Meditation has been practiced centuries ago and has been found to have many benefits for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Today, it’s good to know modern science is catching up what the ancient wanted us to know and enjoy the benefits of meditation. The practice of meditation seems easy when you look at in a third person.
Sitting, relaxing and closing the eyes seem to be very easy, and not to mention focusing or even not thinking at all. In reality, the first time you practice meditation, it’s difficult. It mostly involves mental work. It’s easy to look at and say, but mental effort indeed difficult to control. The good news, with persistent practice, it’s possible.
Through these few studies, we know that it has really a significant impact on the physical body. In fact, it should be included in every hospitals and treatment facilities as part of a treatment program for cancer, numerous other serious illnesses that pharmaceutical drugs don’t solve, or even for those men who have interest in penile size enlargement, which requires not only physical, but mental effort, as well.
Meditation can be difficult to practice, but the consistency of doing it daily for a few minutes makes one able to have a good grip on it and be able to practice it anytime, anywhere.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Study
First, we look at a study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison on showing meditation reveals gene expression changes. The growing number of evidence in which meditation impacts positive health benefits, scientists are looking for ways to understand how meditation practice affects the physical body.
This study led by Richard J. Davidson reported the first evidence they found on specific molecular changes in the physical body through mindfulness meditation.
The study compared the effects of meditation from experienced meditators and untrained control subjects engaged in non-meditative quiet activities for eight hours.
After the eight hours of meditative practice, meditators showed a range of molecular and genetic differences such as reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes and changed of gene-regulating machinery in which both correlate to faster recovery of the physical body during a stressful situation.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice. -Richard J. Davidson
Most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs. -Perla Kaliman, first author, and researcher at Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, Spain (IIBB-CSIC-IDIBAPS)
Detailed on the study can be read here.
University of California, Davis Study
The University of California, Davis conducted a research on how meditation affects our health. Researchers found;
We have found that meditation promotes positive psychological changes and that meditators showing the greatest improvement on various psychological measures had the highest levels of telomerase.
The take-home message from this work is not that meditation directly increases telomerase activity and therefore a person’s health and longevity. Rather, meditation may improve a person’s psychological well-being and in turn, these changes are related to telomerase activity in immune cells, which has the potential to promote longevity in those cells.
Activities that increase a person’s sense of well-being may have a profound effect on the most fundamental aspects of their physiology. -Clifford Saron, Associate Research Scientist at UCDavis Center for Mind and Brain
More on this research can be read here.
Harvard Medical School Study
In another research conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School is said to be the first study to document meditation that produces effects on the brain’s grey matter area over time with persistent meditation practice for a period of 8 weeks.
Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day.
This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing. -Sara Lazar, study senior author and MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and Harvard Medical School Psychology Instructor
In the previous studies, they also noticed differences between experienced practitioners and those without meditation practice history. They noticed the thickening of the cerebral cortex that is linked to emotional and attention integration on experienced meditators. However, by just looking at that data, there is no actual documentation whether the differences are really due to meditation practice.
To begin documenting the effects of meditation on a cellular level, subjects were asked to answer a mindfulness questionnaire and found to have significant improvements prior to practicing meditation. Subjects are meditating for 27 minutes a day on average. What’s more interesting, subjects reported reductions in stress level, which make sense with the decreased of brain’s gray matter in the amygdala, a part of the brain responsible for the fight or flight response.
More details on the study can be read here.
Johns Hopkins University Study
While the subjects at Harvard study reported a reduction in stress, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found meditation to be an effective treatment for anxiety and depression based on their research findings. According to Dr. Madhav Goyal, lead author of the study,
…meditation appeared to provide as much relief from some anxiety and depression symptoms as … antidepressants.
Goyal suggested that daily practice of mindfulness-based meditation might be able to have significant reduction of stress level comparable to what pharmaceutical antidepressant medications do.
The good news on this, meditation don’t have side effects compare to taking medications that have been linked to numerous health risks. On the other hand, it should be noted that participants in the study do not suffer from full depression or anxiety. But, I personally believed that effect they found in the study is already enough to make meditation a part of a therapeutic treatment or counseling for people with depression and anxiety.
More of the Johns Hopkins University study details can be read here.
These are just a few of the studies being published, but I’m certain there are numerous other studies to confirmed these. For the uninitiated, meditation seems to be a religious act especially today is has been associated with the monks of Tibet, India, Thailand, etc. However, it is not.
In fact, everyone should learn and practice meditation, and there are six types of meditations to choose from depending on one’s preference.
If you’re a busy individual, no problem…check these tips on establishing a meditation routine. With constant practice, soon you’ll be able to experience and enjoy the positive benefits of meditation such as improved health and vitality, clarity of mind, and elevated spiritual sense.
Lastly, there are times when it’s difficult to focus and put ourselves into the zone. If this is the case, brainwave entrainment can be useful.
Here’s one example of it from YouTube: