When your mind or body are out of whack, life proves out of sorts. Balancing the two brings improved health and greater life satisfaction, right? But that is easier said than done.
Truth is, there is a medication, a drug for nearly every ailment, physical or mental, that you experience. Unfortunately, the list of side effects and potential harm that these chemicals cause seem to override the benefits. Meditation offers a powerful alternative for body-mind balance. This chemical-free option to balancing mind and body gets results. And, science offers the facts and figures to back it up. Let’s take a look.
The stress of schedules leads to less hours of sleep and likely, less restful slumber. Meditation reduces stress which, on its own, results in better sleep. But, a JAMA Internal Medicine published study looked further. Through a randomized clinical trial, researchers found that meditation significantly improved symptoms of insomnia and decreased the severity of fatigue. Daily activities improved as a result.
Meditation also boosts immune system functioning. In Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers reported finding a rise in antibodies and, therefore immunity, in subjects who meditated. It took just eight weeks of a meditation training program to observe these results. Interestingly, the increase in left-side brain activity due to meditation saw a similar increase in the rise of antibodies.
Several studies suggest meditation decreases sensitivity to pain and predicts less pain reports by its practitioners. Researchers find that just four hours of meditation training results in pain reductions of 57 percent and pain intensity ratings lowered by 40 percent. The scientific explanation is that meditation alters the subjective experience of pain.
Meditation also shows promise for those suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions. While studies fail to indicate the elimination of chronic problems, they suggest that meditation plays a positive role in reducing the symptoms of such conditions. In a study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, eight weeks of meditation led to significantly smaller post-stress inflammatory responses than a standard health enhancement program.
Strengthens the Heart
The American Heart Association believes that meditation minimizes the risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies concur that the lower blood pressure and slower breathing associated with meditation leads to a stronger heart. In fact, research indicates that those who meditate reduce their incidence of heart attacks and remain disease-free longer than those who did not.
Increases Gray Matter
Regulating emotions and responses is the work of the brain’s gray matter, in particular, the hippocampus. Meditation increases the gray matter of the brain and the size of the hippocampus, according to a study by Eileen Luders, et.al. Emotional stability and the presence of positive emotions result.
Many studies suggest improved attention and focus come after months or even years of meditation practice. However, an article out of the National Academy of the Sciences of the U.S.A. demonstrated that improvements in attention occur after just five days of a meditation training. The control group which received relaxation training saw no such results.
The widespread issue of depression often finds treatment with drugs. While the need for medication may be valid, meditation offers a supplement, if not an alternative. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the data, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that practicing meditation led to a moderate decrease in depressive symptoms.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
The pressure of society continues to raise symptoms of stress and anxiety. Meditation proves to be a viable antidote. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) conducted a meta-analysis to find that meditation reduces psychological stress. Furthermore, evidence suggested that symptoms of anxiety decreased. A study published in Emotion concurs with results which indicate defensive responses are less in those who meditate.
Strengthens Cognitive Power
Experts agree that meditation boosts brain power. In a special editorial article of the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, the authors report that cognitive processing and executive functioning as well as other aspects of mental work benefit from meditation. Furthermore, cognitive decline in the elderly slows, while education of children speeds up by practicing this discipline, as research proposes.
The Body-Mind Link
To feel wholly well, the mind and the body must function together. Meditation addresses both of these areas and more. Scientists believe that practicing meditation physically changes the brain. This, in turn, brings about physical, emotional and social benefits.
The University of Oregon released research which associates meditation with physical changes in the brain. Studies documenting the increase of gray matter and size of the hypothalamus further support this idea.
In short, according to research, meditation is good for the body and the mind.
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