We have talked about the spiritual benefits of meditation, so this article highlights the physical benefits of meditation. As more and more research is being done on meditation and the benefits of it on body, mind and spirit, we decided to compile a list of the physical benefits of meditation, complete with the research studies to back it (links and all)!
1) Meditation Can Have a Positive Effect On Our Autonomic Nervous System (It Increases Circulation, Bloodflow and Digestion)
In an article found here (http://nccam.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm), by the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, they write that meditation actually can increase circulation, improve blood flow and digestion. In more sciency-terms, it has an impact on the autonomic nervous system that regulates muscles, organs, heartbeat, sweating, breathing and other autonomic functions. This can have a positive impact on those with high blood pressure or heart issues.
In the same article, they also write about a national government survey where out of more than 20 million people, 23,393 U.S. adults in 2007 had used meditation in the past year for health issues such as pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and even for chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and the like and can be used as a tool to reduce the perception of pain, increasing our pain tolerance.
2) Meditation Has A Positive Effect On The Brain Over Time
The brain has plasticity, meaning that it has the ability to change. The cells and neurons within the brain change based on their response to stimuli by forming new connections, breaking down old ones (that aren’t really used any more) and so on.
Meditation has been shown to affect the neural circuits of the brain, which has an effect on the way we respond to situations. In other words, the more we meditate, the more respond-ability we have to situation and the less reaction we may also have. So meditation can help you keep your cool… especially when that noisy neighbor is at it again in the middle of the night!
In essence, it affects the overall structure of our brains by thickening some areas and making other areas less dense. In a study done at UCLA, researchers studied the brain activity of people who had been meditating for years versus those who had never meditated or who were beginners. After an MRI scan, they found that those who had been meditating over a long period of time had more folds in the cerebral cortex (associated with faster information processing. This article can be found here: http://blog.ted.com/2013/01/11/4-scientific-studies-on-how-meditation-can-affect-your-heart-brain-and-creativity/
This article relates the following:
3) Meditation Reduces the Risk of Heart Attack, Stroke and Death
A study found in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes in November 2012 showed that out of 201 people with heart disease, those that opted for transcendental meditation over a health education class promoting diet and exercise, actually had a 48% reduction in the risk of heart attack, stroke and death. The participants in this study were observed over 5 years. (original article found here: http://blog.ted.com/2013/01/11/4-scientific-studies-on-how-meditation-can-affect-your-heart-brain-and-creativity/
4) Meditation Has A Positive Effect On Our Immune System
In 2002, neuroscientist and immunologist, Kevin J. Tracey  discovered that the brain and the immune system are linked through the vagus nerve, a large nerve that begins in the brainstem and travels all the way through the torso. ~ Cited from an article found here: http://www.neurohackers.com/index.php/fr/menu-top-neurotheque/40-cat-nh-methods-tech/125-benefits-of-meditation
That being said, as meditation slows the heart rate it can also improve immune response that can go a bit nutty when we are stressed out. In fact, one of his current studies explores how we can actually have an effect on our immune system with our mind.
5) Meditation Also Slows Aging
Meditation appears to also slow aging. In the International Journal of Neuroscience, a study revealed that those meditating five years or more had cell ages that were 12 years younger than their actual chronological age. Pretty interesting stuff!
R.K. Wallace, M.C. Dillbeck, E. Jacobe, B. Harrington, International Journal of Neuroscience 16 (1982): 53-58.
In summary, there are many studies that are ongoing about the benefits of meditation and we are not through discovering all there is in this field. My personal experience of this started in early 2004 when I took my first transcendental meditation class. I had attended meditation gatherings before, but this was my first actual class on meditation, and I took it when I was about 3 months pregnant. Immediately I felt a calmness, a feeling of clarity and of being connected to which I had rarely felt before. My pregnancy was beautifully serene and peaceful for the most part. When I visited my family in the States to give birth to my daughter, even my younger sister noticed how emotionally stable I was.
I didn’t know then all of the benefits of meditation, but after a few years I started researching and decided to write about it here. So keep in touch as there will be plenty more on this topic!
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