· 4 minutes read
"Meditation" is just a tool. You can invest some time every day and get some results... but what, actually? And is it possible to improve the process for higher efficiency?
This post aims to get straight to the facts so you don't have to puzzle everything together by yourself. Without "motivational filler content".
Some Benefits of Meditation
To have a reference frame, let's assume that a person has never meditated before and now follows a strict regime of at least 20 minutes per day, for two months. This is what one one can expect:
- 23% increased IQ. Specifically the "fluid" intelligence increases, responsbile for things like creativity, pattern matching and handling novelty.
- 120% increased productivity. Seems to be a compound effect of reduced "downtime" (illness, mood, ...), faster "actions" (decisions, communication, problem solving) and "emotions" (social behavior, stress recovery, bias reductions).
- 50% stress reduction. This alone has has broad implications for your whole body, but is too much in detail for this blog post.
- 60% anxiety reduction. The effect seems to scale with the anxiety levels itself, so more benefit in severe cases.
- 50% insomnia reduction. More efficient bed time also has many benefits in itself.
and there is much more, but not that easy to put in numbers.
If we all would reside within a role playing game, this would be a highly valued buff!
2 x 20 minutes per day. There are several sources for different types of the practice, but all land in the same ballpark of 40 minutes. This also is the typical amount in clinical interventions.
Session durations with less than 15 minutes seem to have a strong dimishing return of the benefits, despite beginners "feel good about it".
Types of Meditation
Everything above is measured from variations of Mindfulness Meditation. Basically focussing on the own breath, thrusting aside thoughts and emotions as they occur. Simple as that, everything else on top looks like spiritual stuff and can be omitted. Indian style sitting, candles, mantras, ... do it only if you like it, no empirical benefits.
There is also the polar opposite of mindfulness: Total Embodiment Meditation. Research is still catching up because it's a mostly unknown thing until now. It works like this: instead of hyper-focussing on one thing (mostly: breath), maximize awareness with all your senses in parallel. It noticeably works within seconds, but has different effects, more like a short-term boost in high-pressure situations. In absence of peer-reviewed numbers, my experience (n=1) confirms that thing, it just took a few days (thanks to former martial arts experience) of training.
Mindfulness builds up slowly over time for permanent benefits, Total Embodiment is a strong immediate boost for a short time. Both compliment each other nicely.
Of course, you actually need nothing to meditate. Having said that, millions of people leverage guided meditation apps to enhance the whole experience.
Being a Cyberpunk freak, software engineer and numbers geek, I vastly prefer something different: Muse. This is a biofeedback device which measures how "deep" you are meditating and gives real-time feedback. I hear when my mind starts wandering and can stop it immediately. When done, a bunch of interesting statistics are calculated and can be compared with previous sessions.
In general I found that using some augmentation helps greatly to prevent the biggest issue: a wandering mind, or being lost in thoughts for most of the time, which negates the whole benefits.
The return on invest seems very clear, the tradition is known for millenia, science confirms the benefits for decades now. Boost your cognitive abilities significantly and permanently in exchange for ~40 minutes of your day. Plus a host of other beneficial effects I'd summarize as "wellbeing" you get on top.
If you still look for a new year's thing: meditation would be a good candidate.