collaborative overview of the history of research on meditation and an analysis of what claims in the mainstream press are legitimate as opposed to those that are overreaching or simply wrong. For those who are interessted in the purely scientificly provend effects of meditation and how to make the most out of it wen highly recoment this book: "In the last twenty years, meditation and mindfulness have gone from being kind of cool to becoming an omnipresent Band-Aid for fixing everything from your weight to your relationship to your achievement level. Unveiling here the kind of cutting-edge research that has made them giants in their fields, Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson show us the truth about what meditation can really do for us, as well as exactly how to get the most out of it. Sweeping away common misconceptions and neuromythology to open readers’ eyes to the ways data has been distorted to sell mind-training methods, the authors demonstrate that beyond the pleasant states mental exercises can produce, the real payoffs are the lasting personality traits that can result. But short daily doses will not get us to the highest level of lasting positive change—even if we continue for years—without specific additions. More than sheer hours, we need smart practice, including crucial ingredients such as targeted feedback from a master teacher and a more spacious, less attached view of the self, all of which are missing in widespread versions of mind training. The authors also reveal the latest data from Davidson’s own lab that point to a new methodology for developing a broader array of mind-training methods with larger implications for how we can derive the greatest benefits from the practice."   Written by Guest AuthorWe are happy to publish articles by guest authors that will broaden the perspective and bring new insights. If you are interested in publishing an article here on happiness.org please contact us.
  2. Why is Altruism Sexy? Perceived wisdom states that women are attracted to the stereotypical 'bad boy'. But is this always the case? Recent studies suggest otherwise. Conclusions reveal that individuals who have an altruistic nature are actually more successful at finding sexual partners. The fact is that many people are drawn to partners who show a generous spirit. After all, if they are willing to help others then they're likely to be there for us as well. Although this study suggests that altruism calculated for personal gain rather than purely motivated from a desire to help. That won't make it any less likely to succeed - unless it is clear to potential partners that the other person is acting out of personal interests.  Desirability factor altruism One of the studies showed that the 'bad boy' appeal still exists, but only for a short-term fling. Men who exhibited altruism were seen as more attractive for longer-term relationships. This makes sense on an evolutionary basis. In the sense that females are more likely to show interest to males willing to take care of others. The study also concluded that a combination of good looks and altruism was even more desirable to females, but individually, altruism was more successful than merely being handsome.  The caring touch A man seeking a partner for a long-term relationship, therefore, can improve his chances of success by demonstrating a willingness to help others- even if he isn't particularly handsome. As a result, he becomes more attractive to women who are seeking the same kind of committed relationship. Men who are simply looking for short-term partners can rely on their looks for success. Those not seen as 'equally handsome' will need to show more attractive behavioural traits.  Short term sex vs long haul relationship From the male viewpoint, altruism also makes evolutionary sense. The more altruism he shows, the more sex he is likely to have. Either on a casual basis or in a committed relationship. Since on a biological basis the male does not need to stay around once he has fathered a child, the degree of commitment does not matter. Therefore, it only matters to the female that he is willing to stay around and care for the child. This means she is looking for signs of a generous attitude when seeking a long-term relationship. However, when she only wants a short-term fling, she places more emphasis on her partner's appearance than a willingness to care for others.  Personality over looks If a man is motivated for purely sexual reasons, he can improve his chances of success by merely feigning he is an altruist. However, if he genuinely wants to find a long-term partner, he can equally boost his chances by looking for ways in which he can display kindness and help others. It is possible for men to compensate for the lack of conventional good looks. By demonstrating that they have a generous spirit and willingness to help others is a good start. Looks on their own are not as appealing to women. Especially those who prefer a man who is more likely to stay around and help with the offspring.  Attitude wins This also suggests that, far from being an advantage, good looks may actually be a disadvantage for men seeking a long-term relationship. Many women may assume that he is only really suitable for a short sexual relationship. As a result, handsome men will seem more appealing if they demonstrate altruistic behaviours. He needs to prove that he is capable of helping others and willing to do so. So for the man who is looking for a life partner, looks are irrelevant - it is his attitude that is far more important.     Model photo featured image: Colourbox.com Model photo photo in article: Colourbox.com  Written by Guest AuthorWe are happy to publish articles by guest authors that will broaden the perspective and bring new insights. If you are interested in publishing an article here on happiness.org please contact us.