5 Science-Backed Reasons Why You Should Make Finding Serenity a Top Priority
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP
Heart-Centered Career Transition and Job Search Coach | Stress Management Coaching
Dictionary.com defines "serenity" as "the state or quality of being serene, calm, or tranquil; sereneness."
In these times of uncertainty, serenity may have seemed elusive at best. But it is important to note that serenity doesn't come from events outside ourselves. Indeed, serenity comes from within, despite any outward circumstances or appearances to the contrary.
Serenity is a state of being.
We must be intentional about pursuing and creating serenity for ourselves, however. It doesn't often happen without some effort on our part. Remember that outer circumstances do not matter. If we wish to achieve any sense of serenity, we have to ignore the chaos that may be going on around us.
Serenity is something we need to seek to experience.
Some people may feel that finding serenity seems like an insignificant or unnecessary quest. But there are science-backed reasons why finding serenity should be a top priority for each of us.
Here are five of those reasons:
1) Improved Mental Health
A series of clinical trials included an analysis of six randomized controlled experiments that showed the effect of mindfulness on depression. The results indicated a connection between mindfulness combined with cognitive-behavioral methods like positive thinking. The connection indicated that there was a positive effect, blocking depression.
Up to 44% of patients experiencing depression who used those techniques reduced the relapse of depression. In fact, the results mirrored the impacts of using antidepressants for depression (Piet & Hougaard, 2011).
A separate analysis of 47 clinical trials found that meditation was able to decrease psychological stress. The types of stress included anxiety, depression, and even pain (Goyal, et al., 2014).
2) Stronger Immune System
Systematic reviews of various experiments showed that mindfulness and the pursuit of serenity have a significant positive impact on the immune system. The reviews noted positive immunological benefits related to the pursuit of serenity.
Mindfulness as a regular practice resulted in lower levels of inflammatory markers. It also increased numbers of the immune systems CD4 “helper cells.” And it indicated the preservation of telomeres, among several others (Black & Slavich, 2016).
3) Enhanced Memory & Focus
Michael Mrazek of the University of California and his colleagues examined the impact mindfulness, and the pursuit of serenity could have on memory and focus. In their study, 48 students were randomly assigned either a mindfulness class or a nutrition class.
After four weeks, students were given assessments that tested their memory and focus. The test results showed that those in the mindfulness class got better test scores than their counterparts in the nutrition class. Moreover, they got better scores on completely unrelated topics, demonstrating improved memory retention.
Those students who practiced mindfulness for 45 minutes, four times per week, for a period of four weeks appeared to be far more focused than their peers in the nutrition class. Mrazek specifically noted, “We found reduced mind-wandering in every way we measured it and improved performance on both reading comprehension and working memory capacity” (Association for Psychological Science, n.d.).
4) Increased Intelligence
Science shows that the pursuit of serenity has the potential to literally grow the brain. A study conducted at Harvard University found that individuals who practiced mindfulness meditation to pursue peace increased the thickness of their prefrontal cortex. That is the part of the brain responsible for decision making, emotional regulation, planning, and regulation of social behavior.
The study indicated that just eight weeks of mindfulness meditation practice showed an increase in gray matter in MRI scans (Lazar et al., 2005). This seemed to show that seeking peace helped participants gain greater mental and emotional intelligence and a stronger, healthier brain overall.
Other research supports the idea that a brain that pursues peace remains sharp and intact even as we age.
A 2015 study published in the journal Mindfulness showed that as little as 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation a day resulted in a significant slowing of age-related cognitive decline. The study went on to show that the practice of mindfulness meditation helped to grow areas of the brain that tend to decline in effectiveness with age (Malinowski, Moore, Mead, & Gruber, 2015).
5) More Happiness
The pursuit of serenity has also been shown to lead to an increase in happiness. One study challenged participants to focus on three things each day they were grateful for over an extended period of time. That study found that participants who did so reported greater happiness and overall satisfaction in their lives (Villarica, 2012).
Essentially, the practice of daily gratitude fostered a sense of daily peace and serenity that led to general feelings of satisfaction with life and self.
The pursuit of serenity will yield favorable results for all who choose to embark on that journey. The physical, mental, and emotional health implications of pursuing serenity suggest that if we make finding and maintaining peace a priority in our lives, we will experience enhanced joy, increased intellect, increased memory, and improved health.
As a result, we should aim to find ways to use mindfulness meditation to implement peace-seeking practices in our lives. If we can make it regularly, we can remain in a state of serenity and thus remain in a state of balance.
Association for Psychological Science. (n.d.). Brief Mindfulness Training May Boost Test Scores, Working Memory. Retrieved from https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/brief-mindfulness-training-may-boost-test-scores-working-memory.html
Black, D. S., & Slavich, G. M. (2016). Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1373(1), 13-24. doi:10.1111/nyas.12998
Goyal, M., Singh, S., Sibinga, E., Gould, N., Rowland-Seymour, A., Sharma, R., … Cramer, H. (2014). Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Deutsche Zeitschrift für Akupunktur, 57(3), 26-27. doi:10.1016/j.dza.2014.07.007
Lazar, S. W., Kerr, C. E., Wasserman, R. H., Gray, J. R., Greve, D. N., Treadway, M. T., … Fischl, B. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. NeuroReport, 16(17), 1893-1897. doi:10.1097/01.wnr.0000186598.66243.19
Malinowski, P., Moore, A. W., Mead, B. R., & Gruber, T. (2015). Mindful Aging: The Effects of Regular Brief Mindfulness Practice on Electrophysiological Markers of Cognitive and Affective Processing in Older Adults. Mindfulness, 8(1), 78-94. doi:10.1007/s12671-015-0482-8
Piet, J., & Hougaard, E. (2011). The effect of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for prevention of relapse in recurrent major depressive disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(6), 1032-1040. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2011.05.002