Dictionary.com defines serenity as the state of being calm, peaceful, or tranquil. In these tumultuous and uncertain times, serenity seems like the furthest thing from reality. Serenity isn’t an emotion that we feel based on our circumstances.
Rather, serenity is a state of being we must be intentional about pursuing and creating for ourselves no matter what our circumstances might be. Finding serenity might seem like an insignificant quest, but there are several science backed reasons why finding serenity should be a top priority.
Improved Mental Health
A meta-analysis of six random controlled clinical trials was analyzed to see if mindfulness combined with cognitive-behavioral methods such as positive thinking were effective at blocking depression.
The findings of this meta-analysis revealed that in up to 44% of patients experiencing depression those techniques reduced the relapse of depression, mirroring the impacts of antidepressants (Piet & Hougaard, 2011). A separate meta-analysis of 47 clinical trials found that meditation was able to decrease psychological stress, which could include anxiety, depression, and even pain (Goyal, et. al. 2014).
Stronger Immune System
Systematic reviews of various controlled trials showed that mindfulness and the pursuit of serenity has a significant positive impact on the immune system. The review noted the following positive immunological benefits related to the pursuit of serenity: lower levels of inflammatory markers, increased numbers of the immune systems CD4 “helper cells,” and preservation of telomeres, among several others (Black & Slavich, 2016).
Enhanced Memory & Focus
Psychological scientist Michael Mrazek of the University of California and colleagues examined the impact mindfulness and the pursuit of serenity could have on memory and focus. The study involved 48 students who were randomly assigned either a mindfulness class or a nutrition class.
After a period of 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 in completely unrelated topics and improved their memory retention.
It appeared that those students who practiced mindfulness for 45 minutes, four times per week, for a period of four weeks were far more focused than their peers who participated in the nutrition class based on the scores. 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.).
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 as a means of pursuing peace increased the thickness of their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for decision making, emotional regulation, planning, and regulation of social behavior.
The study showed that just eight weeks of practice of mindfulness meditation 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 is one that 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).
The pursuit of serenity has also been shown to lead to an increase in happiness. A study conducted challenged participants to focus on three things each day they were grateful for over an extended period of time. The 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 is one that 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.
Thus, we should aim to find ways such as mindfulness meditation to implement peace seeking practices in our lives on a regular basis so that 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
Villarica, H. (2012, April 23). How the Power of Positive Thinking Won Scientific Credibility. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/04/how-the-power-of-positive-thinking-won-scientific-credibility/256223/