Every time you watch television, open up a magazine, grab a flyer or simply turn down the corner, there seems to be some new fad or health guru proclaiming that this is the key to self-improvement, better health, more energy, and a better peace of mind. So rarely are any of these promises delivered upon. But there seems to be a small group of people who are getting it right.
There appears to be a correlation, backed up by science that people who routinely practice meditation are healthier, happier, have less stress and have higher energy levels. Therefore, let’s unpack the science and see just how meditation can help me and you to have a better body.
Kick Back the Depression
Researchers at the John Hopkins University have found that meditation on its own has the same effect on depression as the leading anti-depressant drugs available, it has also been found to have even greater effects when combined with other forms of treatment such as cognitive-behavioral-therapy. This combination is commonly known as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or MBCT.
Although the evidence to support these claims is still in its early phases, there is a growing body of support within the medical community. It is believed that meditation is an ideal mechanism that aids in the support and treatment of depression and anxiety. According to a study by the University of Exeter, those practicing MBCT had a 47% likelihood of relapse compared to the 60% of those only taking medication.
Change the chemistry of the brain
Stress can be hard to overcome, but several researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison reported that individuals who engage in mindful meditation have lower stress levels and have been shown to reduce the total mass of gray matter within the regions of the mind that control factors such as stress.
Furthermore, an even more significant impact that meditation has on the structure of the brain was uncovered by Dr. Sara Lazar who showed that individuals who actively engaged in meditation had a dramatic surge in gray matter density in regions of the mind that control learning, memory, the ability to control feelings and participants self-awareness. Therefore, meditation supercharges the brain.
Sleep most certainly can be a hindrance to lives, while no one is disputing that snuggling under the comforters is one of our lives simplest pleasures, I can attest to the fact that needing less of it would be preferable to many. Well, recent research out of the University of Kentucky has found that by maintaining a routine of meditation a lower requirement of sleep could be fostered within people.
These very same academics also showed that by engaging in regular meditation, university students – the test subjects in the first part of this experiment – and seasoned meditators from India, had noticeable enhancements in their ability and speed with which they react to things. These leads one to the conclusion that meditation basically turns the brain into a ninja.
Improve your ability to perform under pressure
Extreme stress, emotional flares or more commonly referred to as mood swings in popular culture and the pace of modern life all wear one out. However, this does not have to be the case. Dr. Ron Alexander postulates that to increase both personal fortitudes and enhance your skills when it comes to dealing with unpleasant feelings, one must simply meditate.
He further goes on to say that meditation can also benefit people in finding their true purpose and also aides in the healing process after traumatic life events. While emotional strength is fantastic, the ability to have superhuman powers is a life goal for many of us, and according to Doctor F Zeidan and colleagues at the University of Montreal, meditation can help increase your ability to withstand pain as the mind believes it is feeling less pain than it is receiving.
Fight illness and disease
Heart attacks, strokes, and obesity-related disease are everywhere, however, according to Robert Schneider and colleagues, those undertaking meditation had a 48% lowered risk for heart attacks and strokes. They attributed these results to the reduced blood pressure in the test participants and various lifestyle benefits that meditation offers, such as lowered stress.
Other illnesses that meditation can help combat include asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and other inflammation based illnesses, due to meditation being more efficient at reducing inflammation within the human body than other modern lifestyle fixes.