Stories from Meditation 101

Researchers Analyzed a Buddhist Monk’s Brain After 18 Years of Daily Meditation — Here’s What They Found

Mary Grace Garis

Mary Grace GarisMarch 20, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images/Westend61

If you haven’t picked up meditation, now is the perfect time to start. We already know the mindfulness practice is useful to help yourself reset and feel centered, especially if you’re prone to stress. But a new longterm study explored the possibility that meditation slows aging by analyzing the effects of meditation on a Buddhist monk’s brain over 18 years, and the results are promising.

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, a well-known meditation practitioner and teacher, volunteered to have his brain scanned over the course of nearly two decades. As the son of a meditation master, Rinpoche had the practice instilled in his routine at a young age. It became even more ritualized as he entered adulthood and kept learning and leveling up within a Buddhist monastery. For the study, Rinpoche had his brain scanned in 2002, 2005, 2007, and 2016 (at the age of 27, 30, 32 and 41, respectively); additionally, 105 non-meditating adults from the Madison, Wisconsin, had their brains scanned as a control group.

The study closed when Rinpoche was 41, and it showed that he had the brain scans of an average 33-year-old, suggesting that meditating daily slowed aging in his brain by eight years as compared to those who didn’t.

Other studies have shown meditation might slow aging and sharpen your mind, and it’s particularly useful when it comes to reducing stress. But let’s consider that carrying stress in your body longterm can impact your overall health. We’re talking heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, not to mention the ways it can aggravate anxiety and depression.

But those are just the core benefits of meditation. There’s even a little bit of research that meditation can help with your period woes (although I will need to try that out tonight and get back to you later). And if you don’t feel that the stereotype of straight-up sitting still and emptying your mind is right for you, there are plenty of different types of meditation to experiment with.

You may not have the discipline of a literal Buddhist monk to be doing meditation day-in-day-out for hours and hours. But what you do have right now is the time. And since adding a meditative practice to your daily ritual might help you have even more time down the line, well, what are you waiting for?

Alright, thinking of downloading a meditation app? Here’s how a few ways to tap into both Calm and Headspace. And this is how one meditation expert learned to befriend her mind

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