The Health Benefits of Meditation
Meditation: Embracing a More Tranquil, Health-Conscious and Slimmer You
From time to time, life leaves us feeling run down, stretched thin or just plain stressed out. While prolonged presence of stress and anxiety has proven to have negative results on both our physical and mental states, the good news is science has taken an interest in the positive effects meditation have on individuals and has made some substantial findings. There are dozens of structured forms of meditation (e.g. mantra, guided, Qi gong, yoga etc.) to participate in. While these meditation practices are great, not everyone has the time and money to dedicate. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities for those with busy and hectic lives to incorporate meditation into their schedules. Even a 10 to 20 minute session before you start and end your day will prove to be beneficial to both your mind and your body.
Overall Health Benefits of Meditation
Scientists and researchers have released a plethora of studies that demonstrate the many positive health benefits and habits that stem from incorporating regular meditation into our lives. Here are just a few advantages scientific studies have confirmed in regards to meditation and your overall well-being:
- A study published in the Anxiety, Stress and Coping International Journal in 1993 noted improvements in mental and physical health, quality of sleep and overall energy levels and significant declines in the following health related issues: backaches, headaches, and use of cigarettes and liquor.
- Research published in the International Journal of Neuroscience found participants meditating for five-plus years measured 12 years physiologically younger than their actual chronological age. Those who have only recently begun regular meditation on average measured five years physiologically younger.
- Psychosomatic Medicine stated those who engage in meditation had fewer reports of illness in 17 different treatment categories. Meditators had 87% less hospital visits for heart disease and 55% less for cancer.
- The University of Massachusetts’s Medical School conducted a study that patients with asthma, cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and other conditions demonstrated significant improvements through incorporating meditation.
Meditation and Weight Loss
There is plenty of scientific data to back up the claim that meditation reduces stress and anxiety. Stress, whether mental or physical, self-induced or derived from an external source like work, home-life etc. have the same adverse effects on our health. One term that keeps showing up in studies of documenting the correlation between meditation and weight loss is cortisol, sometimes dubbed the “stress hormone”.
Stress can alter and disrupt your body’s natural cortisol secretion, and not only can prompt weight gain, but also directs where it goes (which is usually your belly). Researchers have noticed a strong correlation between the fat that accumulates around your midsection and the later development of cardiovascular disease.
D.S Khalsa MD and C. Stauth published their findings in Meditation as Medicine (2001) that men and women 45+ engaging in meditation was the only action that decreased cortisol and of blood lactate (another indicator of anxiety and stress) and increased melatonin and serotonin levels. Moreover, the study also found meditators had an elevated level DHEA, a youth related hormone, than non-meditators: women’s DHEA level rose 47% and men’s increased 23%.
Meditation can even help curb binge-eating episodes. A 2007 study conducted at Indiana State University documented a decrease in the number binge eating occurrences per week in obese women practicing a form of “mindfulness meditation.”