Have you ever considered the benefits meditation might have in our health?
As we discussed in the previous post, the practice of meditation has lots of health and mental benefits. It teaches us to love ourselves as well as others. We learn to make compassionate choices, based on the reality of what is, as opposed to making decisions affected by personal bias. The healing power of meditation lies in the fact that we are able to establish a connection with our thoughts, accept their existence and come to terms with reality.
Today, I wanted to focus on some mediatation benefits associated with our health. So let’s start!
Meditation Boosts Creativity and Reduces Depression
Interactions between neurons in the brain are the basis of thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Brain waves are created due to electronic impulses between the neurons. Whilst there are different types of brain waves, alpha waves are associated with higher creativity and imagination. Hence, the phrase ‘brain wave’ refers to an intelligent or brilliant idea.
Alpha waves areproduced when we experience different states of awareness, such as conscious mindfulness, meditation or daydreaming (when the brain rests in a default state).
Meditation improves cognitive ability and the effect stays with the practitioner through the day. A study conducted by Harvard-affiliated researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital indicates a definite correlation between meditation and positive changes in the brain’s grey matter.
The MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) showed that, after eight weeks of regular meditation, the brain showed denser grey matter in areas of the ‘hippocampus’. The hippocampus is responsible for controlling self-awareness, memory, learning, compassion and reflection. Another similar study conducted on Tibetan Buddhist monks showed that the hippocampus areas were extremely dense.
Can help Reverse the Effects of Ageing
Loss of grey matter is typically associated with ageing.
This is why mental faculties such as memory deteriorate with age.
Regular meditation may be effective in reversing the effects of ageing due to the positive effect on the hippocampus. Studies in the field of psychosomatic medicine (mind-body medicine) show that people who practised regular meditation experienced lower levels of lipid peroxide – a hormone known to accelerate the effects of ageing.
In addition, meditation helps to restore the protective caps on chromosomes called ‘telomeres’. This promotes healthy cell division and is said to reverse the effects of cellular ageing.
- Tendency to be less disposed towards negative thinking
- Improved mental clarity
- Improved longevity
- Enhanced mindfulness
- Better cognitive ability
Regular Meditation Promotes Better Sleep
Meditation practice can also help stave off the effects of insomnia.
The relaxation response helps the mind and the body to relax and we are able to sleep better. Through regular meditation practice, the mind becomes attuned to a natural state of awareness and ceases to be agitated by external circumstances. This is important because the major causes of insomnia include stress, distraction and mental agitation.
In addition, the stimulation provided by television, the Internet, electronic devices, etc. increase restlessness. You may be thinking about a movie that you watched before sleeping or a disturbing news report. The mind retains these images and feels emotion.
Mindfulness meditation helps you to stay in the present moment, and the mind is no longer thinking about the past, including events that occurred just a few moments ago.
In addition to stress, people who suffer from anxiety and depression tend to experience sleeplessness. Their thoughts, which are usually disturbing in nature, dominate their mental space and prevent the mind, and therefore the body, from slipping into a state of stillness.
Helps Reduce Hypertension
Meditation can help to control hypertension or high blood pressure.
Although hypertension can be transmitted genetically, the most common causes can be attributed to lifestyle factors. Poor dietary choices, late nights, overwork, overeating and prolonged stress can all cause hypertension.
Very often, ‘normal living’ is unfortunately not so normal, as far as the mind and body are concerned. Waking up to a busy day, cooking, cleaning, earning a living, raising a family, carrying out duties and paying off debts can all contribute to stress.
Sadly, people are not even aware that they may be suffering from hypertension or borderline hypertension. Given the fast-paced lifestyles of the twenty-first century, it comes as no surprise that even young people can be diagnosed with hypertension. In addition, hypertension was commonly regarded as a disorder that was likely to become a full-blown problem in time.
The truth is that hypertension is a ‘silent killer’ disease that could lead to a stroke or brain haemorrhage. Ongoing hypertension leads to distension of the arteries as they have to accommodate increased blood flow. This in turn increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Hypertension is referred to as the ‘silent killer’ because the afflicted person does not experience any overt symptoms, such as pain or discomfort. Hypertension is one of the major killers in the developed world. In the UK, for example, statistics indicate that an estimated 16 million people are afflicted with high blood pressure. (http://www.bloodpressureuk.org/)
Meditation helps reduce hypertension by helping the mind and body release negative emotions. In fact, meditation is an integral part of stress reduction programmes for patients who suffer from hypertension.
One of the fundamental benefits of meditation is the increased awareness and focus on breathing.
During moments of stress, anxiety or panic, breathing tends to become shallow and fast. Sometimes, we may even forget to breathe for some moments. The truth is that most of us do not breathe deeply and fully, even when we are not stressed – and we are always stressed!
Short, quick and shallow breathing is associated with stress responses.
Meditation helps reduce stress and promotes mindful breathing. Here are five important health benefits of slow and stress-free breathing:
- The body’s muscles automatically relax. Slow, focused breathing results in the relaxation of the muscles.
- As we breathe well during meditation, fresh oxygen pours into every cell and rejuvenates all organs and improves health at the cellular level. You are likely to experience higher levels of stamina and improved mental abilities, including concentration and memory.
- Mindful breathing meditation helps the body flush out toxins from the lymphatic system. A build-up of toxins is responsible for a number of health conditions.
- Meditation breathing also promotes the release of endorphins. Due to enhanced oxygen supply, the brain releases endorphins which calm the body down and ease pain. Regular meditation practices support pain management.
Helps Improve Skin Health
The release of cortisol during moments of stress results in other hormonal imbalances that lead to acne breakouts and skin eruptions.
High levels of everyday stress lead to dry, flaky, acne-prone skin plus hair loss. This is because the constant secretion of cortisol leads to the diversion of other nutrients like oxygen. The lack of adequate nutrients results in reduced skin health.
However, experts suggest that the overall benefits of meditation extend to skin health as well. In addition, the increased rate of elimination of toxins helps the skin achieve a natural glow.
Regular meditation can also result in the reduction of under-eye bags and puffiness as you are more likely to sleep better and the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles as meditation is associated with anti-ageing.
Mindfulness Meditation promotes weight loss by addressing underlying mental and emotional causes. Mindfulness helps people make conscious, positive choices when it comes to eating. Emotional eating and cravings, etc. are some of the common factors that lead to excessive weight.
Mindfulness helps address underlying causes such as poor body image and negative self-image that lead to cravings and binge eating patterns. When someone tempts to eat to fulfil an emotional need, meditation trains them to gently bring their attention to their breathing or to focus on an object. This shift in attention helps control emotional food cravings.
Can Help Chemotherapy Patients
Meditation is quickly gaining popularity as an adjunct to chemotherapy.
Meditation reduces the after effects of chemotherapy. The practice helps to intentionally shift awareness and thus help chemotherapy patients to better manage pain. Meditation also promotes the release of endorphins which help calm the body and aid the pain response. In my next post, I’m going to discuss in detail about mindfulness-based physical and mental health therapies.
Here is a short summary of the health benefits associated with meditation:
- Reduction in stress, hypertension and anxiety
- Improved quality of sleep
- Better mental clarity, memory and focus
- Improved immune function
- Improved skin health
- Anti-ageing effects
- Improved creativity and decision-making ability
- Promotes a compassionate and loving approach
By practising meditation, you are able to work better, enjoy your life with all its ups and downs, and foster more loving relationships with loved ones. You learn to accept and acknowledge what is rather than what should or should not be. The shift in awareness empowers you to lead a more fulfilled and compassionate life. Whether it is playing a musical instrument, participating in a sport, your work, painting or enjoying a concert, you will enjoy what you do and will eventually do it much better.
Business executives become more productive at work because their minds are less cluttered and less distracted. They are able to bring their full attention to the task at hand and this leads to improved productivity and job performance.
Hence, meditation leads to an increase in overall physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. As you become more aware of your mind, body and environment, you are able to relate better to yourself, as well as to others.
At this point, I want to make clear the fact that only with regular practice you can expirience yourself those benefits mentioned above.
If you want to read more about the topic of Mindfulness, you can find it here. In my next post, I’ll share more about meditation therapies, so follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook if you want to know when I post.
See you soon,