Reprinted with permission from Be Well by Dr. Frank Lipman.
Meditation is one of the most beneficial practices one can engage in, and just about everyone knows they should make time for it. Meditation has a wonderfully calming effect on the body and mind, and encourages a less stressed, more peaceful and aware state of being. Unfortunately though, most people get swept up in life’s frantic pace; more urgent matters come up and thoughts of meditation go out the window. But not making time for meditation is a real loss for your health. If you’re one of those who can never seem to find the time, here are four simple health-boosting reasons why I urge you to get into a meditation groove without further delay – your health depends on it!
Meditation encourages the release of mood-boosting endorphins into the bloodstream, which in turn increases feelings of well-being. Those biochemically-induced good feelings spill over into other areas of your emotional life, helping make regular meditators calmer, more empathetic, slower to anger and less likely to sweat the small stuff. According to the Journal of Neuroscience, meditation also delivers powerful pain-relieving chemicals to the brain – making the practice something of a DIY pain-buster. For many of my patients, particularly the city-dwellers, a meditation practice can be an especially helpful way to combat stress and/or anxiety, enabling them to carve out a slice of serenity in the middle of urban chaos, or where ever they may find themselves.
When it comes to meditation’s impact on health, the news is all good, especially when it comes to lowering blood pressure, stroke and heart disease risk. Even the ultra-conservative minds at the American Medical Association have come out in favor of meditation, having recently issued a report stating that “transcendental meditation (TM) may be considered as an alternative approach to lowering both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.” When blood pressure is lowered, stroke and heart attack risk follows suit.
In recent years, a number of studies have suggested that meditation can help slow aging in the place where we fear it most – the brain. A new study by UCLA researchers concluded “that meditation appeared to help preserve the brain’s gray matter, the tissue that contains neurons. ” Which means, the more gray matter can retain with help from a meditation practice, the less neurological trouble you’re likely to have down the road. That should inspire even the most time-pressed among us to give this incredibly important practice a closer look. Still on the fence? Then consider this: another study out of UC Davis showed that meditation stimulates telomerase activity, which keeps your chromosomes young and is linked to longer life expectancy.
A racing mind and body wracked with tension is not going to drift off to dreamland without a fight. Don’t fight, don’t medicate – meditate instead. Doing so will quiet the mind, relax the body and prepare you for rest. In this soothed state, it will be lot easier to drift off. Studies show that once snoozing is under way, meditators enjoy boosted slow-wave sleep patterns, which translates to better sleep and less insomnia. On nights when sleep is elusive, try meditating lying down to help you nod off. Even if you don’t fall asleep right away, you will be giving your body some of the restorative brain and body benefits of meditation – so it’s worth doing. Need a boost during the day? Meditation can help here too – there’s evidence that meditation may be even better than napping. When researchers compared the alertness of students who were asked to sleep, watch television or meditate, guess who came out on top? It was the meditators, scored 10% higher on the alertness scale than the non-meditators.So, are you ready to get serious about incorporating more meditation into your life? Then be sure to check out Kerry Bajaj’s post How to Start Your Meditation Practice for ideas and resources to help get you started.
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