As you may know, prolonged stress can have damaging effects on the body. One powerful way to reduce stress and improve your health is through meditation. You may be thinking, “But what exactly is meditation? What do I think about when I am meditating? How am I going to cross my legs in that pretzel fashion?” And most importantly, “How am I going to get them out?”
You’ll be happy to know that it’s not as complicated as all of that. Meditation means “a cessation of the thought process.” You can meditate by focusing on your breath, or by listening to the sounds of the ocean. Successful meditation is when your focus is on that one activity and you free your mind of all other thoughts and distractions. You can also sit in any position that’s comfortable.
Numerous studies have found that meditation has many health benefits. A recent study found that meditators were actually able to shift brain activity to different areas of the brain (from the stress-prone right frontal cortex to the calmer left frontal cortex). This mental shift decreased the negative effects of stress, mild depression, anxiety, and fear. This is not to say that meditation is a guarantee for good health, however there is a growing awareness of the connection between our body and mind. Often, physical ailments can be connected to emotional distress. How many of us have heard the story of a couple who was having difficulty getting pregnant and when stress was removed (by quitting a job, going on vacation, moving to a new town ... etc.) they got pregnant?
Meditation improves your general physical and emotional health. When your mind focuses on a particular part of the body, the blood flow to that part increases and cells receive more oxygen and other nutrients. Here is a list of some of the physical and emotional benefits of meditation.
It lowers oxygen consumption.
It decreases respiratory rate.
It increases blood flow and slows the heart rate.
It Increases exercise tolerance in heart patients.
It decreases muscle tension (any pain due to tension) and headaches.
It helps in chronic diseases like allergies, arthritis etc.
It reduces PMS.
It helps in post-operative healing.
It enhances the immune system. Research has revealed that meditation increases activity of ‘natural-killer cells,’ which kill bacteria and cancer cells.
It reduces activity of viruses.
It increases serotonin production, which influences mood and behavior. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, obesity, insomnia and headaches.
It reduces anxiety attacks by lowering the levels of blood lactate.
It builds self-confidence and reduces emotional distress.
It leads to a deeper level of relaxation.
It improves concentration.
It helps to strengthen and control the mind. By gaining control of your thoughts, particularly negative ones, you are able to see life in a more opportunistic way. Your way of thinking changes from “I can’t” to “Why can’t I?”
Isn’t that a much happier way to see your world?