You all have heard the news that meditation has a plethora of health benefits, but how exactly does this modality work to help us find better health? I can assure you that it’s much more than just the latest fad. Let’s take a look at just a few of these claims and the truth behind them.
- Meditation decreases depression. For someone suffering from depression, there are two critical neurotransmitters that are being impacted: serotonin and norepinephrine. When levels of these two highly important brain chemicals get too low, we feel an overwhelming sense of sadness, and consequently, become depressed.
Currently, the main clinical treatment for depression is a prescription antidepressant, which is almost certain to be targeting these two chemical messengers. While taking medications is easy, there can be side effects. (Suicide happen to be a biggie.) and in most cases, antidepressants just don’t work for many people.
However, now science is starting to show that with meditation, you can boost both serotonin and norepinephrine to healthy “depression resistant” levels… naturally. Meditation creates within your brain a sort of “neurochemical utopia” — where depression is unable to survive. No drugs needed. Just a few minutes of zen.
- Meditation reduces stress and anxiety. The impact of a regular meditation practice reduces the grey-matter density in areas of the brain related with anxiety and stress. Meditation also allows us to connect to the present moment with clarity rather than worrying about “could happen” scenarios – a common trigger for anxiety sufferers.
In simple terms, if we spend 20 minutes each day unplugged and tuned in to our own thoughts through meditation, we can reprogram our very brains to stop anxiety in its tracks.
- Meditation improves your ability to focus. There is evidence that people who regularly meditate have thicker prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula. (In English, that is the part of the brain that keeps us from being distracted by every little thing.) Our prefrontal cortex is VITAL to our ability for cognitive thinking and decision making too.
With THIS in mind, consider for a moment that you can practice meditation and improve your function at work, school as well as in social settings.
- Meditation can reduce your risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease. In a study published in late 2012, a group of over 200 high-risk individuals was asked to either take a health education class promoting better diet and exercise or take a class on Transcendental Meditation. During the next 5 years researchers accompanying the participants found that those who took the meditation class had a 48% reduction in their overall risk of heart attack, stroke and death.
They noted that meditation “significantly reduced risk for mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke in coronary heart disease patients. These changes were associated with lower blood pressure and psychosocial stress factors.”
There are also other researches pointing out similar conclusions, about related health conditions.
It can’t be much clearer than that.
In addition to these more scientific based facts, meditation is also said to help improve relationships. An easy consideration when you see the science mentioned above. Happy and healthy people have better connections with others and deeper relationships overall.
The benefits that we have mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to listing all of the reasons that you should be practicing. Dig out 5 minutes in your day, grab one of my favorite meditation apps (Insight Timer ROCKS!) and get your zen on.