Exploring the physical benefits of meditation.
What is meditation anyway and can it really improve my immune function, relieve pain, reduce stress and literally strengthen my brain?
According to the Yale Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic, the definition of meditation is composed of two complementary elements: the placement of one’s attention on the immediate experience, and adopting an open, curious, and accepting attitude toward that experience.
Can such a simple concept really be the solution to so many chronic health problems?
What Buddhist monks have known for thousands of years is finally being substantiated by scientific evidence.
For over 20 years, study after study has proven that excess stress has a detrimental effect on the body’s ability to fight disease. When we stop to examine the typical American lifestyle, it’s easy to understand why 60 percent to 80 percent of all physician visits are for stress-related complaints. An average American wakes up to an alarm clock, jumps out of bed to shout at his kids to hurry up, rushes to work, hurries home, runs to the grocery store and pops a frozen pizza in the oven, then collapses in exhaustion to waste a night in front of a digital screen, just so he can do it all again the next day.
What meditation studies have found in recent years is that when we take as little as 10 minutes out of our day to incorporate meditation into our daily lives, we are likely to reap the rewards in the form of reduced blood pressure, improved immune function, pain reduction, improved ability to focus and our general sense of well-being.
The proof is in the practice!
In July of 2003, a study spearheaded by Richard Davidson, PhD, Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin appeared in the medical journal, Psychosomatic Medicine. Dr. Davidson and his group of research scientists set out to understand how meditation affects us biologically by offering free meditation classes to employees of a biotech company. Researchers found that in as little as eight weeks, participants reported reduced anxiety levels and improved mood. One of the most interesting results of the study however was completely unexpected. At the end of the eight week period, both the group of meditating participants and the control group were immunized for influenza. Researchers drew blood to measure the level of antibodies present in both the meditators and non-meditators prior to receiving the vaccination and then again four and eight weeks after. Remarkably, the meditating group had significantly increased antibody production after four weeks compared to the control group and their antibody count was even higher at the eight week blood draw!
The group that participated in the meditation classes not only reported improved mood and reduced anxiety, they quite literally became healthier and better able to fight off infection.
Meditation is a wonderful tool in building greater consciousness in our daily lives and there are many types of meditation being taught and used today. Many of us are using different types of meditation to cope with our daily stressors without even being aware of it. Have you ever listened to an inspiring bit of music on the drive to or from work or stopped to take a few deep breaths when stressed? Guess what?! You have experienced an audible and mindful meditation! These are just a couple examples of several different forms of meditative practice. The reality is that as we become more mindful and aware of all the methods of stress relief, life simply becomes much more enjoyable and fulfilling.
It really is that easy!
Cara Corr is a wellness activist, dedicated yogini, perpetual student of Eastern philosophy and theology, and an aspiring organic chef. She is an imperfect and devoted mom, passionate about balancing silliness and mindful living. She is a jack of all trades, medical professional, backyard mechanic, ex-slacker on a mission to change the world through living consciously. When she’s not OM-ing her way to serenity, she serves as muse and support staff for Namaste Bench Co. You can find her creative input at NamasteBench.com
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Assistant Ed: Madison Canary
Ed: Kate Bartolotta