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The League of Arab States Launches the Common Vision for Arab Digital Economy

Vlad Poptamas

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Aboul Gheit with Arab Ministers and Ambassadors to the United Arab Emirates launching the common vision for Arab Digital Strategy at Emriates Palace in Abu Dhabi. (The League of Arab States)
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Under the patronage of Mohammed bin Zayed and the presence of Saif bin Zayed

  • Digital economy strategy to almost double Arab countries’ GDP by 2030
  • 333 billion USD a year would be the potential contribution to the Arab world GDP in adoption of the strategy at full maturity

Under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of UAE’s Armed Forces, the League of Arab States launched the common vision for the Arab Digital Economy during the first day of the Arab Digital Economy Conference held from 16 to 17 December 2018 at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. The launch of the vision was headed by Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, and members of Arab States from Arab Ministers visiting Abu Dhabi and attending Arab Ambassadors to the UAE.

The conference, designed as panel discussions from experts participating from around the world with the endorsement of international organizations including the UN, World Bank, and OECD for the Arab Digital Economy Strategy.

Dr. Hesham O. Dinana, Head of Research for the Arab Digital Economy Strategy said during his presentation: “By 2030 the Arab countries adoption of the digital economy strategy could grow GDP from 2.6 trillion USD up to 4.15 trillion and the total digital growth effect at full maturity could reach up to 333 billion USD a year.”

Stefano Manservisi, Director General European Commission during his participation stated: “Digital transformation is an opportunity for bilateral and also global cooperation, for peace, stability and progress to be pursued across the region and neighboring continents,” as he presented alongside Major General Gert-Johannes Hagemann, Deputy Commander, NATO HQ Rapid Reaction Corps France and Tarek Amer, Governor of Central Bank, Egypt.

Dr. Gérald Santucci, Ambassador, Interop-VLab and Former Adviser on Cross-cutting Policy /Research Issues, EU Commission on Monday’s session titled ‘Developing the policy framework for the Arab digital economy’ also highlighted: “At the same time as the digital economy conference is developing inspiring discussions, 2019 has been proclaimed by the UAE as the Year of Tolerance, one of the tools of empowering civilisations and ensuring stability and flourishing of nations.”

The Digital Economy Conference will continue tomorrow 17th December at Emirates Palace.

SOURCE The League of Arab States

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Aimia Announces Results of Conversion Privilege of Series 3 Cumulative Rate Reset Preferred Shares

Vlad Poptamas

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Data-driven marketing and loyalty analytics company Aimia Inc. (TSX: AIM) today announced that none of its 6,000,000 Cumulative Rate Reset Preferred Shares, Series 3 (the “Series 3 Shares”) will be converted into Cumulative Floating Rate Preferred Shares, Series 4 (the “Series 4 Shares”) on April 1, 2019. During the conversion notice period, which commenced on March 4, 2019 and ended at 5:00 p.m. (Montreal time) on March 18, 2019, 65,624 Series 3 Shares were tendered for conversion into Series 4 Shares. In accordance with the rights, privileges, restrictions and conditions attaching to the Series 3 Shares and the Series 4 Shares, since there would be less than 1,000,000 Series 4 Shares outstanding on April 1, 2019, after having taken into account all Series 3 Shares tendered for conversion into Series 4 Shares, holders of Series 3 Shares who elected to tender their shares for conversion will not have their Series 3 Shares converted into Series 4 Shares on April 1, 2019. As a result, no Series 4 Shares will be issued on April 1, 2019.

 

SOURCE Aimia Inc.

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Analysis

Qudian Inc. Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2018 Unaudited Financial Results

Betty Tűndik

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Photo by Steve Buissinne / Pixabay
Reading Time: 10 minutes

 

Qudian Inc. (“Qudian” or the “Company”) (NYSE: QD), a leading provider of online small consumer credit products in China, today announced its unaudited financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31, 2018.

Fourth Quarter 2018 Operational Highlights:

  • Total outstanding loan balance[1]  as of December 31, 2018 increased by 69.9% to RMB19.0 billion from December 31, 2017
  • Total number of registered users as of December 31, 2018 reached 71.8 million, representing an increase of 14.9% from December 31, 2017
  • Number of outstanding borrowers[2]  as of December 31, 2018 increased by 7.0% to 5.3 million from 4.9 million as of September 30, 2018
  • Cumulative number of borrowers[3]  as of December 31, 2018 increased by 15.1% to 16.7 million from December 31, 2017; New active borrowers[4]  for this quarter was 449,480
  • M1+ delinquency rate by vintage[5]  for loans generated since January 1, 2018 slightly increased to 2.5% through the end of 2018, as a result of longer loan tenure

[1] Includes off + on balance sheet loans directly funded by our funding partners and doesn’t include auto loans from Dabai Auto business.

[2] Outstanding borrowers are borrowers who have outstanding loans as of a particular date.

[3] Cumulative number of borrowers are borrowers who have drawn down credit on or prior to a particular date, on a cumulative basis.

[4] Active borrowers are borrowers who have drawn down credit in the specified period.

[5] M1+ delinquency rate by vintage is defined as the total balance of outstanding principal of a vintage for which any installment payment is over 30 calendar days past due as of a particular date (adjusted to reflect total amount of recovered past due payments for principal and without taking into account charge-offs), divided by the total initial principal in such vintage.

Fourth Quarter 2018 Financial Highlights:

  • Total revenues increased by 20.9% year-on-year to RMB1,803.2 million (US$262.3 million) – Loan facilitation income and others substantially increased year-on-year to RMB579.1 million(US$84.2 million) from RMB149.5 million for the same period last year – Financing income decreased by 14.9% to RMB903.1 million (US$131.4 million) from the same period last year as a result of a decrease in average on-balance sheet loan balance
  • Net income increased by 42.1% year-on-year to RMB767.5 million (US$111.6 million), or RMB2.52 (US$0.37) per diluted ADS
  • Non-GAAP net income[6] increased by 39.2% year-on-year to RMB778.8 million (US$113.3 million), or RMB2.56 (US$0.37) per diluted ADS
  • Our underlying profit was RMB850.2 million (US$123.7 million), excluding a foreign exchange loss of RMB34.4 million (US$5.0 million) and a specific charge of RMB37.0 million (US$5.4 million) incurred by scaling down Dabai Auto business

Full year 2018 Financial Highlights:

  • Total revenues increased by 61.1% year-on-year to RMB 7,692.3 million (US$ 1,118.8 million) – Loan facilitation income and others substantially increased year-on-year to RMB1,646.8 million (US$239.5 million) from RMB302.0 million – Financing income was RMB3,535.3 million(US$514.2 million), flat from 2017
  • Net income increased by 15.1% year-on-year to RMB2,491.3 million (US$362.3 million), or RMB7.74 (US$1.13) per diluted ADS
  • Non-GAAP net income[6]  increased by 14.4% year-on-year to RMB2,549.3 million (US$370.8 million), or RMB7.92 (US$1.15) per diluted ADS
  • Our underlying profit was RMB2,677.1 million (US$389.4 million), excluding a foreign exchange loss of RMB90.8 million (US$13.2 million) and a specific charge of RMB37.0 million (US$5.4 million) incurred by scaling down Dabai Auto business

[6] For more information on this Non-GAAP financial measure, please see the table captioned “Unaudited Reconciliation of GAAP and Non-GAAP Results” set forth at the end of this press release.

“We were pleased to complete 2018 with strong fourth quarter results as we delivered on our full-year earnings target established at the beginning of 2018,” said Mr. Min Luo, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Qudian. “This set of solid results from financials to key operating data demonstrates the massive size and quality of our massive user base and proves our ability to succeed by quickly navigating the various changes in the macro-environment, online-finance industry, regulatory environment and partnership landscape. The fourth quarter of 2018 was the first full quarter following the termination of user engagement through Alipay’s dedicated channel for online third-party service providers. Despite the termination, our registered users continued to grow to 71.8 million and outstanding borrowers grew to 5.3 million in this quarter, demonstrating that an innately affordable and attractive service does not require costly marketing or special channels to successfully grow.”

“Throughout 2018, as a result of our commitment to delivering risk adjusted returns and an overall conservative risk management approach, our asset quality was maintained within our target levels. On regulatory risk, there were various new regulations and guidelines issued in 2018 for the sector. Yet, Qudian is a leader and pioneer to operate a purely institutional funding base of licensed lenders strictly under regulatory compliant annual interest rate and regulated lending activities happen between borrowers and institutions, meaning there are no material regulatory uncertainties for us. During the year, we successfully strengthened our cooperation with existing funding partners in terms of funding size and scope and secured 19 new funding sources compared with a year ago. Looking into 2019, we believe our earnings outlook is well supported by activations in our existing user base and available funding. Beyond income related to risk undertaking, we are excited by prospects that may remove our balance sheet as a growth constraint, such as our traffic referral channel which we launched in the third quarter of 2018. Upon launch of this new service, many internet finance companies immediately signed up and we saw meaningful revenue contribution in the fourth quarter of 2018 with little marginal cost while taking zero borrower credit risk. In addition to traffic referral, we also look forward to taking our open-platform further as we’ve recently begun referring loan transactions to our funding partners, which also we do not take borrower credit risk but earn a greater margin compared to just traffic referral.”

“2018 marked another milestone for us as we achieved our guidance while strictly operating under regulatory compliant annual interest rate. Excluding non-recurring costs and charges, we achieved a record annual underlying profit of RMB2.68 billion after investments in new opportunities and solid execution of the USD300 million repurchase program,” said Mr. Carl Yeung, Chief Financial Officer of Qudian. “Our solid results were attributable to a growing user base, low operating costs, regulatory compliant operating structure and solid asset quality. In 2018, our loan book saw growth of 69.9% year-on-year, which further demonstrated the strong demand from our users with reliable funding. In addition, our asset quality remained healthy throughout 2018, validating management’s decision to lower the risk exposure of our loan book in light of increased delinquencies and elevated credit risk in the industry in early 2018. 2018 saw a slight increase in vintage delinquency rate as loan tenure increased from 2.5 months in 2017 to 8.1 months in 2018 for high quality users.”

Mr. Yeung continued, “For the quarter, our outstanding borrower base reached 5.3 million following the termination of paid marketing on Alipay, which proved our capability in sustaining user growth without reliance on expensive marketing. The termination resulted in a 49.4% decrease in sales and marketing expenses for our core consumption finance businesses in 2018. Looking into 2019, the outstanding loan balance that we collaborate with financial institutions has grown to RMB22.0 billion by March 15, 2019Therefore, we are reaffirming previously announced full year Non-GAAP net income guidance of RMB3.5 billion, excluding non-operating costs and charges.”

“Qudian is committed to delivering shareholder value. Therefore, the company will continue to undertake new challenges and investments where we believe further new growth areas may emerge in addition to helping to keep our talent base challenged, sharp and intellectually growing. We will do so responsibly with the priority that our core consumption finance operations will not be interrupted and targets will be delivered. One example is in 2018, with achieving earnings guidance as our top priority, we quickly scaled back our Dabai Auto business when macro auto sales were slowing in order to reduce overhead and avoid potential risk exposure in asset residuals. Another example is the successful launch of our open-platform initiative. During its inaugural operation in the fourth quarter of 2018, open-platform contributed approximately RMB30 million in revenues carrying no material cost of operations and risks by providing our dormant user base in need of financing more choices and options, thus we look to invest further in this direction by launching various services to activate or attract high quality potential borrowers for our partners. These initiatives demonstrate our company’s execution strength and focus on our results. Furthermore, any excess capital that cannot be deployed for value will be returned to shareholders via buy backs or other means that would enhance shareholder value.”

Fourth Quarter Financial Results

Total revenues were RMB1,803.2 million (US$262.3 million), an increase of 20.9% from RMB1,491.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2017, mainly driven by a substantial increase in loan facilitation income and others and an increase in sales income generated by Dabai Auto business, partially offset by a decrease in revenue from sales commission fees.

Financing income totaled RMB903.2 million (US$131.4 million), a decrease of 14.9% from RMB1,060.9 million for the fourth quarter of 2017, due to a decrease in average on-balance loan balance.

Loan facilitation income and others substantially increased to RMB579.1 million (US$84.2 million) from RMB149.5 million for the fourth quarter of 2017, as a result of a substantial increase in off-balance sheet transactions and the adoption of ASC 606, Revenue from contracts with customers, effective January 1, 2018. Prior to the adoption of ASC 606, loan facilitation service income was limited to the amount that is not contingent on the delivery of the undelivered post origination services. Upon adoption of ASC 606, the total consideration is allocated between the loan facilitation service and post origination services performance obligations. Loan facilitation service income is recognized when the service is rendered, i.e. successfully matching borrowers with institutional funding partners. The amount recognized is limited to the amount of variable consideration that is probable not to be reversed in future periods. Accordingly, the timing of revenue recognition for loan facilitation service income collected in periodical instalments will be recognized earlier under ASC 606. The adoption of ASC 606 resulted in an increase of RMB332.2 million (US$48.3 million) in loan facilitation income for the fourth quarter of 2018.

Sales income substantially increased to RMB257.9 million (US$37.5 million) from RMB26.1 millionfor the fourth quarter of 2017, due to timing of launch for Dabai Auto business late in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Sales commission fee decreased by 78.3% to RMB54.6 million (US$7.9 million) from RMB251.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2017, due to a decrease in the gross merchandise value relating to the merchandise credit business as a result of tighter credit controls in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Total operating costs and expenses decreased by 1.5% to RMB929.0 million (US$135.1 million) from RMB943.0 million for the fourth quarter of 2017.

Cost of revenues increased by 31.9% to RMB402.7 million (US$58.6 million) from RMB305.4 millionfor the fourth quarter of 2017, primarily due to costs incurred by the Dabai Auto business, partially offset by a decrease in funding costs associated with our core online consumer finance businesses.

Sales and marketing expenses increased by 45.0% to RMB136.9 million (US$19.9 million) from RMB94.4 million for the fourth quarter of 2017. The increase was primarily due to an increase in marketing expenses associated with the new Dabai Auto business.

General and administrative expenses increased by 28.3% to RMB82.5 million (US$12.0 million) from RMB64.3 million for the fourth quarter of 2017 as a result of an increase in staff salary and third party service fees, partially offset by a decrease in administrative fees payable to trust companies due to decreased use of trust funding in this quarter.

Research and development expenses increased by 110.0% to RMB77.9 million (US$11.3 million) from RMB37.1 million for the fourth quarter of 2017 as a result of an increase in staff salary.

Provision for receivables decreased by 34.6% to RMB220.8 million (US$32.1 million) from RMB337.8 million for the fourth quarter of 2017. The decrease was primarily due to a decrease in on-balance sheet transaction amount.

As of December 31, 2018, the total balance of outstanding principal and financing service fee receivables for on-balance sheet transactions for which any installment payment was more than 30 calendar days past due was RMB523.8 million (US$76.2 million), and the balance of allowance for principal and financing service fee receivables at the end of the period was RMB585.3 million (US$85.1 million), indicating M1+ Delinquency Coverage Ratio of 1.1x.

The following chart displays the historical lifetime cumulative M1+ Delinquency Rate by Vintage from the second month after credit drawdowns up to the twelfth month after such transactions for all transactions for each of the quarters in 2017 and 2018, before charge-offs:

Click here to view the chart.

Income from operations increased by 58.5% to RMB886.4 million (US$128.9 million) from the fourth quarter of 2017.

Net income attributable to Qudian’s shareholders increased by 42.1% to RMB767.5 million (US$111.6 million), or RMB2.52 (US$0.37) per diluted ADS.

Non-GAAP Net income attributable to Qudian shareholders increased by 39.2% to RMB778.8 million (US$113.3 million), or RMB2.56 (US$0.37) per diluted ADS.

Full Year 2018 Financial Results

Total revenues were RMB7,692.3 million (US$1,118.8 million), an increase of 61.1% from RMB4,775.4 million for 2017, mainly driven by a substantial increase in loan facilitation income and others and an increase in sales income generated by Dabai Auto business, partially offset by a decrease in revenue from sales commission fees.

Financing income totaled RMB3,535.3 million (US$514.2 million), flat from RMB3,642.2 million for 2017.

Loan facilitation income and others substantially increased to RMB1,646.8 million (US$239.5 million) from RMB302.0 million for 2017, as a result of a substantial increase in off-balance sheet transactions and the adoption of ASC 606, Revenue From Contracts With Customers, effective January 1, 2018. Prior to the adoption of ASC 606, loan facilitation service income was limited to the amount that is not contingent on the delivery of the undelivered post origination services. Upon adoption of ASC 606, the total consideration is allocated between the loan facilitation service and post origination services performance obligations. Loan facilitation service income is recognized when the service is rendered, i.e. successfully matching borrowers with institutional funding partners. The amount recognized is limited to the amount of variable consideration that is probable not to be reversed in future periods. Accordingly, the timing of revenue recognition for loan facilitation service income collected in periodical instalments will be recognized earlier under ASC 606. The adoption of ASC 606 resulted in an increase of RMB749.3 million (US$109.0 million) in loan facilitation income for 2018.

Sales income substantially increased to RMB2,174.8 million (US$316.3 million) from RMB26.1 million for 2017 as a result of ramp-up of the new Dabai Auto business.

Sales commission fee decreased by 61.4% to RMB307.5 million (US$44.7 million) from RMB797.2 million for 2017, as a result of a decrease in the gross merchandise value relating to the merchandise credit business as a result of tighter credit controls in 2018.

Total operating costs and expenses increased by 109.0% to RMB5,026.7 million (US$731.1 million) from RMB2,404.8 million for 2017.

Cost of revenues substantially increased to RMB2,735.4 million (US$397.9 million) from RMB880.8 million for 2017, primarily due to costs incurred by the Dabai Auto business, partially offset by a decrease in funding costs associated with our core online consumer finance businesses.

Sales and marketing expenses increased by 25.2% to RMB540.6 million (US$78.6 million) from RMB431.7 million for 2017. The increase was primarily due to an increase in expenses associated with the new Dabai Auto business. Excluding expenses associated with Dabai Auto, sales and marketing expenses decreased by 49.4% to RMB201.6 million (US$29.3 million) from 2017, mainly attributable to a decrease in sales and marketing expenses associated with our core online consumer finance businesses as a result of termination of paid marketing through Alipay’s dedicated channel for online third-party service providers.

General and administrative expenses increased by 39.3% to RMB255.9 million (US$37.2 million) from RMB183.7 million for 2017 primarily as a result of an increase in staff salary and third-party service fees.

Research and development expenses increased by 30.2% to RMB199.6 million (US$29.0 million) from RMB153.3 million for 2017, primarily as a result of an increase in staff salary and third-party service fees.

Provision for receivables increased by 94.8% to RMB1,178.7 million (US$171.4 million) from RMB605.2 million for 2017. The increase was primarily due to an increase in weighted loan tenure from 2.5 months to 8.1 months during 2018.

Income from operations increased by 11.1% to RMB2,689.4 million (US$391.2 million) for 2018.

Net income attributable to Qudian’s shareholders increased by 15.1% to RMB2,491.3 million (US$362.3 million), or RMB7.74 (US$1.13) per diluted ADS.

Non-GAAP Net income attributable to Qudian shareholders increased by 14.4% to RMB2,549.3 million (US$370.8 million), or RMB7.92 (US$1.15) per diluted ADS.

Cash Flow

As of December 31, 2018, the Company had cash and cash equivalents of RMB2,501.2 million (US$363.8 million) and restricted cash of RMB339.8 million (US$49.4 million).

For the full year of 2018, net cash provided by operating activities was RMB3,332.3 million (US$484.7 million), mainly attributable to net income of RMB2,491.3 million (US$362.3 million) and allowance for loan principal, service fee receivables and other receivables of RMB1,178.7 million (US$171.4 million).

Net cash used in investing activities was RMB2,790.7million (US$405.9 million), mainly due to payments to originate loan principal of RMB37,036.4 million (US$5,386.7 million), purchases of current assets held for lease of RMB1,322.0 million(US$193.7 million) and purchase of short term investments of RMB1,352.6 million (US$196.7 million), partially offset by proceeds from collection of loan principal of RMB35,184.8 million (US$5,177.4 million) and proceeds from redemption of short-term investments of RMB1,652.6 million (US$240.4 million). Net cash used in financing activities was RMB6,727.8 million (US$978.5 million), mainly due to repayments of borrowings of RMB8,025.9 million (US$1,167.3 million), repurchase of ordinary shares of RMB1,410.2 million (US$205.1 million), partially offset by proceeds from borrowings of RMB2,644.7 million (US$384.6 million).

Update on Share Repurchase

Under the existing share repurchase program adopted in 2017 that authorized the Company to repurchase up to US$300 million worth of its ADSs (the “Existing Program”), the amount purchased was approximately US$272.8 million as of date of this release. In light of continued disconnection between strong fundamentals and low stock price, on December 13, 2018, the Company announced another share repurchase program to purchase up to US$300 million of the Company’s American Depositary Shares in open market transactions in addition to any further repurchases that may be made under the Existing Program. Looking into 2019, the Company will continue to evaluate the execution of the share repurchase program if there is excess capital besides meeting its annual guidance.

Outlook

The Company reaffirms its total Non-GAAP net income for the full year of 2019 will exceed RMB3.5 billion after excluding non-operating costs and charges, which would represent a 37.3% increase from RMB2,549.3 million for 2018.

The above outlook is based on current market conditions and reflects the Company’s preliminary expectations as to market conditions, its regulatory and operating environment, as well as customer demand, all of which are subject to change.

Conference Call

The Company’s management will host an earnings conference call on March 18, 2019 at 7:00 AM U.S. Eastern Time (7:00 PM Beijing/Hong Kong Time).

 

SOURCE: Qudian Inc.
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Analysis

Scientists: Meditation is Good For You

Betty Tűndik

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It is not just a trend, but studies shows that meditation can help a lot of problems in our lives. We can see around us a World which is bigger, full of innovation, studies, evolution, but more depressed.

There are so many people who are using anti-depressants, drugs, but the root of the problems is still there. So what can help to detox our DNA and Mind and to have a happier life? Meditation seems to be one of the biggest help in this issue.

According to World Health Organisation’s (WHO) report, more than 300 million people in the world are suffering from depression and anxiety.

Stats by cashkaro.com

Being a trend or not, nowadays, but we know that meditation was practiced from thousands of years. Meditative state, relaxation exercises were something “normal” in so many cultures and also religions. The biggest help of meditation was the effectiveness to our brain. The brain is something that attract everything, even our belief system is based on our brain and mind-set, and it is connected to our emotions. The the latest scientific studies shown and concluded how and if meditation can literally change our brain, our DNA and our overall health.

The studies shows that the positive effects of meditation can be:

– Improving Attention & Focus

– Anxiety Attenuation

– Mental Wellbeing

– A help in depression

– Strengthens Immune System

– Increases Grey Matter in Brain

–  Pain Reliever

– Improves Heart Health and balances the Circulatory System

– Prevents Inflammatory Diseases

– Changes DNA

– Strengthens and Changes the Brain Structures

What Harvard says:

Several studies and clinical trials have been carried out that have explored how a mindfulness-based meditation approach can be used to treat and manage depression. Benjamin Shapero, an instructor at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Depression Clinical and Research Program is working with Gaelle Desbordes, who is also an instructor in radiology at HMS and a neuroscientist at MGH’s Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and they have found some amazing results.

The Harvard Meditation Research Study

  1. Two Groups Of Patients: Control (Does Not Meditate) | Experimental (Undergoes Meditation)
  2. fMRI Scan of Both Groups (Brain Scans Based on Emotional Stimulus)
  3. 8 Week Mindfulness Meditation Course (For Experimental Group)
  4. fMRI Scan of Both Groups (Brain Scans Based on Emotional Stimulus)
  5. Compared Results of Both Groups

fMRI scanning will not only takes a picture of our brain, as an MRI, but it also records brain activity during the scan. In 2012, Desbordes showed that changes in brain activity lasts even when people are not meditating. This means the effects of meditation on the brain are long lasting.

Find here the full research:  Harvard research

Illustration by Kathleen M.G. Howlett – The Harvard Gazette – Source: harvard.edu

Our World is changing continuously, our inner-world and outer-world, as well. We all would like to have Inner Peace and to reflect this outside and to bring peace and harmony to the World. We all have these capacities, but why don’t we use it? As we know that from Asia, to America every single ancient culture had something to do with meditation and mindfulness, starting from Zen mediation used in Zen Buddhism, or Tibetan Buddhism, or other modernized meditations which has their roots in ancient cultures and belief systems – always helped people to be in peace with themselves and in our modern society will help more. This is why meditation is something which needed more research and study. There is the ancient experience, but human nature of modern society need to study and question everything.

Personally, I’ve met so many people who are meditating at a daily routine. Of course we have seen also that those people are little bit different than the random ones in our modern world. The truth is that our world is open to meditation and healthy lifestyle, we need and want to change our system and our perception of life and existence.

What those people experienced, and what they know beyond the studies and researches it is theirs and lots of them will share with others through Yoga and meditation classes, teaching mindfulness and bring wellness and happiness to other people’s lives, too.

Our friend and colleague shared with us some benefits she had gained through her life experiences, as she stated:

“Yoga and meditation are my way of living. Nowadays, stress and pain are affecting our energy level and wasting our vital force in the highest degree. In order to increase our mood, our focus, our health and the level of our well-being, it’s recommended to experience yoga and meditation as a way of living our life. According to Patanjali, “Yoga is the suppression of modifications of the mind/ the ending of disturbances of the mind.” Yoga has many physical benefits and but for me is a precious tool for increasing the energy, the prana into the body.

While I am practicing yoga, I feel the freedom of life, the strong connection between body and mind which keeps me centered during the day. Yoga practices are like refilling the energy back into my body. Personally, I feel that yoga empowers me to pursue my dream, and enjoy in a deeper manner the abundance of life.

Meditation is a way to recover the default mode of our brain. Mediation and yoga have beautifully improved my life. They are a bridge for reconnecting to the Source of the Joy, Peace, Love and the Light of my Heart.” 

Yoga and meditation provide equanimity, the necessary inner strength for dealing in a proper manner with all the aspects of life. “Daniela Bystron Mihalciac

Daniela is practitioner of Heartfulness Meditation. Watch below how to practice this meditation:

Find more about Daniela:

http://yogawithdaniela.com/

Facebook: @danielayogalove

The Amygdala

The Almond Shaped Emotions Processor

The Amygdala is the part of our brain that is responsible for emotions processing and memory. A highly active amygdala would result in a person experiencing high symptoms of depression and stress.

Stress is the body’s response to a “Fight or Flight” situation and results in unwanted associated symptoms like headaches, upset stomach etc. The Relaxation Response is the opposite of the Fight or Flight response wherein the body secretes hormones that put us in a deep state of relaxation by engaging a part of our nervous system.

Desbordes and her team aimed to test if increased body awareness in the moment (interoception) can help participants break the cycle of self-rumination. It is extremely difficult for depressed patients to break from the cycle of self-rumination and let go of obsessive thoughts.

The results were promising. The group that received the 8-week mindfulness meditation therapy showed relatively inactive amygdala in response to emotional images. This suggests that the art of mindful meditation allowed people to detach from strong negative emotions relatively easily overcoming depression symptoms. Here is an image from the study:

Source: Harvard Gazette

The mentioned study is just one example of how meditation brings about physical changes in your brain. The Harvard Gazette in a story mentioned that from 11 clinical studies from 2002-2006, there were an astounding 216 studies done from 2013-2015. The number has only increased since then and a lot of meaningful insights have been discovered. These studies have shown preliminary results that suggest meditation can change the following parts of the brain:

  • Amygdala [Emotions Processing]
  • Cerebral Cortex [Stress Related Areas]
  • Hippocampus [Learning & Memory]
  • Thalamus
  • Prefrontal Cortex [Attention control]
  • Parietal Lobes [Attention control]
  • Limbic System [Process Emotions]
  • Anterior Insula [Brings Emotions into Conscious Awareness]

Another study authored by Shirley Telles and team published in the Depression Research & Treatment journal explored how meditation can be used to manage mental health disorders resulting from trauma. While there are several substitute treatments like medicine etc. they bear undesirable effects, unlike Yoga and meditation.

Their research found similar results that confirmed Zen meditation causes changes in amygdala.

How about TAI CHI?

Researchers from the School of Psychology and Cognitive Science from East China Normal University found that a Chinese meditation technique called Tai Chi can over time reduce grey matter atrophy and thereby achieve successful ageing for elders. Their research showed that experienced meditators had higher GMV (Grey Matter Volume) of the thalamus and the hippocampus. Their research also revealed that high GMV results in improved emotional stability.

This means as soon as you will start meditation, you will have sooner benefits and will help in reducing aging process.

What about Relapse?

As the Scientific American published, that Mindfulness meditation can help alleviate depression and possibly anxiety

Scientific American

  • 60% – With depressive episode will relapse
  • 60% – 90% relapsed once will relapse again
  • 95% – Three or more episodes will relapse

John Teasdale, a psychologist from the Medical Research Council (MRC) in Cambridge published a study in 2000 and concluded the potency of mindfulness as a preventive in patients who have relapsed three or more times.

So, we can conclude that regular meditation can reduce stress, improve attention and focus, can bring emotional stability, reduces anxiety, manages depression and changes the physical structure of the brain. However, mindfulness meditation has benefits beyond the brain that affect our biological health. The infographic shows all the currently researched and possible beneficial effects of meditation on the body.

 

Meditation & Pain 

study published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2011 concluded that mindfulness-based meditation can relieve pain. Fadel Zeidan of Wake Forest University along with his team scanned participants brains as they received uncomfortably hot touches to their legs. Those who practised meditation reported experiencing less pain when they simply focused on their breathing. The study found that there was increased activity in the lower region of the brain that controls signals coming from the body as well as the executive centres that evaluate experience and regulate emotions.

As Daniela also said before, we need to practice as a Lifestyle, not just as an exercise or something from our outer world, meditation should be OUR WAY of LIVING.

To summarise, the latest research suggests that through mindfulness-based meditation, people can mitigate their perception of pain and alleviate symptoms of chronic pain. Daily meditation can make you stronger and more resilient to pain. Expert meditators can command such control over their bodies that they feel no pain at all.

What other benefits can we have through meditation?

Heart Attacks

  • 9 Million people Died of heart diseases in 2016
  • 31% of all global deaths
  • 85% of these deaths were caused by heart attacks or strokes
  • Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD) Costs likely to exceed 1 Trillion USD by 2035
  • Economic Cost of CVD was 317 Billion USD in 2012
  • $193 Billion Direct Expenses
  • $123 Billion Due To Lost Productivity

 A research found over 5 years, the group that meditated experienced a staggering 47% fewer heart attacks, strokes and deaths caused by CVD. Drugs that reduce cholesterol levels reduce the risk of life-threatening events only by 30-40 percent. Whereas, common blood pressure drugs reduce these outcomes only by 25% to 30%. Meditation has shown to be clearly more effective.

Cure your cold

  • Those Who Meditated: Missed 76% Fewer Work Days
  • Those Who Exercised: Missed 48% Fewer Work Days
  • Cold Lasted on Average For Both Groups for 5 Dyas
  • Control Group Experienced Cold on Average for 8 Days
  • Level of Antibodies correlated with self-reported lengths of cold

This was found out through a new study published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

DNA Changes

Ivan Buric, a psychologist from Coventry University’s Brain, Belief and Behaviour lab along with her team have found that a gene called NF -kappaB responsible (acts as an “on switch”) for many inflammatory diseases is affected by such meditative practices. They have published their research in the Journal Frontiers in Immunology where they have reported their findings.

Meditation showed that the gene responsible for triggering chronic inflammation and related diseases becomes less active. This means that meditation can bring changes in our DNA that can at least prevent if not fully cure chronic inflammatory illnesses.

Immune System

new study published by researchers from the Netherlands found that volunteers could be taught to control their sympathetic nervous system.

Once trained, all volunteers were exposed to toxins that would create flu-like symptoms. The group that practiced meditation showed signs of improved immunity and even produced higher inflammation-fighting proteins called interleukin-10. This is another example of the ability of the mind to cause physical changes in the body.

Intelligence

Research published in Frontiers in Psychology by a team from Tel Aviv found that adults with developmental dyslexia and ADHD made fewer errors when reading as an effect of a mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention

Michael Posner and Yi-Yuan Tang found in their latest research study that similar meditation practices increased performance on Raven’s progressive matrix which is a measure of fluid intelligence (the ability to identify patterns and solve novel problems)

Another study published in Frontiers of Psychology by researchers from the University of Rome and the University of Udine in Italy found that meditation may even improve creativity in certain manners and contexts. By practicing mindfulness meditation, people train to drop their predispositions and are hence able to perform well on tests that required new ideas, more flexibility, fluency and originality of response.

Japanese study published in PLos One found that regular practice of mindfulness meditation results in higher job performance including higher work engagement, improved subjective job performance, and job satisfaction.

Based on Johns Hopkins University study, it is important to not think of mindfulness meditation as a magical technique that will cure all illnesses and solve all problems. It is a tool that is to be used correctly and regularly to benefit from its positive effects. If practiced regularly, it can definitely improve your wellbeing.

An article in the Scientific American discusses how meditation can even have undesirable effects. Philosopher Owen Flanagan, who is a fan of Buddhism and meditation said that many western Buddhists come off as passive-aggressive. Some studies even suggest that yoga and related meditation techniques can elevate your self-esteem to a level that it comes off more narcissistic than anything else…

I’ve met myself many meditation systems, I used so many tools, I practiced some of them long periods and years, from religion to progressive meditations, I’ve tried a lot. I have a clue about Tibetan Buddhism and I respect the Dalai Lama. At the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, the Dalai Lama said that meditation is hard work even for him. He added that, if neuroscientists and researches could stimulate the same feelings he achieves by meditation artificially, he would be a volunteer for such an experiment.

For so many time science stayed away from meditation and researches in this field. As our world is more and more full of stress, more and more diseases and the mental problem appears, this is something that would be interesting and deserve to study more deeply. Maybe it would be also an answer to so many questions regarding “Who We Are” and our potentials.

I would love to add to this article that right now I am a practitioner of 5 Tibetan rites as a daily routine ( from more than 11 years), From 4 years I am student at Kryon’s School of Consciousness for the Ascension and I meditate between 1-2 hours, daily + Own developed 15 minutes Morning Meditation. Regardless of what researchers and studies would say, positive or negative, I know one thing:

Meditation helped me in many ways and many fields, not just in my health, and prevention, but also in my Career, Work and achieving new things. It is very provocative and challenging, I would say for a person who is meditating, “THE SKY IS THE LIMIT”.

 

The studies and research sources: cashkaro.com

 

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