Meditation comes in many forms and is beneficial to both mental and physical health. Regardless of the type, meditation is a means by which one can focus his or her thoughts. For some, meditation is a religious experience and may involve praying or reading sacred texts. However, regardless of the method used, meditation practices do have some things in common.
The practitioner normally needs a quiet place, at least initially, and an open mind. Often he or she is encouraged to focus on an object, thought or word, while gently pushing other intruding thoughts away. Some forms suggest that when those thoughts enter, they should be casually observed, and then sent on their way without judgment.
How meditation affects mental and physical health?
Although there is still much debate about the answer to that question, common sense dictates that if an individual is able to calm oneself mentally, the body often follows. A calmed body will have a lower heart rate, pulse, and blood pressure, which can only be beneficial to overall physical health.
When meditating to reduce stress in the mind, one may also find he or she is reducing stress in the body. Meditating may also be used to focus on a specific health problem, such as general pain, anxiety, stress, and even the most serious problems such as cancer and heart disease.
While health professionals may not understand how it works, most will concede that meditation often has a positive effect on the emotional and physical health of the person involved.
When considering meditation practices most health care professionals suggest contacting someone trained in whichever form one wants to use. Often, beginners may find themselves so relaxed, they simply drift off to sleep, which may be what the body and mind needed anyway.
What Are the Health Benefits of Meditation?
The benefits of meditation are wide-ranging: from slowing the heart rate down to helping with concentration and memory. But it is only in the last few decades in the West that these benefits have started to become well known.
More and more scientific studies have been made about the benefits of meditation and more and more concrete reports have been filed on what tangible benefits meditation has on both the mind, body, and spirit. In terms of stress management, a regular meditation practice is a key component of recovering from stress.
Benefits of Meditation
So what are the benefits of meditation? What are the reasons that so many people are turning to meditation to deal with anxiety and stress, and why are so many people practicing meditation across the world?
1. Meditation slows down the heart rate: This helps to calm the body and relax the mind.
2. Reduces oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production: Within a few minutes of starting to meditate oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production can reduce up to 20% below the normal levels.
3. Raises skin resistance to pain: Meditation helps to raise the body’s resistance to pain and to electrical currents which decreases when the body is stressed or anxious. This means that if you get a knock or hurt yourself you are less likely to feel the pain or react to the pain.
4. Increases muscle relaxation
5. Reduction of activity in the nervous system: The branch of the nervous system (the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system) responsible for relaxing and calming you dominates when you meditate.
6. Production of lactate is decreased: Lactic acid which is produced when the body’s muscles are starved of oxygen (a stitch during exercise) and when the body is in a state of stress decreases 4 times quicker while meditating than in a normal state of rest. A build-up of lactate can cause fatigue in the short term and in the long term impair energy production.
7. Blood circulation increases during meditation meaning that more oxygen is able to reach your muscles – this, in turn, helps to prevent lactate production (lactate being produced when muscles are starved of oxygen).
8. Significant effect on the brain: During meditation, the brain manufactures alpha and theta brainwaves. You will spend most of your day in beta brainwaves which is important to carry out everyday activities but too much can be draining. Attaining alpha and theta brain waves on a regular basis can help to improve memory, increase concentration, help you to relax, boost your energy and happiness.
Studies have shown that most children are regularly in alpha and theta brain waves. As children grow up they start to move into beta brain wave states. And although this is important to get things done it is also important, no imperative, in order to keep your energy up and achieve the other benefits of meditation, to access these alpha and theta brainwaves.
9. Meditation balances both parts of the brain: Recent research has shown that meditation helps to balance the logical side of the brain and the creative side of the brain. By balancing out the brain this helps to make more balanced and happy individuals.
10. Meditation helps to combat depression: Regular meditation (once or twice a day for 20 minutes) helps to deal with depression, reduces hypertension and helps to relieve anxiety and migraines.
11. Meditation improves concentration: Research also shows that regular meditation helps to improve your concentration, memory, and creativity. Meditating while you are studying for exams can really help the information to enter into the brain.
12. Meditate for better sleep: Having a regular meditation practice helps to improve sleep and the actual quality of your sleep. You will find that you will sleep more deeply and will be less prone to waking in the night. If you do wake the mind will be still so it will be easier for you to drop back off to sleep.
13. Meditate before sleep to wake up feeling refreshed
Lowers the Risk of
According to particular research, meditation may help reduce the risk of heart disease. As researcher Vernon Barnes, MD, a physiologist at the Medical College of Georgia, stated in a news release, “Our blood vessels are not rigid pipes. They need to dilate and constrict, according to the needs of the body.”
Based on his study conducted on a group of black adolescents with high blood pressure, meditation significantly improved the ability of the blood vessel lining, known as the endothelium, to expand and contract. The dysfunction in the ability of the endothelium to dilate is an initial of heart disease. With this, meditation also helps lower blood pressure.
A Way to Relieve Stress
One of the common reasons why meditation is gaining popularity all over the world these days is that it can wipe away the day’s stress, resulting in inner peace. By spending a few minutes doing meditation, it can restore your calm and inner peace. It is regarded as a type of mind and body complementary medicine.
During the state of meditation, you are focusing your attention and eliminate those jumbled thoughts that may cause you worries and stress. As a result, it enhances your physical and emotional well-being.
As an Anti-Aging Medicine
Based on the study by Harvard instructor Dr. Sara W. Lazar, meditation has shown to help reduce the effects of aging in the brain. Her study provided showed some strong physical evidence that there are some long-term physical effects of meditation.
Through practice, the mind can increase the thickness of the prefrontal cortex. This thickening of the cortex is the opposite of what usually happens as the brain ages and it has been concluded that the meditation was responsible for it. Thus, meditation is considered as one of the weapons in the arsenal of fighting to the age of the brain.
Helps Lose Weight
When we think of losing weight, we typically think of physical activities and changing our dietary habits. While we may not be aware of it, the first step to losing weight is within the mind. Once you practice meditation, you will feel more balanced and calm.
With this, it enables you to be in the right mood to exercise. We may have already seen a lot of individuals who often fail to lose weight by dieting.
This is because it does not help them commit to a lifestyle change. With meditation, it can help you to stay determined in your weight-loss goal.
Meditation is Easier Than You Think!
With such overwhelming evidence of the benefits of meditation, why isn’t everyone meditating?
Often the obstacle is that meditation is thought to be difficult and requires years of practice to become “good at it.” The reality is that there are many different styles of meditation and many are very easy to learn and bring benefits from the start.
Some people even find ways to meditate on their own, setting aside a quiet time to sit and “simply be.” Usually, however, some instruction is needed.
There are books, CDs, classes, and websites that offer instruction in meditation. There are many different styles of meditation, and finding the right meditation for you may take some trial and error. It’s important to find a method that feels natural, easy and relaxing. An excellent way to experience the benefits of meditation without having to learn a specific practice is to use a guided meditation CD.
The essence of successful meditation is relaxation. The health benefits can easily be seen to result from a state of relaxation in mind and body. Anything that you can do which relaxes you deeply can be thought of like meditation. Whatever way you choose, we encourage you to start and wish you peace of mind and the very best of health!