How Meditation Can Improve Your Health
Most people only have vague ideas about meditation. They see images of people sitting quietly with eyes closed, looking peaceful, but this image tells nothing about what goes on inside the person who is meditating. Research shows that meditation has measurable effects on the health of practitioners and can be used in practical ways to treat patients.
Increases Brain Function
Studies find that meditation physically changes the brain. People who meditated 40 minutes per day had thicker cortical walls in their brains than non-meditators, causing their brains to age at a slower rate. Thicker cortical walls are also linked to better memory, greater decision-making power and longer attention spans.
Lowers Blood Pressure
An experiment at Massachusetts General Hospital asked patients to do meditation instead of taking standard blood pressure medications. They found that 40 of the 60 patients were able to lower their blood pressure without medication or were able to reduce the dosage of medication they needed. The relaxation produced by meditation increases nitric acid in the bloodstream, which helps to open up blood vessels.
Reduces Perception of Pain
The pain reducing abilities of meditation are now being used to help cancer patients manage their sensation of pain.Those who meditated were able to use less pain medication for their medical condition than those who didn’t meditate. Meditating was able to reduce pain intensity by 40 percent and pain unpleasantness by 57 percent. By contrast, morphine reduces pain by an average of 25 percent.
Meditation has been found to be helpful in reducing stress and anxiety in many studies. It changes brain waves to allow the production of calming brain chemicals. Stress reduction is associated with lower rates of a variety of diseases, including heart disease, stroke and even cancer.
Boosts the Immune System
Studies also indicate that regular meditation can help to boost the immune system, providing protection against inflammation, preserving genetic telomeres and improving resistance to viruses and tumors.
Improves Gastrointestinal Function
Studies show that meditation can also help patients with irritable bowel syndrome, as well. Meditation appears to help this troublesome disease by reducing stress and relaxing intestinal walls. Patients had fewer bouts of diarrhea and constipation, as well as less bloating.
An Australian study finds that the relaxed state produced by meditation can help to improve the chances of conception in women. In addition, meditation can also help sperm motility and numbers in men.
People with mood disorders can benefit from the increase in calming brain chemicals that meditation produces. It can help with anger, depression, anxiety, phobias and PTSD symptoms.
Given the many studies on meditation, physicians and other health professionals are now embracing this useful tool for treating illness and maintaining better health.