Throughout the past 30 years, there has been a marked increased in the study of, the participation in and understanding of meditation facts. However, the question of whether or not meditation has measurable benefits on the body, and mind, remains. Here, we'll flesh out the true meditation facts, and see what impact, if any, they have on the body.
The Growing Popularity of Meditation
Everywhere you look, from bestsellers on the famed New York Times book list, to Oprah's 12-week long class with spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, it's apparent that meditation, an age old practice of the East, has taken root in the West.
Moreover, not only has meditation, and its off-shoot yoga, taken root in the West, but it's flourished. In a world of deadlines, paying mortgages and shuttling children to and from soccer practice, stress levels everywhere are soaring. Add to the mix an influx of gadgets and devices specifically designed to keep us wired and connected, and it's no wonder that people are turning to meditation in droves.
Even so, one may wonder: "Can meditation really help me to feel more clam, centered and less stressed?" You may also wonder, "What are the real meditation facts and do these facts demonstrate real changes upon the body?" The answer, in short, is yes.
Measurable Meditation Facts
Meditation, in fact, has several different effects on the body; both on the physical body and on the psychological well-being of the mind. First, some of the physical benefits of meditation include:
- Oxygen consumption lessens
- Respiratory rates decease
- A marked increase in blood flow occurs, which in turn slows the heart rate
- Meditation actually increases the level of exercise tolerance in heart patients
- High blood pressure is lowered to normal levels
- A decrease in muscle tension and headaches
- Increases in the production of serotonin levels (which influences and mood and behavior). Note that low levels of serotonin have been associated with depression, obesity, insomnia and headaches.
- Meditation has also been shown to help in chronic diseases, such as allergies and arthritis.
- In women, meditation can reduce pre-menstrual syndrome.
Perhaps most important among meditation facts is that this practice can actually enhance the immune system. Recent research demonstrates that meditation can increase the activity of "natural-killer" cells. This is important because these natural killer cells help to kill bacteria and cancer cells.
Amazingly enough, there are even more documented health benefits. Individuals who practice meditation also have a decreased metabolic rate, and because of this, the heart works less strenuously to pump blood throughout the body. Along with this drop in cholesterol levels, there's also a reduction of free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that cause tissue damage within the body. These free radicals, or more to the point, decreasing the levels of free radicals, are important because they are thought to play an integral role in the aging process. It's thought that if we could slow or eliminate the proliferation of free radicals, we may actually be able to slow the aging process!
The Psychological Benefits
The regular practice of meditation does not stop there. In fact, meditation can also have positive effects on the psychological well-being of its practitioners, who report:
- Greater levels of creativity
- A decrease in anxiety
- Decreased depression
- A decrease in feelings of irritability and moodiness
- Improved learning abilities and increase in memory retention
- Increase feelings of vitality and rejuvenation
- Most people report feeling a general sense of happiness and emotional stability
Intriguingly enough, we even see a blend between scientifically documented meditation facts and the practitioners' feelings in the form of increased brain waves!
To Sum Up
In light of all of these meditation facts, both the physical and the psychological, it's clear to see why many choose to meditate. The medical benefits are outstanding, but perhaps most importantly, the general sense of well-being and happiness that most, if not all, the practitioners report are remarkable. In that sense, it's easy to see why many choose to meditate to help relieve stress.