Many thinkers and scientists have been captivated by the health benefits of meditation and benefits of meditation for the mind and body. As a result, a number of studies and tests have been conducted to measure the impact of meditation on a person. These studies have found that meditation causes a number of benefits for both your body and mind.
The Benefits Of Meditation On Stress
Today, many people experience chronic or severe stress, which is very negative to our overall well-being and health. Stress is our body’s natural response to tense or dangerous situations.
When you find yourself in these situations, your body releases hormones that prepare your natural flight or fight mentality.
Stress can be a good or bad thing, depending on the length of time that stress is experienced. Stress is good in short bursts because it can motivate us to accomplish our goals or finish tasks by their assigned deadlines. Long-term stress, though, is bad for our health because it can cause physical damage to our bodies and mind.
According to a number of studies, meditation is a great way to manage stress because it activates our body’s relaxation response.
This means that meditation restores the body to a calm state and undoes the effects of stress. As a result, meditation will allow you to manage your stress levels effectively and healthily.
Benefits Of Meditation On Health
Improves heart health
One of the best impacts of meditation on the body is that it improves heart health. According to the American Heart Association, patients who meditated saw a decrease in the thickness of their arterial walls. In contrast, patients who did not meditate did not experience any change to their arterial walls.
The thickness of your arterial walls is very important. Thick arterial walls can cause a number of negative health issues such as high blood pressure, obesity, and other heart related illnesses. If your arterial walls get too thick, they can impact the amount of blood that pumps from the heart, causing a heart attack or stroke.
With meditation, the thickness of the arterial wall decreases, which will allow your heart to pump blood more fluidly and decrease the chances of having a stroke or heart attack.
Decreases muscle tension
Another impact that meditation has on the body is decreasing muscle tension. Muscle tension is when the muscles are not relaxed properly, which often causes sharp pain and difficulty in moving. You may experience muscle tension if you work out intensely, experience severe stress, or take certain medications.
Since meditation often includes controlled breathing and calming the mind, it helps your muscles to relax as well. There is even a meditative technique, called Progressive Muscle Relaxation, that is targeted towards muscle relaxation.
More so, meditation reduces stress, which is a leading cause of muscle tension. If you reduce stress levels, you will also reduce its side effect of severe muscle tension.
Meditation also increases metabolism. Although meditation will not cause you to lose a ton of weight, it will help your body to burn off more calories while resting.
The reason for this is that meditation causes an increase of activity in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that is responsible for controlling your metabolism. If this area is more active, then your body will naturally have a higher metabolism.
The Benefits Of Meditation On The Brain
Slows the brain ageing process
One way that meditation impacts the mind is that it better preserves the brain ageing process. The brain ageing process is measured by the amount of grey matter volume in the brain. The more grey matter, the better shape your brain is in terms of ageing.
A study conducted by UCLA found that long-term meditators had more grey matter volume than those who do not meditate. Younger meditators had more grey matter than older meditators, but older meditators had more grey matter than non-meditators of the same age. This study suggests that meditating slows the brain ageing process.
Slowing the brain ageing process is a great benefit of meditation. The longer the grey matter is preserved, the better your brain functions for muscle control, sensory perception, emotions, and self-control. So, meditation will allow us to use a well-functioning brain and mind for a longer part of our life.
Improves psychological well-being
Another way that meditation impacts the mind is that it changes the structure of the brain so that you experience an improvement in your psychological well-being. Brain structure is measured by the thickness of the cortical or the brain cell volume.
In a study conducted by Harvard University, researchers found that eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction increases cortical thickness in the hippocampus and in areas that control emotion regulation and self-referential processing. At the same time, it decreases thickness in the amygdala, which controls fear, anxiety, and stress.
As a result, patients of the experiment reported an improvement in the psychological well-being and happiness. In fact, patients reported that they felt less stressed and generally felt better about themselves and their lives. In other words, meditation affects the mind by resulting in increased happiness and contentment.
Additionally, meditation improves self-image and outlook. Studies have found that mindfulness meditation decreased depression in over 4,600 adults. One possible reason for this is that stress releases inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. Cytokines can affect mood and lead to depression. Since meditation manages stress, fewer cytokines are released, leading to a decrease in depression.
Some studies have even measured electrical activity in the brains of meditators. The study found that those who meditate have more activity in the regions of the brain that are associated with positive thinking and optimism, further showing how meditation improves one’s psychological well-being.
Meditation also improves one’s concentration and ability to focus. In fact, some studies suggest that even a couple of weeks of meditation increases focus and memory.
In a study that measured the concentration benefits of meditation, those who meditated for a few weeks before the GRE experienced a 16-point increase in the overall score. This point increase is attributed to the increased ability to focus on the questions and test.
So, meditation increases one’s ability to concentrate and focus. This increase affects the mind greatly because it increases its performance when tested and put under pressure.
Assists addicts in recovery
Addiction is a brutal disease that is difficult to regulate, control, and maintain. One way that some addicts have learned to control their addiction is through meditation. It is believed that meditation’s effect on the self-control regions of the brain allows people to better control their addictions and impulses.
In one study, it was found that smokers who meditate were many times more likely to quit smoking than those who did not meditate. This study suggests that meditation helps addicts because it allows them to ride out the craving until it passes.
Other studies have looked at Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention and found that meditation is effective at treating other forms of addiction as well.
Once again, meditation causes the left hippocampus, posterior cingulate, and TPJ to expand, while it causes the amygdala to shrink. As a result, meditators experience more cognitive function, emotion regulation, concentration, realistic notions of the self, and compassion. All the while, they experience less fear, anxiety, and stress.
These effects allow for your mind to function in a way that is more efficient, gentle, and conducive to a healthy and happy life. In other words, meditation has a positive impact on the mind in that it makes it work in a way that improves your intellect, memory, concentration, and emotional well-being.
Meditation allows your body to activate its relaxation response. When your relaxation response is activated, your body reduces its cortisol production, turns off its autopilot, and allows you to become physiologically relaxed, which protects your body from damage.
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Also, read more on meditation in my other posts:
I hope this comes together for you and gives you a clear understanding of the power of meditation and how you can benefit from practising meditation on a regular basis.
This Post Credits the following Organisations and References:
- American Heart Association
- Frontiers in Psychology
- Harvard University
- PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Journal of Behavioural Medicine
- SAGE Journals
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