Meditation: It’s Not Just for Your Mind

Everyone’s meditating these days. Schools, corporations, and hospitals are jumping on the quiet bandwagon. Meditation is praised for its positive impact on the way we think and how happy we feel. But there are other great reasons to find your seat.

Numerous studies validate the power of meditation in achieving a calm state of mind, enhancing emotional self-regulation, and improving overall brain function. What we don’t hear about as much are the physical effects of the practice, but they are statistically and economically significant: One study found that people in a mind-body relaxation program used 43 percent fewer medical services than they had the previous year, saving an average $2,360 per person in emergency room visits alone. According to Harvard Health Publications, this means that yoga and meditation programs could translate into health care savings of anywhere from $640 to as much as $25,500 per patient each year.

Here are a few highlights of recent research on meditation’s impact on physical health.

  • One study compared the gene expression of a group of vacationing women with a group that practiced meditation in conjunction with vacation time, and found significant physiological shifts in those who meditated, including boosted immunity. Researchers noted that meditation produces “a clear and quantifiable change in how our bodies function.”
  • A 2016 study found that people who practiced mindfulness showed much lower levels in their blood of a marker of unhealthy inflammation. Researchers concluded that the changes they found in the brain as a result of regular meditation initiated the reduced inflammation.
  • A 2015 study using MRI scans revealed that meditation reduces pain more effectively than a placebo, by deactivating the thalamus—known as the gatekeeper for pain.
  • Mindfulness meditation has been linked to increased telomerase activity, which is associated with protection against cancer, increased longevity, and other health benefits.
  • Scientists found that regular meditation decreased blood pressure by activating the body’s relaxation response. By the end of a three-month period, the study subjects who learned to meditate were more successful than the control group in lowering blood pressure and eliminating their anti-hypertensive medication.

These findings are significant and indicate the impact of meditation for overall health, beyond simply finding calm or boosting mental performance. Meditation is a physiological tool that drives body-based wellness. Convinced yet? Get on the cushion!

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