Thursday, October 26, 2017

Meditation Benefits Your Body and Mind

There is growing evidence to show that your mind and body are intricately connected, and that your mind has a direct impact on your physical health. Brain imaging technology suggests meditation alters your brain in a number of beneficial ways, and studies show meditative practices even alter your genetic expression Indeed, thousands of genes have been identified that appear to be directly influenced by your subjective mental state. Examples of genetic effects resulting from meditative practices include the down-regulation of genes associated with the pathway responsible for protein breakdown and cellular stress response genes. Expression of certain heat shock proteins is increased, and immune function is amped up through a variety of genetic changes 

Meditation Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

For example, a number of studies have demonstrated that a persistent negative state of mind is a risk factor for heart disease. Conversely, happiness, optimism, life satisfaction and other positive psychological states are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.5 While some people seem born with a sunnier disposition than others, meditation has been shown to improve mood regulation and boost optimism. Meditative practices have also been shown to lower your:

  • Heart rate
  • Blood pressure
  • Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level
  • Cortisol level
Such findings are consistent with a down-regulation of your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system, both of which are over-activated by stress. Stress is also a well-known risk factor for heart disease, making meditation all the more important.

Meditation More Effective Than Caffeine and Napping


In this Talks at Google segment, meditation expert Emily Fletcher18 explains the differences between two popular styles of meditation, and how they affect your brain. She also discusses the similarities between meditation and caffeine. Both have the effect of energizing you and boosting your productivity, but meditation accomplishes this without any adverse effects. As explained by Fletcher, caffeine is similar to the chemical adenosine, which is produced by your brain throughout the day.
Adenosine makes you sleepy, and caffeine effectively blocks the adenosine receptors in your brain, thereby disallowing your brain from recognizing how tired it is. Caffeine also stimulates neural activity in your brain that triggers the release adrenaline, a stress chemical involved in the fight-or-flight state. Remaining in a chronic state of fight-or-flight (whether caused by caffeine or actual stress) can lead to any number of stress-related disorders.
Meditation, on the other hand, energizes you and makes you more productive without triggering an adrenaline rush. The reason for this is because meditation de-excites your nervous system rather than exciting it further. This makes it more orderly, thereby making it easier for your system to release pent-up stress. It also makes you more productive.
She notes that many are now starting to recognize meditation as a powerful productivity tool. Contrary to popular belief, taking the time to meditate can actually help you gain more time through boosted productivity than what you put into it.19 According to Fletcher, meditating for just 20 minutes equates to taking a 1.5-hour nap, and provides your body with rest that is two to five times deeper than sleep. This is why even a short period of meditation each day can help you feel more refreshed and awake.

Meditation More Beneficial Than Vacation, Study Shows

According to Dr. Monique Tello, contributing editor at Harvard Health Publishing, having a regular meditation practice is also more beneficial than taking regular vacations.  That’s the conclusion reached by a study comparing the mental and physical health outcomes of a one-week yoga retreat with daily meditation versus a regular vacation. A total of 91 non-pregnant healthy women without history of hormone or antidepressant use were enrolled. The volunteers were divided into three groups of about 30 people per group:
  1. Mindfulness intervention for experienced meditators, consisting of 12 hours of meditation, nine hours of yoga, plus other “self-reflective exercises” throughout the week
  2. Mindfulness intervention for novices who had never meditated before (same schedule as the first group)
  3. Regular vacation, which consisted of listening to health lectures followed by fun outdoor activities throughout the week
After one week, all three groups scored statistically lower for stress and depression, suggesting both meditation and regular vacation helped boost mood and ease stress. The really interesting part of this study emerged during follow-up, 10 months later. As reported by Tello
“[T]he regular meditators still showed significant improvements on these scores, the novice meditators even more so. However, the vacationers were back to baseline. The researchers had ensured that all three groups were equal in average age, education level, employment status, and body mass index. This finding is in keeping with prior research showing that vacation has beneficial but very temporary effects, and that mindfulness therapies have sustained beneficial effects …
All three groups showed significant positive changes in the markers of immune function. However, regular meditators also showed additional, more interesting changes. I got in touch with study author Eric Schadt, Ph.D., director of the Icahn Institute at Mount Sinai, who offered this interpretation of the data:
‘Regular meditators showed both the same types of ‘improvements’ at the molecular level as the others, but on top of that exhibited changes that were also associated with some aging/disease processes that also correlated with biomarkers of aging in a favorable direction. I think there is some suggestion there of improved healthy aging …’”


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Hi, I’m Deanna Lyn
 After seeing how small changes made such a big difference in my own health and happienss  I knew I wanted a career helping others live healthier and happier lives.


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