Thousands of years ago – before the advent of incense, gongs and rosary – people meditated to throw off unnecessary thoughts and focus. Today the population of the whole world is practicing meditation. Where did this interest come from? Meditation leads to mental transformation and benefits the body, mind, heart and spirit. As Deepak Chopra explains: “This is a way to enter the silence that is already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts that arise in every person’s head every day.” Here are some of the ways meditation can improve your health.
Reduced stress, anxiety and depression
Stress (responding to threats), anxiety (worrying about the future) and depression (regretting the past) undermine health and negatively affect happiness. If left unchecked, they increase the risk of physical health problems, including headaches, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, skin rashes, and insomnia.
Meditation, especially mindfulness meditation or insight meditation (which involves sitting in a comfortable position and focusing on the breath and the present), improves mental health because practitioners learn to calm the mind and discard disturbing thoughts that lead to stress. Over time, meditation literally changes the structure of the brain (this phenomenon is called neuroplasticity), increasing concentration, peace and performance of the mind even in the midst of problems and chaos.
The study, published in the «Psychiatry Research» , showed that patients with anxiety disorder who were taking meditation classes conscious attention, there was a decrease the production of stress hormones and inflammatory reactions to stressful situations. Studies with patients who have recovered from breast cancer have shown that mindfulness training can reduce stress symptoms and improve quality of life.
Certain supplements and essential oils can also be used to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Good choices include St. John’s wort (prescribed in Germany for mild depression), valerian root, and L-theanine , a green tea extract that increases GABA and dopamine levels. Two types of herbs, which have calming and adaptogenic properties, calm the nervous system or allow the body to adapt to stress. Excellent sedatives include lavender , lemon balm , kava kava, and skullcap . Highly effective adaptogens include tea fromholy basil / tulasi , which should be consumed before meditation.
Reducing high blood pressure
Stress, smoking, being overweight or sedentary, and too much salt or alcohol can contribute to high blood pressure. In contrast to these factors, meditation can help lower blood pressure. Its effects are so powerful that the American Heart Association recommends meditation as an adjunctive therapy to the standard treatment of hypertension.
While stress provokes the standard fight-or-flight response, meditation produces the opposite effect, called the relaxation response. During this state of deep relaxation, heart rate decreases and levels of nitric oxide, a molecule that expands and relaxes blood vessels, increases. To further stimulate nitric oxide production, try adding dark chocolate , pistachio nuts, and the amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline to your diet .
Easing the symptoms of menopausal syndrome
Research into therapies for the mind and body (meditation, yoga, and tai chi) found that alternative therapies can relieve symptoms of perimenopausal crisis, including hot flashes, frequent mood swings, muscle pain, and insomnia. Soy and flaxseed foods , herbs such as black raven and angelica, or vitamin E supplements can also be beneficial .
Help with smoking cessation
Several small studies indicate that meditation can reduce tobacco cravings and help people quit smoking. Meditation can promote awareness of the harm from the habit, increase self-control, and achieve relaxation so that you no longer need to light a cigarette to relax . Taking GABA , a neurotransmitter that soothes the nervous system, can also help with smoking cessation.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in twelve people suffers from asthma – a disease that causes inflammation and spasm of the bronchial tubes, which leads to difficulty breathing and dramatically reduces the quality of life. While meditation alone cannot stop an asthma attack, it can help eliminate the feelings of fear and anxiety associated with attacks and reduce stress hormone production to relieve symptoms. Taking prebiotics such as galactooligosaccharides and probiotics may also help .
Decrease in chronic pain
About 100 million American adults suffer from chronic pain, including joint pain and arthritis. The treatment of chronic pain can be significantly complicated, especially if it is done without the use of opiates, a type of narcotic that quickly becomes highly addictive.
By altering the brain patterns associated with discomfort, meditation can help reduce pain and restore well-being. Even newcomers to meditation can feel relief by mastering relaxation techniques and controlling their brain responses to pain. Other natural remedies for chronic pain include turmeric , willow bark , paprika, and devil’s claw supplements .
Relief of headaches
By reducing stress – the main cause of migraines – meditation can help relieve headaches as well. One study, published in the journal Headache , found that people who took part in an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program experienced 1.4 times fewer migraines during months, as well as reducing the duration and intensity of headaches.
Aids in losing weight and keeping in shape
Meditation not only reduces stress overeating through its calming effects, but also helps regulate metabolism and balance the physical and mental state, making it easier to maintain a stable weight. In addition, meditation can reduce levels of cortisol, a hormone that induces appetite and fat storage, especially around the waist. Regular meditation practice can help you eat more mindfully (that is, deliberately and balanced), which will positively affect your weight, health and your eating habits.