We all know that meditation is good for you, but what health benefits can you expect? How long do you have to practice before you can see the results? And how often is it best to practice?
Over the last two decades there have been over 3,000 scientific studies on the benefits of meditation including from such respected institutes as Harvard. Many of these studies are focused on specific types of meditation and show some very particular emotional effects such as increased awareness, compassion or social bonding. However, recent research has gone a long way to show how altering a person’s state of mind can affect the body on a physical level and the health benefits this can bring.
Here are the ten benefits which consistently shine through in any authentic meditation practice:
The most powerful effect of a consistent meditation practice is, rather predictably, inner calm. This seems to be caused by the practice of learning to allow thoughts, no matter what they may be, to pass by while in meditation without attachment or response. By practicing this skill it seems to transfer into normal, everyday life and so has the benefit of allowing upsetting thoughts to occur without an overly negative response. This means that negativity is dealt with rather then dwelled upon.
On the whole meditators demonstrate less neurotic behaviour and are more balanced individuals. They respond and adapt better to changes in life and to the emotional pressures these bring. When reading through study after study into meditation, it soon becomes clear that this could be a way to cure unhealthy emotional states such as anxiety, depression or guilt. During meditation it seems that the mind is cleansed, bringing about balance and emotional freedom.
Meditation has also been proven to boost immunity in recovering cancer patients. One study showed that when practised daily, meditation reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence. Further studies have shown that regular practice boosts white blood cells in the elderly, giving them a greater resistance to illness.
Studies have shown that those who practice meditation have far less incidence of digestive upset or heartburn. Meditation has also been shown to aid patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, in many cases proving better than most other forms of medication. Other studies show meditation as beneficial in dealing with other digestive problems including diarrhoea, bloating and constipation.
Lowers Blood Pressure
A study proved that meditation effectively lowered blood pressure when practiced for a number of weeks. This appears to work by bringing around calmness and also helping the body to become less responsive to stress hormones. This is similar to the way medication used to lower blood pressure works.
Meditation has been clinically proven to lessen the symptoms associated with inflammation, arthritis, asthma and some skin conditions such as psoriasis. This seems to work through stress reduction, as all the above problems typically worsen with increased stress, and so it follows that by helping reduce stress the symptoms reduce also.
Reduces the risk of heart diseases and strokes
Heart disease is the biggest cause of death in the world. Studies show that meditation is more effective in high risk individuals than an exercise class. Regular meditation practice brings about a 48% reduction in heart attack or stroke. This seems to be caused by lower stress, decreased blood pressure and a healthier outlook on life.
Studies show that women are more likely to conceive when practicing meditation due to the calming effect on their mind and body. Likewise it seems that the stress reducing effect of meditation may also boost male sperm count and thus fertility.
Meditation Prevents Obesity
Studies show that those who meditate have greater impulse control and so tend to eat a more balanced diet. The exact reason for this isn’t clear and could be due to a number of factors such as an improved focus, a greater ability to ignore disturbances or calm inner conflicts.This seems to be most apparent when looking at the person’s eating habits. The change in their eating pattern seems to stem from their ability to prevent emotional eating, which in turn leads to an improved diet and prevents obesity.
Meditation may make you live longer
It looks like the legends may be true. Studies show that an essential part of human cells called telomeres, which determine how our cells age, are protected by meditation practice. Research is still in the early days, but there is data suggesting that “some forms of meditation may have salutary effects on telomere length by reducing cognitive stress and stress arousal and increasing positive states of mind and hormonal factors that may promote telomere maintenance.”
So, as you can see meditation has great benefits and must be one of the best things you can do for your health. Studies show that many different types of meditation have very similar effects, but that choosing a practice that you really like is probably the most likely to have the best effect. Most studies indicate that meditating for as little as 20 minutes a day for a few weeks is enough to bring associated health benefits.
For more information regarding studies in the benefits of meditation please visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_on_meditation