Meditation for Health and Happiness
Meditation has come to the forefront of how our society treats mental duress, and for good reason! Several scientific studies have confirmed that meditation is good for you both inside and out—but how exactly does it help?
This month, we are taking a deep dive into the world of mindful thinking to explore the several benefits offered and how it can improve every aspect of your health.
Decreases Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
Mental and physical stress causes the adrenal glands to increase production of a stress hormone called cortisol. Over time, increased levels of this hormone can lead to undesirable side effects, such as weight gain and high blood pressure. It can also disrupt your sleep cycle, negatively impact your mood, and drastically reduce your energy levels, making your daily routine even more difficult.
However, an eight-week study showed that mindful meditation reduced the production of cortisol and the inflammation response caused by stress. Another study showed that meditation was even more effective for those with higher stress levels than normal, such as for those in high-stress job environments.
Meditation can also help soothe anxiety, even in extreme cases that involve anxiety disorders such as paranoid thoughts, panic attacks, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
Increased cortisol production can also lead to the release of inflammation-promoting chemicals called cytokines—among other health concerns, these can affect one’s mood and trigger bouts of depression. Several studies have shown that meditation over the course of an extended period of time provided a measurable change in improving optimism and encouraging positive thinking. Some forms of meditation can also give greater insight to your thought patterns and allow you the opportunity to steer them toward more constructive patterns of thinking.
Increases Your Sense of Connectedness and Empathy
Metta meditation is a practice that focuses on increasing positive thoughts and kindness toward yourself. In turn, this type of meditation can lead to increased compassion toward others as well. Studies on this practice have shown that those who participate demonstrate improved social interaction, reduced marital conflicts, and better anger-management responses.
Improves Your Relationships
Meditation has shown to better improve your relationships by heightening the ability to pick up cues indicating how those around you are feeling, and providing better insight on how to respond and relate to them. It can also increase your emotional stability and make you less likely to be influenced by negative people and events.
Lowers Your Blood Pressure and Improves Cardiovascular Health
Stress has been shown to lead to high blood pressure; when your heart is working overtime to pump blood, your heart can suffer, leading to additional health problems. Meditation can relax the nerve signals that coordinate heart function and ease tension in the blood vessels caused by stressful situations. Even simple meditation, such as repeating a mantra, was shown to improve the heart health over those who did not practice.
Helps You Sleep Better
Getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do to keep your body healthy, however, almost half the population will struggle with insomnia or restlessness at some point in their lives. Studies have shown that meditation not only helps you fall asleep sooner, but it also improves your quality of sleep and increases the amount of time you sleep as well. Meditation can quell a racing mind and help release tension in the body, leading to a more peaceful and relaxing transition to sleep.
Can Help Relieve Pain From Ailments Such as IBS, Addiction, and More
IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) affects approximately 15% of the world’s population and is characterized by bloating, abdominal pain and cramps, and uncomfortable, erratic bowel behavior. However, several successful studies have shown that meditation can help release tension and relieve symptoms of IBS. The State University of New York now lists daily meditation as a strongly recommended practice in the management of IBS.
Meditation is especially helpful with breaking dependencies on drugs, alcohol, and behaviors such as binge eating. It provides insight into emotional triggers and increases awareness and impulse control. Research shows that recovering addicts who meditate have better success in controlling their cravings and lower their chances of relapse.
Practicing meditation can even help control pain, as your perception of pain can be elevated in stressful situations. Those with chronic pain and terminal illnesses who practice meditation were shown to report less sensitivity to pain than those who do not.
A study at the University of Western Australia found that women are more likely to conceive during periods when they are relaxed rather than stressed. Another study at Trakya University, in Turkey, also found that stress reduces sperm count and motility, suggesting relaxation may also boost male fertility. If you are looking to conceive, meditation is one of the easiest ways to increase your chances.
Gives You Better Focus
Meditation is like weight-lifting for your brain; it gives you the chance to sit with your thoughts in a way that can improve the strength and endurance of your attention span. One study showed that workers who practiced meditation not only were able to stay focused on a task longer but were also able to retain more details with more clarity than their peers who did not practice. Even better, meditation has shown the ability to reverse and reduce brain patterns that cause your mind to wander.
Meditation allows the opportunity to view things through a different perspective and improves problem-solving capabilities. Many creative minds have sighted meditation as a source of inspiration for them, such as Yoko Ono, David Lynch, and Katy Perry, but even heads of business empires (including Arianna Huffington and Russell Simmons) have included meditation as part of their daily routine.
In addition to improving your focus, meditation can also improve memory retention and overall mental quickness. It has been shown to combat the effects of age-related memory loss and dementia as well.
We’ve learned that meditation is a priceless addition to your daily routine when it comes to health management and improvement, but how do you incorporate it? How do you meditate? When, and where?
Stay tuned for our next installments, where we will break down how to get started, what you need, and more!