by Dr. Will Cole
Various types of meditation have been used for thousands of years in different cultures as a spiritual practice. But today, meditation is both spiritual and secular, with a lot of exciting research to show how it can benefit our health.
The reality is, we can eat as clean as possible, exercise, and live in a toxic-free environment but if our mind is filled with stress we still won’t be as healthy as we possibly could. Stress is the sugar of the soul; it wrecks your health from the inside out.
It is because of this reason that I prescribe meditation techniques to my patients at my functional medicine clinic on a regular basis. Just like with a work-out routine, you need to be consistent with a meditation practice to see results. It is as easy as a few minutes two times a day. Here are just a few reasons why you need to give meditation a try:
1. Deeper social connection
Even though meditation is typically done in solitude, research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that meditation can increase our sense of connection with others. Group meditation studios and classes are capitalizing on this fact and are a great way to help increase your emotional intelligence and deepen your social connection.
2. Increased longevity
Telomeres are the end part of your chromosomes and resemble the plastic parts at the end of your shoelaces. The longer your telomeres are, the longer your lifespan tends to be. According to studies, meditation preserves telomere length and reduces cellular stress.
3. Lowered inflammation
Inflammation is the underlying factor in the majority of today’s health problems. High levels of the protein complex NFk-B contribute to an out-of-control inflammatory response in the body. A randomized controlled trial showed that meditation was able to lower NFk-B.
4. Reduced pain
Since meditation can lower inflammation and promote a sense of calm, it makes sense that it can also naturally ease pain. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience showed how meditation improved certain pathways that influence pain.
5. Enhanced immune system
If it seems like you are always on the verge of getting a cold, a study showed that meditation can improve genetic pathways responsible for a thriving immune system.
6. Lowered anxiety
Multiple studies have shown that meditation can help lower anxiety. But how? Well, the posterior cingulate cortex area in our brain is activated when you experience feelings of anxiousness, but when calmed, the anterior cingulate cortex is activated. Meditation can activate this part of the brain and can be seen in MRIs.
7. Improved mood
In many cases, research has shown that meditation is just as effective – if not more so – than medications prescribed for anxiety and depression, without the side effects! The reason being is that meditation increases gray matter volume in the areas of the brain that control our mood.
8. Increased focus and attention
Difficulty paying attention and other ADD-like symptoms have been shown to improve with regular meditation. When practiced regularly, meditation increases the activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the angular cingulate cortex areas of the brain that are responsible for focus and memory.
9. Slower cognitive decline
Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to regenerate itself by making new neural connections. Over time, neuroplasticity decreases. However, meditation increases the thickness of the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This works to preserve neuroplasticity and slow cognitive decline.
10. Increased compassion
The world needs more compassion. A randomized controlled trial found in the Journal of Happiness Studies, showed that after 9 weeks of meditation, self-compassion increased and fear of displaying compassion decreased.
11. Healthier blood pressure
A study published in the journal Hypertension showed that Transcendental meditation was able to lower blood pressure.
12. Improved self-control
According to research in the scientific journal Emotion, meditation is an effective way to improve self-control, increase introspection, and decreased impulsivity.
13. Less stress
Who isn’t stressed these days? Meditation is a natural stress reliever and the studies prove it. Research has shown that meditation positively regulates the subiculum area of the hippocampus that is responsible for controlling stress. No “woo-woo” crystals necessary.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Associate (JAMA) found that 2.5 hours of meditation per week is enough to see noticeable health benefits – that’s only 21 minutes a day! Just think about all the time we spend on our phones or watching tv. We can certainly spare some time to improve our health.
If you want to learn more about your own health case please check out our free health evaluation. We offer in person as well as phone and webcam consultations for people across the country and around the world.