Spiritualists and Eastern religions have used meditation for centuries as a form of mind-body medicine, and the western world is finally catching on. There are many different forms of meditation, all of which rest the mind, encouraging a practice of focus and control.
Clear, long-term, scientific research now backs up the many claims that regular meditation literally alters your brain activity, as well as contributes to the psychological and physiological well-being of those that practice.
Health Benefits of Meditation
Meditation encourages a level of consciousness that promotes a state of healing. When the mind is rested, the brainwave pattern moves into the alpha-wave brain state associated a relaxed autonomic nervous system that promotes the healing itself.
Without any control or effort of our minds, the autonomic nervous system is responsible for the regulation of our glands and organs. It consists of two parts: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The parasympathetic nervous system calms the body down, increasing digestive juices and reducing the heart rate. The sympathetic nervous system is designed to rev the body up and get it ready for action. This is commonly referred to as 'flight or fight' response, whose symptoms are commonly felt under times of stress.
When the sympathetic nervous system is turned on for too long, chronic stress or burnout may result from it.
The alpha wave state of the brain stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and reduces the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. Symptoms of stress are reduced, and the individual will increasingly enjoy a greater sense of well-being. And with regular meditation practice, the autonomous nervous system as a whole can be trained permanently into a far more beneficial physical and mental state.
Proven Benefits of Meditation
Scientific research has also proven other health benefits of meditation, such as:
Reduced Anxiety, Stress and Depression
New scientific research shows that meditation activates the left pre-frontal cortex, whilst reducing the activity of the right pre-frontal cortex of the brain. It has also proven that meditating stimulates the serotonin production of the brain. Both serotonin and the left frontal cortex of the brain are associated with positive feelings, such as calm and happiness, and so as a result meditating actually relieves feelings of depression, insomnia, anxiety and even headaches.
Reduced Blood Pressure
Meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce blood pressure, which encourages general heart health and circulation. It has also been shown to reduce cholesterol levels (often influenced by the stress hormone Cortisol), and to relieve the heart itself with its stress-reducing powers.
New scientific research indicates those who meditate are significantly better equiped to deal with infections, viruses and even cancer in comparison to the general population. It has also been proven to speed up the rate of post-operative healing.
Scientists have documented a 50% reduction in perceived pain when sufferers tackled the pain itself with meditation. This is especially relevant to common pain conditions such as arthritis or back problems.
Focus, Concentration and IQ
Long-term meditating has been proven to physically thicken the prefrontal cortex of the brain, leading to an overall improvement in mind's ability to pay attention, its awareness and overall intelligence.
Aging can actually be reversed with regular meditation. As mentioned above, scientific research has shown that meditating thickens the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is contrary to what should occur physically in the brain in the process of aging. Tit is a fact that hose who meditate regularly generally look younger than their chronological, physical age.
Taming Habits and Addictions
In stilling the mind through meditation, addictive behaviours can be observed, analysed and questioned through a process of self-inquiry. In identifying issues surrounding the addictions and gaining deeper personal insights about the source of their cravings, an addict is able to finally let the addiction go.
Meditation has also been shown to increase exercise tolerance and self-confidence, as well as decrease symptoms of PMS and other types of emotional distress.
If you would like to learn more about the meditation techniques available to you, please speak to your local yoga or meditation practitioner.