- Meditation’s Health Benefits
- Types of meditation
- Reduced brain aging and better memory
- Reduced pain
- Better sleep
- Better heart health
- Smoking cessation
- The benefits keep coming…but there may be risks, too
- Could greater use of meditation improve health care?
- Top 12 Health Benefits of Meditation + Mechanisms
- Benefits of Meditation
- 1) Mental Health
- Emotional Stability
- 2) Stress
- 3) Heart Health
- Insufficient Evidence For
- 4) Attention Span
- 5) Immunity
- 6) Aging
- 7) Chronic Illness & Quality of Life
- 8) Inflammation
- 9) Cognitive Function
- 10) Pain
- 11) Melatonin
- 12) Mortality
- Meditation Health Benefits and Stress Reduction
- 12 Little Things That Can Happen to Your Body After Just 15 Minutes of Meditation
Meditation’s Health Benefits
Meditation, an ancient mind and body practice, is used by around 18 million adults in the US.
Meditation is an ancient mind and body practice that is estimated to date back as far as 5,000 BCE. It is believed meditation originated in India, with the earliest documented records of the practice deriving from the teachings of Vedantism – an ancient Hindu philosophy.
In general, meditation involves training the mind to induce a state of consciousness that promotes a sense of serenity and increased concentration.
While meditation was traditionally practiced to induce a deeper religious and spiritual understanding, it has evolved to become a popular method of relaxation and stress reduction.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) – part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – meditation is practiced by around 18 million adults in the US, or 8% of the population.
Types of meditation
There are numerous forms of meditation, though most fall into four groups: concentrative, open awareness, mindfulness and guided meditation.
Concentrative meditation involves focusing the mind on a single object, such as an image, sound or breathing; Transcendental Meditation is one of the most common forms, in which the practitioner sits comfortably with their eyes closed for 20 minutes twice daily.
Open-awareness meditation, also referred to as non-directive meditation, aims to induce a sense of awareness without focusing on a specific object. Instead, the practitioner embraces all feelings and sensations that arise. Zazen – a Zen sitting practice – is a common form of open-awareness meditation.
Mindfulness is the most common form of meditation in the Western world; it combines both concentration and open awareness. In mindfulness meditation, the practitioner focuses on an object, such as sounds, bodily sensations, feelings, thoughts or breathing. Mindfulness is not as restrictive as concentrative meditation; the practitioner can focus on more than one object at a time.
Guided meditation involves the use of imagery, sounds and/or in-person guidance in order to induce a serene state of mind. Any form of meditation can fall into this category.
Meditation is commonly used to reduce anxiety and stress, but increasingly, researchers have found the benefits of meditation may have a much wider reach.
Reduced brain aging and better memory
Since a key focus of meditation is to induce a tranquil state of mind, it is perhaps no surprise that researchers have found the practice yields brain benefits.
Earlier this year, a study reported by Medical News Today suggested meditation may reduce brain aging.
Studies have suggested that meditation may reduce brain aging.
The study of 100 individuals aged 24-77 – of whom 50 were meditators – found that those who engaged in meditating showed reduced gray matter loss in certain brain regions, compared with non-meditators.
Another study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2012, suggested that mantra-based meditation – a form of concentrative meditation in which a word, phrase or sound is repeated to prevent distracting thoughts – may help older individuals with memory loss.
The researchers, from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, PA, found that 12 minutes of mantra-based meditation daily for 8 weeks increased cerebral blood flow to the prefrontal, superior frontal and superior parietal cortices of 12 older adults with memory problems and improved their cognitive function.
While it remains unclear exactly how meditation affects the brain, researchers are getting closer to finding out.
Last year, MNT reported on a study in which researchers found individuals showed higher brain activity in brain regions associated withprocessing self-related thoughts, feelings and memory retrieval when they practiced Acem meditation – a form of open-awareness meditation – compared with when they were resting.
However, when the same participants practiced concentrative meditation, their brain activity in these regions was the same as when they were resting. This, according to the researchers, suggests that open-awareness meditation allows greater processing of memory and emotions than concentrative meditation.
Chronic pain – defined as pain lasting at least 12 weeks – is one of the leading causes of disability in the US, affecting around 100 million Americans. The most common types of pain include low back pain, severe headache or migraine and neck pain.
While medications such as opioids are commonly used to treat pain, studies have increasingly suggested meditation could be an effective pain reliever.
Last year, a study led by the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC, found an 8-week mindfulness-based meditation program that incorporated yoga reduced the frequency and severity of migraines; those who completed the program had 1.4 fewer migraines a month.
More recently, a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience last month – also by researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center – found that individuals who engaged in mindfulness meditation showed a 44% reduction in emotional response to physical pain and a 27% reduction in pain intensity.
Further investigation using brain imaging revealed that mindfulness meditation reduced participants’ pain by activating the orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortex brain regions, which play a role in self-control of pain.
“ our findings, we believe that as little as four 20-minute daily sessions of mindfulness meditation could enhance pain treatment in a clinical setting,” said lead author Fadel Zeidan.
With today’s hectic lifestyles, it is no wonder so many of us have problems sleeping; around 50-70 million people in the US have some form of sleep disorder. But could meditation help? Some researchers think so.
In February this year, a study reported by MNT found that mindfulness meditation improved the sleep quality of older adults; more than half of American adults aged 55 and older have problems sleeping.
Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the study revealed mindfulness meditation 2 hours a week for 6 weeks reduced Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) scores among the adults from 10.2 to 7.4, compared with a reduction from 10.2 to only 9.1 for those who completed a sleep hygiene education program.
And last year, a study by researchers from Canada found mindfulness-based meditation improved both mood and sleep quality for teenage cancer patients.
On the next page, we look at how meditation may benefit heart health, help quit smoking, and why health professionals say more of us should take up the practice.
Better heart health
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke and heart disease. While lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and exercise are key for reducing blood pressure, a recent study suggests meditation may also be effective.
Researchers suggest meditation may reduce blood pressure, lowering the risk for heart attack, stroke and heart disease.
Led by Dr. Robert Schneider, director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, IA, the study involved 48 black men and women with high blood pressure – a population who is at high risk for the condition.
Half of the participants were randomized to a Transcendental Meditation program for 16 weeks, while the other half were required to engage in lifestyle changes, such as weight reduction and exercise.
The team found that both groups showed a reduction in blood pressure as a result of an increase in expression of genes that produce telomerase – an enzyme linked to reduced blood pressure and mortality.
“The finding that telomerase gene expression is increased, and that this is associated with a reduction in blood pressure in a high-risk population, suggests that this may be a mechanism by which stress reduction improves cardiovascular health,” said Dr. Schneider.
This study builds on a 2012 study conducted by Dr. Schneider and colleagues, which found that black Americans with heart disease were at 48% lower risk of all-cause mortality and death from heart attack and stroke over 5 years if they practiced Transcendental Meditation.
“Transcendental Meditation may reduce heart disease risks for both healthy people and those with diagnosed heart conditions,” he commented.
With smoking being the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the US, there is more focus than ever on identifying ways to help people quit. And according to a study published in July this year, meditation could help do the trick, even for smokers who have no willpower.
Writing in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, the researchers revealed that undergraduate students who smoked demonstrated a 60% reduction in smoking in the 2 weeks after taking part in 5 hours of 30-minute mindfulness meditation sessions.
The team, led by Yi-Yuan Tang, a professor of psychological sciences at Texas Tech in Lubbock, found that this was even the case for smokers who had no willpower. On analyzing brain images of participants, they found mindfulness meditation altered their brain’s self-control network, reducing cigarette smoking without them realizing.
“The students changed their smoking behavior but were not aware of it,” said Prof. Tang. “When we showed the data to a participant who said they had smoked 20 cigarettes, this person checked their pocket immediately and was shocked to find 10 left.”
The benefits keep coming…but there may be risks, too
According to the NCCIH, studies have also suggested that meditation may be effective for treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – a condition that can cause pain and discomfort in the abdomen and lead to changes in bowel movement.
One such study, conducted in 2013 and published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, found that mindfulness meditationeased the severity and symptoms of IBS over a period of 6 months.
One study found meditation may interfere with the ability to accurately recall memories.
What is more, some studies have found meditation may help treat ulcerative colitis – a form of inflammatory bowel disease than can cause ulcers andinflammation in the colon.
Last year, for example, a study published in the journal Digestion found mindfulness meditation was effective for preventing flare-ups among patients with inactive ulcerative colitis.
However, while meditation boasts a lengthy list of possible health benefits, some studies have suggested such benefits may be overstated, while some have even indicated the practice may pose health risks.
In early 2014, MNT reported on a study suggesting that, while meditation shows some health benefits, such as reductions in pain and stress, it does not offer significant benefits in other areas, such as improvement in overall well-being and mental health.
More recently, a study led by researchers found that – contrary to other studies – mindfulness meditation may have a negative impact on memory.
In the journal Psychological Science, researchers suggested mindfulness may interfere with the ability to accurately recall memories, after finding participants who engaged in mindfulness for 15 minutes were less able to accurately recall word lists than non-meditating participants.
Could greater use of meditation improve health care?
Still, given the well-documented potential health benefits of meditation, health professionals are generally in agreement that the practice does much more good than harm, with some calling for meditation to be more widely adopted.
Writing in a blog for The Huffington Post last month, Charles Francies – author of the book, “Mindfulness Meditation Made Simple: Your Guide to Finding True Inner Peace,” – argues that more people should use meditation to improve their overall health, which, in turn, could have a positive impact on health care services.
“The recent rise in popularity of mindfulness meditation is helping people live healthier lives by helping them cope with stress in ways that don’t harm the body and mind,” he said.
“This will lower the demand for health care services, and exert downward pressure on costs, and upward pressure on quality. With mindfulness meditation we can take back control of our health care system, and keep health care affordable and accessible to everyone.”
Francis’s argument is supported by a study published in PLOS One in October. Researchers found that most health care costs in the US are a result of disorders related to stress, such as anxiety and depression, with such conditions costing around $80 billion annually.
Lead study author James Stahl, of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH, and colleagues compared the medical data of more than 4,400 individuals who took part in stress-reducing meditation programs and other relaxation techniques with that of 13,150 people who did not.
The team found that those who engaged in relaxation practices used significantly fewer health services than those who did not engage in such practices.
“We have shown in the past that it works in the laboratory and on the level of individual physiology, and now we can see that when you make people well, they do not want to use health care so much,” said Stahl.
“Just fluorinating your water or vaccinating yourself, these are ways of keeping you healthy with, from a public health perspective, minimal investment.”
Top 12 Health Benefits of Meditation + Mechanisms
Meditation has a long history as a traditional way to reach a sense of peace. In clinical studies, meditation has effectively improved mental health, helped patients deal with stress and pain, and decreased blood pressure. Read on to learn more.
Benefits of Meditation
While meditation is extremely safe, alone or alongside conventional therapies, it should never be used in place of something your doctor recommends or prescribes.
1) Mental Health
Multiple studies have confirmed that meditation reduces the symptoms of anxiety .
A comprehensive meta-study (RCTs) found that meditation lowers anxiety & depression .
Meditation can help anxiety symptoms and stress coping mechanisms with those who have generalized anxiety disorders .
Meditation is just as effective as medication when it comes to treating depression, pain, and anxiety. What’s more, it can offer long-term benefits .
It reduces anxiety by allowing the meditator to retain focus on the present moment .
The posterior cingulate cortex is related to increased anxiety while the anterior cingulate cortex reduced anxiety. Through MRI scans, it was found that the anterior cingulate cortex is activated during meditative states .
Meditation increased gray matter volume in the right angular and posterior parahippocampal gyri – parts of the brain that are important for regulating empathic response, anxiety, and mood .
It only requires brief periods of meditation to enhance mood and minimize distress .
Mindfulness meditation is the best form to reduce destructive and uncontrolled thoughts and behaviors that can lead to depression or anxiety .
Psychologically speaking, meditation and medication are both effective because they undergo very similar processes. Mindful meditation, antidepressants, positively impacts objective sleep which leads to more pleasant moods .
Those who participate in spiritual forms of meditation, in comparison to secular forms, have a significant increase in positive moods and a reduction of anxiety .
In one study, participants who meditated had a larger right hippocampus. Since this region is related to emotional control, the authors suggested that meditation enhanced emotional stability and regulation .
The more years that you meditate, the folding of the brain (cortical gyrification) increases, which helps to integrate cognitive processing .
By activating the angular cingulate cortex, meditation helps with emotional processing .
Among 61 healthy adults, those who participated in compassion meditation had, on average, less stress than the control .
In 58 volunteers in high-stress health jobs, techniques that derive from meditation improved long-term mental health outcomes .
Meditation based practices helped 44 college students cope with stress and encouraged them to be more forgiving .
Group meditation helped students to cope with stressful times and gave them a sense of hope .
Biologically, meditation affected the subiculum of the hippocampus, which regulates stress .
Meditation can be helpful for improving mood and decreasing distress but it’s primarily effective at reducing distracting thoughts .
3) Heart Health
Transcendental meditation is believed to be beneficial in heart disease, as it may reduce blood pressure, neck artery thickness, and incidence of heart attacks .
In 52 subjects, meditating contemplatively caused a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure .
For 127 African Americans aged 55-85, transcendental meditation was much more effective than progressive muscle relaxation for reducing blood pressure .
Insufficient Evidence For
The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of meditation for any of the below-listed uses. Meditation should never be used in place of something your doctor recommends or prescribes.
4) Attention Span
ly because meditating requires focused attention, mindful meditation increased regulation of attention span in 28 volunteers .
To enhance attention span, practitioners recommend meditation training for at least four days .
Meditating appears to affect the brain in areas that are important for concentration and cognitive processes. On the other hand, it has measurably affected parts of the brain that deal with anxiety, mood, and empathetic responses .
In a study of 24 people, meditating sped up thinking and decreased the time it took to respond to a stimulus .
People who have experience meditating have increased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (facilitated memory processing in REM sleep) and the angular cingulate cortex (deals with organized thoughts) .
Meditating can help change the plasticity of the brain. It allows more activity in areas of the brain related to attention and focus and redirects attention in parts of the brain related to distracting thoughts .
Meditating not only increases attention but helps neural processes take control of the autonomic nervous system, which deals with involuntary processes in the body (i.e digestion, breathing) .
People who frequently meditate, in comparison to those who don’t, had increased antibody production after the influenza vaccine. Meditation has also produced functional changes to immune cells circulating in the blood [29, 30].
Meditating reduced lipid peroxide levels in the blood, which is indicative of oxidative damage .
In one study, meditation promoted longer telomeres (protective end of chromosomes) .
Intensive meditation increased telomere activity, indicating less cellular damage and a reduction in oxidative damage in 30 volunteers .
In an analysis of 190 total participants, mindful meditation increased telomere activity, potentially promoting health and immune system function .
In 37 women, loving-kindness meditation increased telomere length relative to the controls .
7) Chronic Illness & Quality of Life
Meditating increased the quality of life and improved physical and mental health. It, therefore, helped to positively benefit people with Multiple Sclerosis (Systematic review) .
For those with fibromyalgia, meditating does show moderate improvement in symptoms .
Cancer patients who meditated found it easier to deal with the stress that comes with illness .
Meditation programs showed effective improvement in symptoms and coping mechanisms in patients with fibromyalgia .
In 19 subjects, meditation and mindful activities led to increased expression of anti-inflammatory genes .
In 40 older adults, mindfulness activities similarly led to decreased expression of inflammatory genes .
Meditation not only reduced the expression of inflammatory genes but reduced mental stress in 39 caregivers of patients with dementia .
9) Cognitive Function
In 112 volunteers, meditation increased the thickness of the prefrontal cortex, which researchers suggested could makes it less prone to the displacement of age-related thinking (slowing down the process) [42, 43].
This process is associated with greater volumes of gray matter [44, 45] and less cognitive errors than the control group .
Researchers have similarly suggested that meditation could have protective effects on the brain by preventing age-related deterioration of gray matter .
Meditation reduced activity in the part of the brain dealing with daydreaming and “rewired” the brain to think more in the present [47, 48].
Although meditation was not as effective as behavioral therapy for pain, it did provide an improvement in coping with pain in 92 volunteers .
Researchers believe that meditation helped to reduce pain by framing the situation optimistically and mitigating the amount of pain perceived [50, 51, 52].
Meditation significantly helped patients with chronic pain conditions [53, 54]. It alleviated pain for up to 15 months after the conclusion of one study .
According to one study, advanced meditators have higher levels of serotonin than those who do not meditate. Serotonin also decreased after an hour of meditation, making a drop in serotonin and indicator of rest and relaxation .
Meditation increased melatonin levels in the blood; researchers believe that this effect may be responsible for the many health implications that it holds .
Meditation helped increased levels of melatonin and, consequently, improved wellbeing .
In a study of 73 elderly subjects, those who had meditated had a greater survival rate over the course of three years .
In various clinical settings, meditation has:
- Increased ACC (anterior cingulate cortex) function which mediates attention .
- Increased PFC (prefrontal cortex) density, resulting in increased executive function .
- The increased cortical thickness of the Hippocampus, which helps learning and memory information .
- Decreased Amygdala activation of the fight or flight (SNS) system .
- Decreased DMN (default mode network) which causes us to seek pleasure .
Meditation Health Benefits and Stress Reduction
From the WebMD Archives
Often thought of as a hippy-dippy practice aimed at transcendence, meditation is coming into its own as a stress-reduction technique for even the most type-A kind of people.
In 2005, for instance, severe chest pains sent Michael Mitchell to the emergency room in fear of a heart attack. It turned out to be gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.
Nevertheless, after checking his heart, the doctor admitted him and chastised him for not coming in sooner. “That really shook me up.
It was a wake-up call to have a look at my type A personality and workaholic lifestyle,” says the 44-year-old Simi Valley, Calif., statistician for the Veterans Health Administration.
Mitchell had shrugged off his high blood pressure, but now he kicked off a personal makeover. He read books on happiness, started psychotherapy, and got more exercise. And, despite a skeptical frame of mind, Mitchell turned to meditation on the recommendation of a trusted co-worker. Within a month, he felt more relaxed — and his blood pressure returned to normal.
Mitchell’s experience is borne out by studies showing that meditation not only lowers blood pressure but also can amp up your immune system — although the mechanism isn’t clear — while improving your ability to concentrate.
Those who meditate can choose among a wide range of practices, both religious and secular. What they have in common are a narrowing of focus that shuts out the external world and usually a stilling of the body, says Charles L. Raison, MD, clinical director of the Mind-Body Program at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Raison participated in a study that indicated that meditation improved both physical and emotional responses to stress. In the study, people who meditated regularly for six weeks showed less activation of their immune systems and less emotional distress when they were put in a stressful situation.
Stress reduction could be the key to meditation’s beneficial effect on health. “We know stress is a contributor to all the major modern killers,” Raison points out. More studies have shown improvement for fibromyalgia and even psoriasis in patients who meditate. “It’s hard to think of an illness in which stress and mood don’t figure,” Raison says.
Science hasn’t yet connected the dots between what happens in the meditating brain and the immune system. But a University of Wisconsin study saw increased electrical activity in regions of the left frontal lobe, an area that tends to be more active in optimistic people, after eight weeks of training in meditation.
If you think that meditation might help you unwind a bit, there are dozens of techniques and disciplines available, from saying a mantra to staring at a candle flame to counting breaths. Keep trying until something feels right. And check out community centers, local colleges, and HMOs for classes; they’re often affordable at such places.
Mitchell himself now meditates almost every morning, sitting on a special bench in his living room. He’s better at coping with life’s vicissitudes, he says, adding that if he slacks off “little things get under my skin in a way they normally wouldn’t. When I get back into the rhythm, I wonder why I let myself get away from meditating regularly.”
Sources: Charles L. Raison, MD, clinical director of the Mind-Body Programat Emory University's School of Medicine, Atlanta, Ga. Dusek, JA, et al.,The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2008, 14 (2):129-138. Davidson RJ, Psychosomatic Medicine 2003, Vol. 65,564-570.
Amishi, JP, Cognitive, Affective, & BehavioralNeuroscience, Vol. 7, No. 2, 109-119(11). Thaddeus, WW,Psychoneuroendocrinology 2008, 34(1): 87-98. Sephton, SE, Arthritis and Rheumatism, 2007,Vol. 57, 77—85. Kabat-Zinn, J, Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol. 60(5)625-632.
Davidson, RJ, Psychosomatic Medicine, 2003, Vol. 65,564-570.
© 2009 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
12 Little Things That Can Happen to Your Body After Just 15 Minutes of Meditation
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Less pain is on the list of benefits of meditation. Just ten minutes a day of mindfulness meditation may reduce the need for painkillers by improving pain tolerance and decreasing anxiety levels, according to new research Leeds Beckett University.
The study included 24 healthy university students who were randomly split into a control group and a meditation group. Participants were asked to put their hand in warm water for two minutes before removing it and placing it into ice water for as long as they could stand. They then either sat quietly for 10 minutes or meditated before doing it again.
Both groups performed similarly the first time around, but the participants in the meditation group saw a decrease in anxiety about pain and a higher pain threshold and pain tolerance on the second go.
“These results do show that a brief mindfulness meditation intervention can be of benefit in pain relief,” says Osama Tashani, PhD, Senior Research Fellow in Pain Studies at Leeds Beckett University in Leeds, UK, in a news release. Holding hands with your partner can also help quash pain.
When it comes to the health benefits of meditation, heart health is high on the list—follow this path to a happy, healthy heart.
Research Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, TM’s hub, showed that practicing TM reduced risk of death, heart attack, and stroke among African Americans with existing heart disease—a group at high-risk for bad outcomes.
These men and women’s were able to cut risk by close to 50 percent; they also lowered their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading), when compared to their counterparts who received health education that did not include meditation.
TM is a very specific type of meditation that requires training by a certified teacher. Practitioners must sit comfortably and close their eyes for 20 minutes, twice a day, while repeating a personalized mantra. Cost of the class is a sliding scale, and financial aid is available.
“There is a huge body of research showing the benefits of TM on the heart and heart disease risk factors blood pressure,” says John Butler, a certified TM teacher at the TM Center in midtown Manhattan.
“We get really profound rest when we transcend through meditation, and this allows the body to rectify, heal, and normalize whatever is off,” he says. There can be dramatic results after just a few meditations.
“When we give our nervous system the rest it needs, it starts to deal with the imbalances such as blood pressure or anything else that is off track.”
Yes, meditation can help us get better sleep without any of the side effects associated with sleeping pills. “When we have insomnia or trouble sleeping, there is some imbalance in our circadian rhythms,” explains Butler.
Circadian rhythms tell our body that it is time to sleep or wake and are light and darkness over a 24-hour period.
“Modern technology with all of its lights and devices have caused our natural circadian rhythms to get way whack so even when we lay down and deeply need to rest, we can’t.”
Enter TM. “We get a deeper rest which allows our circadian rhythms to reset and become normalized,” he says. “Some people report that sleep improves within a few days of starting TM.” Think you are too busy to meditate? Think again. There are some super-easy ways to sneak it in your day.
Weight loss is one of the areas where research on the effects of meditation is not quite as robust, but anecdotally, the evidence is strong.
“A lot of students tell me that their nervous eating goes way and they become more in touch with their bodies and gravitate toward what is good for them and away from what is not when they start to practice TM,” Butler says.
There is some evidence that an increase in the stress hormone cortisol can sabotage weight loss methods. But “the fight or flight response that occurs when our bodies are primed for stress settles down and the restfulness kicks with TM,” he explains.
“This produces blood chemistry changes, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol can drop 30 to 40 when people start to practice TM. It is the opposite of the fight- or- flight response.” There are other natural ways to augment weight-loss efforts including inhaling or applying these seven essential oils.
More research is needed to draw definitive conclusions, but there is some evidence that regular meditation can reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as cramping and diarrhea.
In a small pilot study the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, 48 adults with either condition participated in a nine-week program focused on stress reduction and other healthy behaviors that included relaxation training to be practiced at home for 15 to 20 minutes each day.
And it worked. They not only felt better and had fewer GI symptoms and less anxiety, but there was also marked positive changes in genes involved with their stomach conditions.
“Indeed, the relaxation response reduced the expression of a number of genes directly linked to the key inflammatory processes of IBD.
While the mechanisms behind IBS are less well-defined, they most ly involve stress response, which also could be improved by relaxation response practice, “says study researcher Towia Libermann, PhD, in a news release.
While there are plenty of home remedies to help you regain your inner calm, meditation appears particularly effective.
People with anxiety disorders who took a mindfulness meditation course showed a dramatic dip in stress hormones and inflammatory responses when exposed to a stressful situation, compared with their counterparts who took a stress management course that didn’t include meditation.
Mindfulness involves focusing on the here and now, rather than fretting about the future or dwelling on the past.
Stress was measured using a standard lab test—the Trier Social Stress Test—which assesses biochemical responses to the stress in blood or saliva that occur during a mock job interview followed by a math challenge performed before a panel of three judges. The meditators did better on the test after they took the course compared to how they fared before they learned mindfulness. These findings appear in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
Meditation may reverse some of the reactions in our genes that cause depression and other illnesses, according to a review of 18 studies that included 846 participants and followed them for more than 11 years.
In a nutshell, a stressful event kick starts our body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ response which in turn increases production of a molecule called nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB). NF-kB calls on genes to produce inflammation-causing proteins.
Inflammation is linked to a host of diseases and conditions including heart disease, certain cancers and psychiatric disorders depression. But, the study found, that people who practice mind-body interventions such as meditation or mindfulness exhibit a decrease in production of NF-kB and related inflammation markers.
For some of these reasons, Arcari offers daily drop-in meditations to people being treated for cancer at her hospital. “When we stop focusing on the infusions, tests and scans and really move our thinking mind, there is an innate sense of inner peace.”
Meditation may help us keep our thinking caps in prime shape as we age.
Risk of memory and cognitive problems tends to increase with advancing age and is largely marked by deterioration of the gray matter in the brain (that’s the part responsible for processing information), but meditation may help prevent this deterioration.
In a study of 100 people (half who had meditated for anywhere from four to 46 years and half who had never done so), high-resolution magnetic resonance brain scans showed that meditators had lost significantly less gray matter in numerous brain regions than non-meditators of the same age.
In fact, TM is now included in the Bredesen Protocol developed by Dr. Dale Bredesen, MD, professor of Neurology at UCLA to prevent and reverse the effects of cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease. There may be more you can do to stave off Alzheimer’s too including adopting the everyday habits you can easily incorporate into your routine.
Patience is a crucial skill for a calm and centered life. Check out all these reasons for keeping—and developing—your patience.
Some of us are better at waiting than others—especially when it’s for something that may be life-changing.
People who practice mindfulness tend to cope with such wait-and-see stress better than others and are more ly to maintain an optimistic mindset throughout, according to research in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
These benefits seem to be most pronounced among these who tend to be less optimistic about outcomes before they start to meditate.
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Sure, getting loud and fired up is a great way to prepare for competition—check out these pump-up songs elite athletes use to get their psych on.
But quiet-time can work as well: Research shows that athletes who completed a six-session program mindfulness replete with recommendations to continue the practice at home were more ly to report being in the zone when on the field or court, rate their own performance as better, and also experience less sport-related anxiety.
These benefits of meditation lasted long after the mindfulness sessions were over and well into the athletic seasons. The program is now the basis of a new book called Mindful Sport Performance Enhancement: Mental Training for Athletes and Coaches.
This is one of the primary benefits of any form of meditation, says Patty Arcari, PhD, RN, program manager of meditation and mindfulness programs at the Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
“The brain has been called the master organ of the stress response,” she explains. “Meditation takes the focus away from our brain and causes us to bring attention to another point of focus so our mind doesn’t engage our body in stress physiology.
” This is true no matter what form of meditation that you practice, she says. The difference between the various techniques is what you focus on instead of your negative thoughts. “With transcendental meditation (TM), it’s a mantra.
With guided imagery, it is visualization and with deep breathing meditation, the focus is on your breath not your mind,” she says. Just 10 to 15 minutes a day is enough to take the edge off, but more is better, she adds. (Here are some other benefits of meditation you might not know about.
) Apps can help you develop a practice that fits into your life and lifestyle. Some such as Insight Timer are free, while others Headspace offer free trials, but will involve a paid subscription if you get hooked.
Addiction comes in many forms, from opioids to food—here’s how to find out if you’re a food addict. “Meditation techniques are effective in minimizing addictive behaviors,” says Doron Libshtein, the founder of The Mentors Channel, an online resource that allows visitors to trial various meditation or anti-stress programs before deciding which works best for them.
Meditation requires individuals to manage their negative thoughts and relax the body, which helps reduce the stress that often triggers addiction to any substance whether food, alcohol, drugs or cigarettes, he explains.
“For beginners with addiction, start by setting aside 15 to 20 minutes per day to follow your breath,” he says. “Try using four counts on your inhale and eight counts on your exhale,” he says.
“Your breath shouldn’t be strained in any way, so if you need to work up to eight counts, that’s just fine.” Libshtein also recommends a new wearable stress monitor and mobile app—the WellBe.
The bracelet measures your pulse and when it shoots up, indicating stress, you will receive a text message with salient advice on how to de-stress, which may take the bite a powerful craving.
Originally Published on sitename.comOriginally Published: September 12, 2017