Meditation’s Health Benefits, Backed By Science
Meditation is no longer revered as something only yogis do. With more people looking for ways to reduce stress and brain chatter, practicing meditation has become mainstream. Unlike other types of cleanses, meditation is holistic — something you do for your mind, body, and soul. There’s a wealth of scientific evidence confirming that learning how to meditate offers a multitude of health benefits.
There’s plenty of fact-based evidence showing how the benefits of meditating continue even if you’re not practicing. One of the most common reasons why people meditate is to reduce stress. Research has shown that over 3,500 people reported that meditation does, in fact, reduce stress levels. Any physical or mental stress increases the level of a hormone called cortisol. This, in turn, can cause a lot of harmful side effects like sleep deprivation, cloudy thinking, high blood pressure, and clinical depression. Studies also confirm that meditation improves the symptoms of certain stress-related conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and irritable bowel syndrome, and can even alleviate the painful symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Feeling anxious is normal. You may feel anxiety when faced with conflict or if you need to make an important decision. However, people suffering from actual anxiety disorders are different. For them, anxiety can be crippling, causing such distress that they’re unable to live normal lives. Meditation has repeatedly been proven to reduce anxiety. In fact, one recent eight-week mindfulness meditation study concluded that the practice reduces symptoms of numerous anxiety and anxiety-related disorders.
- Social anxiety
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic attacks
- Separation anxiety
There are many forms of meditation and different strategies people can choose from in order to suit their specific needs. One such form alleged to relieve anxiety is known as “loving-kindness meditation”. Mindful meditation gives anxiety sufferers control over their thoughts, something people often lack. It calms the storms that brew inside our minds, offering a feeling of empowerment.
When you’re able to trust something more significant than your negative thoughts, you are able to come to terms with what’s been fueling your anxiety. “For me, meditation is a daily practice,” explains Jeanine Duval, a Montreal-based editor who runs Edelwyn, a popular online resource for tarot enthusiasts. “Mindfulness exercises help me stay in tune with myself, but also with the people around me.”
“Small things can make a huge difference — for example, looking at people in the eye when you’re speaking with them lets them know that their presence is important to you and that you aren’t distracted.”
Alleviates emotional distress
Meditation also helps people who are suffering emotionally. There are multiple meditations to help people have a more positive outlook on life and an improved self-image.
- Loving-kindness meditation
- Mindfulness meditation
- Zen meditation
- Kundalini Yoga
- Transcendental Meditation
Stress plays a big role in emotional health. Chemicals known as cytokines, which are produced from cortisol, can affect a person’s mood and lead to depression, a negative outlook on life, and a shattered self-image.
According to recent studies, meditation helps treat depression by decreasing certain inflammatory chemicals that exacerbate its symptoms. In addition, meditating for 30 minutes a day is proven to give you better control of how your brain works, allowing you to rid your mind of negative thoughts, which are clear triggers for depression.
“It is impossible to understand either the biology or psychology of major depressions without recognizing the critical role played by stress,” says Will Williams, founder of Beeja Meditation.
“By working at a deep neurological level, meditation improves a wide range of mental health issues, behavioral problems, and lifelong conditions.”
This doesn’t mean you’ll never have negative thoughts again, however, meditation helps you to manage those negative thoughts and feelings in a different way. When you practice meditation, you let your guard down, let positive energy in and release your mind from self-defense mode. Think of meditation as an internal pause button, giving your soul and mind a chance to breathe.
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