For thousands of years people have practised meditation for physical, spiritual and emotional well being. But there is solid scientific proof as to how meditation actually affects your body.
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Well, it all starts in the brain, during meditation brain scans see increased activity in regions directly correlated with decreased . The default mode network is activated when ones mind is at rest and not focussing on the outside world and has been found to improve memory, self awareness and goal setting.
When scientists compared the brains of buddhist monks to new meditators they found the region of the brain associated with empathy to be more pronounced in the monks. It also literally changes your brain waves and we can measure these frequencies. Meditators have higher levels of Alpha waves which can be shown to reduce feelings of negative mood, tension, sadness and anger.
As if that wasn’t enough it also changes our brain shape and size. Studies found that after eight weeks of a meditation program, grey matter was more associated with areas associated with learning, memory processing and emotion regulation and yet the amygdala which deals with stress, blood pressure and fear had decreased grey matter.
When we look at the entire body, not only do we see decreased blood pressure, but it can also increase the variability of your heart rate, and whilst this sounds harmful, it actually plays a critical role in transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout your body.
In a study where meditators and non meditators were given the flu virus, meditators had the ability to produce a greater number of antibodies and had a greater immune function than their poorly counterparts.
If we go a little deeper, we can even see changes on a cellular level. Your chromosomes have protective protein complexes called Telomeres which help to reduce damage to your DNA and lower cell death. Shortened Telomere lengths have been linked to several diseases such as Cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Alzhiemer’s and Cancer. Amazingly when cancer survivors completed a meditation program their body showed significant increases in Telomere length. It’s believed that psychological intervention particularly decreasing stress has a direct affect on the enzyme Telomerase which has been shown to counteract shortening by adding DNA to the shrinking Telomeres.
Read: Meditation: A Way To Preserve Gray Matter in The Brain
Of course meditation is not a substitute for other medical advice or a healthy lifestyle. It won’t cure cancer, but just like hitting the gym can increase your overall health, it seems that meditation is like working out your brain with extra health benefits. And since your brains controls all of you, why not relax and say Ommmm every once in a while?
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