When we start living from our centre of being, we change qualitatively on every level. Read of some of the benefits of meditating….
Backed by scientific research, a meditative practice is established as being an effective way of relaxing. Regular meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety attacks (by lowering levels of blood lactate); prevent/reduce stress and stress-related muscle tension; lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels; boost the immune system functioning (meditation increases the activity of ‘natural-killer cells’, which kill bacteria and cancer cells); manage chronic pain; increase exercise tolerance in heart patients and even reverse heart disease.
Meditation also increases the level of serotonin, low levels of which are associated with depression, obesity, insomnia and headaches, and it aids in post-operative healing. It assists the body’s regenerative powers, the process of detoxification and of elimination – which, along with stress reduction, are significant in maintaining health and retarding the aging process.
Some articles on the beneficial effects of meditation on physical health are given below:
An accessible list of benefits.
Includes a fascinating infographic on the various physical effects of meditation.
Discusses the ability of meditation and other relaxation methods to turn on disease-fighting genes.
Focuses on the changes that have been observed in meditators’ brains that indicate that they are healthier, and why!
Mindfulness helps students cope with academic stress and the pressures of life outside the school gates.
The chief benefit must be increased awareness as that ‘lights up’ the parts of us that were previously hidden in the basement of our unconscious – for example the unconscious urges and reactions that can drive much of our behavior; the ideas, beliefs and prejudices instilled in us as part of our conditioning, and the wounds we gather through trauma and other life experiences.
While unearthing those facets of the personality, the meditator can observe them all as just that – ‘facets’ – and to remember him- or herself as separate from, and much vaster than, both the mind and the body.
Knowing ourselves more intimately gives us the clarity to recognize our potential and to move in the direction in life that is right for us. A sense of grounding and of being centred creates an inner stability and integrity and along with that, the courage and creativity to go for our dreams
We can know a greater capacity to relax, to be open, receptive and compassionate. Qualities of self-acceptance, self-trust respect, love and a sense of oneness naturally extend to an appreciation and respect for all forms of life.
Being content in the moment, rather than ruminating about the past or the future, joyfulness, playfulness, and gratitude are among other bi-products of meditation.
Meditation heightens awareness and deepens sensitivity. This in turns means an increased ability to be present (rather than ruminating on the past or worrying about the future) in, and to value, each moment.
Through the ability to dispassionately observe from within the changing world of passing thoughts, feelings and sensations, one can self-regulate and take responsibility for one’s emotional reality. In addition, acceptance supports one in ‘sitting with’ thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations.
Centering gives one a sense of connection with one’s inner core, and thus inner stability, integrity and unity. ‘Abiding in consciousness ‘ – that is, immersing oneself in the internal space of stillness and silence – provides an experience of the unchanging aspect of oneself.
A regular practice will also engender greater self-knowing, self-trust, self-acceptance, respect and love – qualities that extend to all forms of life and the environment. Because meditation allows the mind time out, the meditator has a more efficient and creative mind.
Clearly, meditation is a fundamental resource for a life of fulfillment. Its value extends to all aspects of what it is to be human, including coping with a crisis, such as being ill and/or confronting our dying or that of someone we are caring for.
Because we are all unique, it is not possible to predict when particular results can be experienced. But if meditation is making a deep impact on you, you will experience its impact on you on every level.
What does science have to say?
The interest in meditation’s effect on our bodies and minds is on the increase in the –previously sceptical – scientific world. Below is a resume of studies related to four aspects of our physical and psychological wellbeing….
Coronary Heart Disease
A study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes in November 2012 tested the claim by meditators that a meditation practice helps them stay healthy, For the study, 201 people with coronary heart disease were asked to either (a) take a health education class promoting better diet and exercise or to meditate. Researchers followed up with participants for the next five years and found that those who took the meditation class had a 48% reduction in their overall risk of heart attack, stroke and death. It’s an initial study, but a promising one. [Time]
We noted earlier that meditation can enhance creativity. Researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands looked at the way two types of meditation — focused-attention (for example, focusing on your breath) and open-monitoring (where participants focus on the both the internal and external) — affected two types of creative thinking — the ability to generate new ideas and solutions to problems. In a study published in April 2012 in Frontiers in Cognition, they revealed that the participants who practiced focused-attention meditation did not show improved results in the two creativity tasks. However, those who practiced open-monitoring meditation did perform better at task related to coming up with new ideas. [Meditation Research]
Researchers at UCLA wanted to study the brains of people who had been meditating for years, versus those who had never meditated or who had only done it for a short period of time. They took MRI scans of 100 people — half meditators and half non-meditators. They were fascinated to find that long-time meditators showed higher levels of gyrification (a folding of the cerebral cortex that may be associated with faster information processing). In a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in February of 2012, they shared that, the more years a person had been meditating, the more gyrification their MRIs revealed. [UCLA Newsroom]
Distractions are everywhere. But can meditation help a person better navigate through them? A computer scientist at the University of Washington teamed up with a neuroscientist at the University of Arizona to test this. The pair recruited 45 human resources managers, and gave a third of them eight weeks of mindfulness-based meditation training, a third of them eight weeks of body relaxation training and a third of them no training at all. All the groups were given a stressful multitasking test before and after the eight weeks. In a study published in the Proceedings of Graphics Interface in May of 2012, they showed that the mindful-mediation group reported less stress as they performed the multitasking test than both of the other groups. [Washington.edu]