Most people believe that meditating helps in keeping the mind peaceful and calm for a day or two. However, a new study shows that sustained meditation has long-term benefits, which can last as long as last seven years.
Carried out by researchers at the University of California, Davis, called “The Shamatha Project,” it is the most comprehensive study of meditation according to the project’s main website. It examines the effects of two intensive meditation retreats held in 2007 at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado. They followed up with the same set of people six months, eighteen months and seven years after the retreat.
Researchers asked 60 healthy people (who had previous experience with meditation) to participate in an intense, three-month meditation retreat. During that three-month period, participants who were at the retreat were assigned daily meditation sessions for six hours a day. A control group of participants didn’t take part in this retreat.
At the end of three months participants showed a better sense of perception (as measured by their ability to point out subtle differences when asked if two small lines had different lengths) and improved psychological well-being (one specific emotion being “an enhanced sense of awe”), among other things.
The new study shows that those gains in attention observed immediately after retreat were partly maintained seven years later, especially for older participants who maintained a more diligent meditation practice over the years. Compared to those who practiced less, these participants maintained cognitive gains and did not show typical patterns of age-related decline in sustained attention.
Though it is difficult to meditate for six hours, like those in the study, regular meditation between 10-20 minutes have beneficial results.