Meditation is neither a diet nor a fitness fad. Instead, it is an effortless practice that renders the mind and body stress free. You can consider mindfulness (being here and now completely in the present moment) to harmonize the mind into a streamlined state of serenity and tranquility. Let us study 10 amazing benefits of meditation that are backed by science.
Meditation is the simple practice of letting go of the past and future and staying in the present moment. It has different forms but the most basic form of meditation is using the breath as an anchor to ground the mind in the NOW or the present moment. Think about it: when you focus your mind on your breath, you are completely present. This is because you cannot rush a ‘future’ breath, nor can you get back a breath that has gone. And that means that your mind is completely in the now without thoughts of past or future. Regular meditation helps put your mind in the present moment to remove negativity and lower stress hormones. Consequently, people with high blood pressure who take up meditation report lowered pressure. The practice also improves digestion and consequently, better sleep.
Here is a study on how regular practice of mindfulness meditation can be effective in treating certain aspects of sleep disturbance.
Meditation can prevent episodes of flatulence, gas, cramps, bloating, etc. Digestion is a bodily process that is affected by stress, anxiety and negative thoughts. Since meditation lowers stress, the body benefits in terms of better flow of oxygenated blood throughout the circulatory system. Naturally, meditation is not a substitute for an unhealthy diet. However, it can help you if your indigestion is caused by stress related factors.
Read this study on how meditation is recommended as alternative therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Regular practice of meditation has benefitted chronic headache and migraine sufferers in terms of reduced pain intensity and episodes of attacks. Some forms of meditation involve ‘scanning’ the body for sensations. When you do so, you learn to become an ‘observer’ with the philosophy that ‘I am not this body, I am not this mind’. When this becomes ingrained in the consciousness, you start observing your life as an observer who knows that the event or the pain is ‘not happening to her/him’ but, like in a movie, to someone else. With practice, this can be extended to day to day life, reducing intensity as well as episodes of stress induced headaches.
Here is a science backed study on how mindfulness meditation can prevent headaches.
Many people who abuse substances like drugs, cigarettes or alcohol do so to forget their anxiety, stress or trauma. Meditation can do just that without the associated side effects. So, addicts can easily use meditation as a replacement for their addictions. In addition to helping overcome addictions, meditation also prevents unhealthy food cravings, negative food habits or overindulgence in thoughts of lust, sex or pornography. As your mind learns to observe each sensation and thought, you learn the art of letting go. This helps the practitioner find serenity and peace by providing an alternative pathway to let go of negativity, fears, doubts and trauma.
Here is a great study on how psychiatrists are using mindfulness meditation to prevent addiction relapse.
Several clinical trials have shown reductions in blood pressure as a result of learning transcendental meditation—a mantra based meditation technique. One randomized clinical trial by Maura Paul Labrador and team has been published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. It shows the positive effect of a 16 week meditation course on 103 adults diagnosed with coronary heart disease. The group that participated in transcendental meditation showed, on average, a drop of 6.2 mm in systolic pressure compared to the control group.
Stress causes surges in cortisol levels which can cause obesity through mindless eating. Mindful eating involves eating slowly and relishing each morsel of food. The practice also signals the brain to stop eating when it is full. If excess stress is a factor in obesity, regular meditation can help prevent unhealthy food cravings. One can also use ‘mindful’ walking to lose weight.
To know more about how mindfulness training can help in weight loss, click here.
Some amount of cholesterol is essential for the body as it holds membranes together and produces bile acids essential for digestion. Cholesterol also aids in the production of vitamin D. The trouble arises when excess cholesterol piles up in the arteries and veins, clogging up the blood flow to the brain and other organs. This increases the risk of strokes and cardiovascular diseases. How does meditation help? With regular practice, meditation destroys stress hormones that lead to an increase in bad cholesterol. Also, meditation reduces stress which, in turn, protects the bodily cells from the damaging effects of cholesterol and plaque buildup.
Here is an interesting study on how meditation can guard against the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Meditation has been used for over 3,000 years to train and calm the mind. We live in a hectic world with a constant bombarding of information. There is scientific proof that meditation can increase alertness, energy, productivity and decrease self criticism by improving self esteem. It is also being used in the corporate world as organizations have discovered that employees who meditate together show better team work and improved interpersonal relationships. This, in turn, enhances the workplace atmosphere and boosts productivity. More and more high level athletes are also using meditation to improve their game and training routines.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD has a link to anxiety and stress. Many doctors are now recommending mindfulness meditation to children and adults with ADHD and ADD as well as to parents/caregivers of kids with learning disorders, autism or hyperactivity. Meditation, when done regularly, deeply relaxes the mind and body to prevent symptoms of ADD and ADHD.
Here is a scientific study backing the use of meditation as an alternative treatment for attention deficit disorder.
Meditation puts the brain in a theta state which reduces stress. This can benefit people with cancer and other terminal illnesses. More physicians are now recommending meditation as a means of slowing down or even controlling pain associated with diseases such as cancer, AIDS or heart disease. The subtle physiological and neurological changes through meditation provide an effective antidote to stress, anxiety and depression and improve the quality of life of terminally ill patients.
Please read more on this here.
Do you meditate? How has it affected your life?
The Healing Power of Meditation: Your Prescription for Getting Well and Staying Well with Meditation by Gabriel S. Weiss, MD
Sports Psychology for Dummies by Leif H. Smith, Todd M. Kays
Handbook of Multicultural Perspectives on Stress and Coping edited by Paul T. P. Wong, Lilian C. J. Wong
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