Meaningful Benefits Of Meditation
The benefits of meditation have been known by humans for thousands of years and techniques are ever-evolving.
Science is now providing a better understanding of this ancient practice and some of its potential benefits.
Our bodies are made up of many different systems that work together to fight off infection and maintain balance. Meditation can potentially slow down aging on a molecular level, rev up immunity, and decrease inflammation.
Here is how meditation might improve your overall health and quality of life.
It Can Help Rid You Of Bad Habits
Meditation might help you break some of those bad habits you can’t seem to shake off.
In a small study, smokers saw a 60% decline in their urge to smoke after undergoing meditation training. Areas of the brain related to self-control showed increased activity on brain scans. Subjects believed they were taking part in a study about the impact of meditation on stress reduction – they didn’t know their smoking would be monitored.
It Can Reduce Inflammation And Boost Immunity
The Inflammatory proteins in a group of people were measured by researchers in a study by Georgetown University Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry. The subjects were then given a meditation routine to follow. There was a rise in the inflammatory markers, cytokines IL-6 and TNF-a, in the group that didn’t practice meditation. Comparatively, there was a drop in those same markers among subjects who did practice it.
A randomized control study showed that HIV-positive participants who practiced meditation over the course of 8 weeks, saw their immune cell count remain relatively unchanged. This is huge since HIV-positive individuals typically see a rapid decline in those same immune cells, which leads to AIDS.
You Might Age At A Slower Rate
A telomere, found at the end of a chromosome, is an area of repetitive DNA sequences. Typically, your youthfulness is reflected in the length of this region.
Inflammation in the body could potentially shorten our telomeres which could reduce our ability to slow down skin aging and protect against cancer.
By lessening these inflammatory markers, telomere length increases. Telomerase, an enzyme that lengthens and protects telomeres, can increase in activity with meditation.
Potential to Enhance Memory and Expand Concentration
Gamma brain waves have been linked to enhanced cognitive performance and apparently certain types of meditation can prompt gamma wave activity.
A study using neuro-imaging suggests a better ability to process disconcerting events in those who practice meditation. The study showed increased activity in certain parts of the brain that deal with focus, attention, and meta-awareness.
The temporoparietal junction and cerebellum can see an increase in gray matter as a result of meditation. These parts of the brain handle memory and learning processes and therefore expanding these parts of the brain can lead to improved memory and cognitive ability.
Can Improve Depression, Stress, and Anxiety
One study suggests that meditating could increase an inhibitory neurotransmitter, or GABA, which encourages cortical inhibition. Meaning, that it helps with emotional regulation and forming better cognitive ability by diminishing primal excitatory processes.
Usually, beta wave activity takes center stage in the brain, but during meditation, there can be an increase in alpha and theta waves. Theta waves can be present during REM sleep, while alpha waves are linked to relaxation. People who suffer from depression might benefit from meditation since they have less alpha wave activity.
Just like meditation might increase the gray matter in parts of the brain that help with memory and cognitive function, it can decrease gray matter in parts connected to unpleasant emotions. That might explain why there is reduced stress reactivity in people who practice meditation.
How To Start
Ease your way into meditation by trying it just a few minutes a day. Always bring yourself back if you start wandering and lose focus on your breath. Remember, meditation is a practice, and it takes a lot of it.
Try Different Techniques
There are many resources that can help you find a fitting meditation practice. There is movement, mantra, and mindfulness meditation, to name a few. Try them and see which one you connect with.
Stick To It
You’ve done the easy part; studied the potential benefits of meditation. So, where’s the challenge? Commitment. Set aside a certain amount of time each week to practice. Give it the same priority you would give to a medical appointment or work project.
Traditionally, in-person training has been the way to learn effective meditation techniques. Now there are other ways to learn the practice, like online. There are courses out there that can offer similar training techniques. One such course is ZivaOnline (zivameditation.com). It offers meditation practices and support through a private online community.
Meditation can have a plethora of benefits, both mental and physical. It can increase our cognitive function while simultaneously helping to ward off illness. Your best bet at success in meditation might be to experiment with different techniques and commit to a few minutes every week. It couldn’t hurt to try it out.