Over the years, modern science has validated a number of teachings and beliefs from the wisdom of ancient civilizations that have been trusted by people but could not be empirically demonstrated until now.
Scientific advances quite often confirm the power, validity, and effectiveness of ancient psychology and meditative and spiritual practices.
On an intuitive level, it has been known for centuries that the lifestyle preached by ancient sages can help us lead happy, healthy, and balanced lives. Now it has been scientifically proven: it is wise to follow these principles of ancient wisdom with confidence and apply them to our lives.
Here are seven ancient beliefs and practices that have been confirmed by modern science:
Altruism Makes Us Healthier
In their relentless search for the best way to live, Greek philosophers debated the differences between the benefits of hedonic and eudaemonic happiness. Hedonism sees happiness as consisting of a high degree of pleasure and a low degree of pain, while eudaemonism defines happiness as having to do with a higher purpose in life.
A study conducted by psychologist Barbara Fredrickson of the University of Chapel Hill in North Carolina reveals which of the two forms of happiness is more beneficial to our health and well-being. Her study was published in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences.
Barbara showed that while both types of happiness can make you feel good, the latter can also give you health and longevity. Using telephone interviews, questionnaires, and blood samples, her study explores how the two forms of happiness affect us genetically.
Research has shown that subjects with more hedonic and less eudaemonic well-being produce fewer antibodies, while those with eudaemonic well-being have increased production of antiviral agents.
Acupuncture Rebalances The Body
Traditional acupuncture, which originated in ancient Chinese medicine, is used to redress imbalances in a person's "qi". According to Chinese medicine, "qi" is the vital energy that circulates in any living organism.
Whether or not you believe in the existence of this energy flow, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has shown that acupuncture is an effective way to relieve migraines, arthritis, and other painful chronic diseases.
Comparing analyses from 18,000 patients, researchers found that acupuncture is far more effective than modern Western medicine in treating various types of pain, including chronic back pain.
Community Support Is Essential To Thrive
Some traditional spiritual teachings suggest that a key component to a happy and fulfilling life is the community. Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina have confirmed this idea, concluding that a healthy social life increases longevity.
The two universities conducted 148 studies, looking at over 300,000 people, and found that those with strong social relationships had a 50% increased chance of survival, with the effect of social relationships on mortality being much greater than that of exercise or obesity.
Meditation Helps You Reduce Stress And Discover Inner Peace
Rooted in Eastern tradition, meditation helps to calm the mind and achieve a heightened level of awareness, while improving health and well-being on a secondary level. Science is now able to demonstrate some of the benefits of the ancient practice of meditation.
A study conducted by Harvard Medical School reveals that meditation practice acts on genes responsible for stress and those that control the immune system.
Harvard psychiatrist John Denninger and his team used genomic and neuroimaging technology to more accurately measure potential physiological changes in each patient.
Observing individuals severely affected by stress after following the yoga and meditation practice prescribed by the study, the researchers determined that the mitochondria's energy status, their resilience, and their activity in relation to reducing stress related to health problems such as hypertension or infertility surprisingly increased.
Compassion Is The Secret To A Happy Life
In Eastern tradition, there is a type of meditative practice that focuses on compassion. A 2012 Emory University study found that this type of meditation can dramatically improve the ability to empathize with other people, initially by interpreting their facial expressions.
Another 2011 study found that with longer-term practice, practitioners' positive emotions increase, allowing them to discover a new level of caring for others, their purpose in life, the support network around them, and of course improved health. All of this has led to an overall increase in the level of satisfaction in these individuals' lives.
Accepting What You Can't Change Is The Secret To Reducing Suffering
According to some Eastern spiritual teachings, you have to accept what you cannot change to reduce suffering. This has been scientifically proven to be true, especially for older adults who are going through difficult changes.
Researchers at Deakin University in Australia have found that seniors with some degree of dependence on assistance from others live longer and feel more fulfilled if they can come to terms with their situation.
The study, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies compares the feelings of life satisfaction and perceived control of older adults living assisted versus those living in the community. The researchers' analysis concluded that their ability to accept the inevitable while maintaining low levels of self-control in an assisted living environment is a significant factor in life satisfaction.
The researchers said, "to protect seniors' well-being, adapting involves both a sense of control and active acceptance of what they cannot change."
Love Is All We Need
The one thing a variety of ancient traditions agree on is that love is a basic element in maintaining a happy and meaningful life.
A group of Harvard researchers, who set out to find the true values that lead to a fulfilled life, conducted a 75-year study that came to the same conclusion. The Harvard Grant Study, led by psychiatrist George Vaillant, looks at the life trajectories of 268 male college students to find answers to universal questions about growth, development, value, and purpose in life.
Vaillant believes the study's biggest finding is that a happy life revolves around loving relationships. He explained that happiness is based on two poles: "one is love, the other is finding a way to live without rejecting love."