Updated: Aug 26, 2020
The benefits of meditation
This post focuses on my 5 key benefits of meditation. I don’t practise it with the mechanical regularity I’d like, but when the opportunity arises. Some may read this and instantly think ‘oh, that meditation spiritual malarkey, it’s not for me…‘ but you’d be depriving yourself of some exceptional medically proven benefits! Read on for MORE.
WHY MEDITATE? Things are stressful! With meditation, I used to think the target was to arrive at a stage whereby you feel as though you’ve pressed the ‘off button’ and have discovered a cloud-like existence where thoughts evaporate into the ether… That may be some people’s experience of meditation, but not for me. I have however, become more aware of my thoughts and how they drift, as I relax into the meditative state. Being aware of your thoughts is the foundation of successful Cognitive Therapy and it’s impossible to restructure thoughts if you haven’t first developed the ability to identify them.
Unlike strength training or running, you can’t psych yourself up to say ‘come on, a bit further, one more rep, you can do it‘; with meditation one must go completely the other way, and rather than mustering everything, it relies on relinquishing everything. To do this optimally takes significant practise, but for the busy office worker, even a 10-minute break may feel more pressured and stressful than it should. So give it time (no pun intended) start off small and work yourself up towards more significant bouts of meditation. It has long since bought more calm and mindfulness to my days, and hopefully can do the same for you too!
HOW TO MEDITATE:
That’s not for me to instruct upon, and it can be quite a personally-coloured experience. So I’ll turn you over to my favourite meditation resource!
There are many benefits to meditation. Here are a few I experience.
1. Physiological Impacts. The process of deep relaxation promotes a host of beneficial chemicals and neutral processes in the body, including a slower heart rate, a shallower respiratory rate, reduced blood lactate (ions), less muscular tension, more efficient gas exchange in the lungs, lower cortisol and adrenal levels...just to name a few. With practice, this can all contribute to a stouter immune system, higher energy levels, and a stronger body.
2. Lower Blood Pressure. In the US, where 6.7% of the population is living with Coronary Heart Disease (from 20 years old and up). Every little bit helps when it comes to managing the causes. Harvard Medical School has published countless articles citing meditation as an excellent way to help reduce blood pressure. Meditation certainly shouldn't increase the chances of an adverse outcome.
3. Mental Benefits. By entering the relaxed state on a regular basis, the brain becomes accustomed to producing more neurotransmitter "serotonin' a stimulating less 'fight-or-flight' cortisol, the ladder of which has been shown to impair cognitive performance, suppress thyroid function, trigger blood sugar imbalances, reduce bone density, trigger high blood pressure, lower immune levels and inflammatory response in the body, slow wound healing and even increase abdominal fat retention! With meditation, you're basically relaxing away your stress!
4. Immune System Boost. In 2003, the American Psychosomatic Society published research by R. J. Davidson PhD which scientifically investigated the immune benefits of meditation for the first time. That research credibly demonstrated that those who meditated for the 8 week period after their influenza vaccine showed a material outperformance of those control subjects who did not, both from an antibody-production and neural-activity perspective. You can read the paper HERE (though be warned, it gets pretty technical!). Similarly, Dr Herbert Benson, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, notes in his research that “After two months, their bodies began to change: the genes that help fight inflammation, kill diseased cells and protect the body from cancer all began to switch on”
5. The Less Demonstrable. For me, some of the greatest benefits of meditation are hard to define, but are related to a better understanding of one’s self, a certain tranquility and awareness level that’s proven elusive before, and a generally improved enjoyment of life. Some take away a spiritual comfort, and indeed meditation forms a considerable part of the wonderfully enlightened Buddhist religion, where taking control of one’s state of mind (‘mindfulness’) is considered to be core.