Meditation can change your life!
benefits of meditation   |   improve sleep   |   high blood pressure   |   decrease stress
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Benefits & Research about Meditation

Meditation can improve sleep, cure certain sleep disorders, and alleviate insomnia.

Meditation has a positive effect on the part of your brain that produces melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Actually (and ironically), meditating daily in the morning can help you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more soundly at night. And good sleep boosts mental and physical health.

After several hours of sleep, oxygen consumption decreases about 8 percent. During meditation, however, oxygen consumption drops an average of 10 to 20 percent, a drop that occurs within 3 minutes of meditation! This hypometabolism decrease gives your cardiovascular system a healthy rest at the same time your mind is getting rest.

Meditation is not a subsitute for sleep, but it can be a great help when you can't sleep or didn't sleep well. It can take hours to feel alert after a nap but only ten minutes of meditation to feel alert. This makes meditation a great way to deal with jet lag and travel fatique, and a healthy energy boost after pulling an all-nighter, working a night shift or dealing with an infant who is waking several times a night.

Meditation is good for your heart, blood vessels
and blood pressure.

Meditation calms the brain and calms the body, which is good for your cardiovascular system, since a calm brain and body need less energy, and therefore less oxygen and therefore less blood circulating. The increase in relaxation and decrease in tension that occur during meditation lower the heart beat (usually 3 to 10 percent fewer beats), lower blood pressure and are good for your metabolism and even good for your kidneys.

In a study of patients with arteriosclerosis ( hardening of the arteries) the group that meditated improved the health of their carotid artery (the artery that transports blood to the brain). In contrast, the carotid artery walls of the group that did not meditate worsened. In another study of people with hypertention (high blood pressure), the group that learned to meditate significantly lowered their blood pressure, though only as long as they kept up their meditation practice. In contrast, the group that was instructed to relax but did no meditation, experienced little change in their blood pressure.

Meditation can reduce pain, including back pain
and headaches.

Meditation can reduce the brain's perception of pain and is particularly effective for people suffering from headaches, especially stress-related ones, and suffering from conditions such as stomach ulcers, and back pain. In a preliminary study, at the University of Massachusetts Stress Reduction Clinic, patients with fibromyalgia, a chronic disease that causes pain, were taught how to meditation. At the end of 10 weeks, 51 percent of the patients meditating showed modest to marked improvement regarding pain, fatique, insomnia, an outcome that was still evident a year later.

Meditation has also be found to be very useful for people with depression, compusive obsessive disorder, and addictions.

Meditation strengthens your immune system.

Stress, especially chronic stress, taxes your immune system, and in particular, can destroy antibodies. Because meditation helps reduce stress, as well as the anxiety and fear of being sick or injured, it can have a positive effect on your immune system. Indeed, several studies show that meditation can help the body improve the immune system by increasing the number of immune killer cells that seek out and attack cancer cells. Meditation can also strength and increase the effectiveness of such cells.>

Meditation can activate your brain to produce more melatonin, which researchers belerve has both an anti-cancer and immune-enhancing effect. Since melatonin is vital to sleep, and sleep improves the immune system's effectiveness at preventing or healing sickness, disease and injuries, meditation can have a powerful and positive effect on your health and well-being.

Meditation can help you lose weight.

Because meditation activates the parts of the brain that control impulse and control sleep, meditating regularly can help you lose weight. First, meditation decreases anxiety and stress, a decrease that can help overcome compulsive eating. Meditation can help you conquer fatique and overcome sleep deprivation, which contribute to compulsive eatingover-eating, as well as to eating the wrong kind of foods, particularly simple starches and refined sugars that contribute to weight gain and obesity.

Meditation helps your mind focus on positive outcomes and calm negative thinking and fear that produce over-eating. And staying calm and positive help you stay committed to a healthier diet and weight-loss program. Meditation appears to curb the production of excess cortisol, and research has shown that high levels of cortisol cause stress and fatique and probably contribute to excessive eating.

Meditation can help alleviate premenstrual symptoms
and therefore help overcome PMS.

An interesting study of women with premenstrual sysdrome (PMS) was published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology a few years ago. The women in the study were divided into three groups: the first group was instructed to document their symptoms, the second group instructed to relax by reading or listening to music, while the third group was taught to meditate. After three months, the group showing the most significant improvement in both physical and emotional symptoms of PMS was the group that had been taught to meditate. Moreover, within that group of meditators, the women who had suffered from the most severe PMS showed the most improvement.

Meditation is good for your cardiovascular system. It can
lower your heart rate, lower your blood pressure and keep your carotid artery healthy.

Meditation is so relaxing that the body needs far less oxygen. This "relaxation response" of meditation can significantly calm the nervous system that regulates your breathing, muscle activity, digestion, heart rate and other unconscious work. The decreased stress and increased relaxation meditation produces can decrease your heart rate 3 to 10 percent, significantly lower your blood pressure, improve your metabolism and even have a positive effect on your kidneys. Clearly, meditation is a mind-body, cardiovascular win-win.

In a study of patients with arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), the group that meditated improved the walls of their carotid artery (the blood vessel that transports blood to the brain). In contrast, the artery walls of the control group that did not meditate worsened. In another study of people suffering from hypertension (high blood pressure), the group that learned to meditate significantly lowered their blood presure (though only as long as they kept meditating) and the group that did not meditate saw little change in their blood pressure, even though they were instructed to relax.

If you are a writer, artist, musician, filmmaker or strive to be more creative in a trade, profession or business, daily meditation can dramatically increase your creativity, confidence, insight, and craft. And creative insights that arise during meditation are easier to remember and jot down than insights from dreams!

Meditation helps your mind and body cope with
stress, anxiety and fear.

During meditation, there is a decrease in production of chemicals such as blood lactate, adrenalin, and norepinephrine, which cause stress, anxiety, and tension. At the same time, meditation increases production of serotonin and dopamine, which strengthen memory and cause you to feel more relaxed and happier. (Too little serotonin is linked to obesity, insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, migraines, premenstrual syndrome and fibromyalgia, which is the reaons that long-term meditation is so beneficial to people suffering from such conditions and diseases.)

Meditation calms the amydala, that part of the brain responsible for the stressful, anxiety-producing fight or flight response. This calming effect allows your muscles, digestion and circulative system to relax. During meditation, your brain cells generate certain waves, such as alpha and theta waves, that increase activity in the parts of the brain where you experience happiness, positive thoughts, as well as love, compassion, empathy and spirituality. In this way, meditation allows your brain to feel serenity and hope, and be more positive. This effect of meditation is especially helpful during a serious illness or surgical procedure, after the breakup of a relationship, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one or overcoming any other trauma. Given the power of meditation to calm anxiety and to create peace, happiness and optimism, how can anyone not meditate?

Meditation can improve your attention span, memory
and cognitive function.

The extreme calming effect of meditation can improve your attention span, memory and cognitive function. The combination of focus and stimulation of certain areas of the brain is particularly helpful for solving problems, for learning and studying, and for retrieving what you already know. When you meditate regularly, you increase brain waves, such as alpha waves, that create reverie, imagery, and creativity, as well as increase activity in the frontal cortex, the "executive" area of the brain committed to higher learning and intelligence.

During meditation, the brain often produces more dopamine, a chemical that has a powerful and positive effect on memory and information processing. Meditation can also have a positive effect on the hippocampus, the area of the brain that produces new brain cells. Indeed, as Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neurologist at the University of Pennsylvania, points out, "the more complex your meditation becomes, and the longer you meditate, the more you strengthen the neural circuits in your brain and keep them from deteriorating with age."

Meditation increases your creativity.

Meditation allows you to think more clearly, more objectively, and more deeply. It puts your mind in a state of "relaxed alertness," or mindfulness, which helps your brain cells make more connections, which fosters creativity. Moreover, meditation allows you to think more creatively, but more calmly and more positively about problems, situations, and relationships in your life.

Meditation can increase happiness.

Numerous studies of brain activity during meditation show that while a person is meditating, certain areas of the brain show an increase in activity, especially the left prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate. Greater activity in these areas can increase feelings of happiness, compassion, empathy and love. In people who meditate a long time, such as Buddhist monks, those areas of the brain are larger than normal on a permanent basis. At the same time, their sense of time, space and selfhood decreases, helping them feel "one with the universe," a feeling of enlightenment and spirituality.

Meditation increases the body's production of serotonin and dopamine, which make a person feel happiner. Studies show that meditation increases alpha and theta waves in the brain, which also contribute to happiness. Incidentally, the more time you mediate, the easier it is for the brian to meditate. And the more time your brain spends happy during meditation the more you will be "wired" to
be happy and positive, an effect that can continue into the rest of your day
and evening.

Meditation can improve athletic performance
and help prevent sports injuries.

Meditation can improve athletic performce, which is why many world class athletes meditate. Because mediation helps the brain focus and "get in the zone," it is extremely useful for any sport, but espcially for sports such as golf, tennis, basketball and swimming, which require intense concentration. The breathing exercises that precede meditation can give an athlete extra stamina and endurance. Runners claim that they meditate while running, which may be true, but sitting in meditation before running relaxes the body as well as the mind.

Meditation develops positive thinking, which boosts confidence. It helps quiet the part of the brain that grows fearful, helping an ahtlete stay calm, especially before a big event or game. Finally, because meditation helps you relax, focus and concentrate more, it can help prevent sports injuries.

 

Physicians and therapists at some of our most reputable medical centers, including Harvard Medical School, Columbia University Medical Center, UC Berkeley, Cleveland Clinic and elsewhere recommend meditation. Following are some of the leading proponents of meditation in the health field who wrote the books that we used for the information just presented:

Dr. Daniel G. Amen
Clinical neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and founder and director of the Amen Clnic for Behaviorial Medicine is a popular author whose books include Change Your Brain, Change Your Life (Three River Press 1998) and Magnificent Mind at Any Age (Harmony Books 2008).

Dr. Herbert Bensen
Cardiologist and founder of The Mind/Body Institute at Harvard Medical School, and author of The Relaxation Response (Harper Collins 2000).

Dr. Norman Doidge
Psychiatrist and researcher at Columbia University and University of Toronto, and author of The Brain That Changes Itself (Penquin Books 2007).

Dr. Andrew B. Newberg
Radiologist, psychiatrist, and director of University of Pennsylvani Center
for Spirituality and the Mind, and author of How God Changes Your Brain
(Random House 2009).

Dr. Srinivasan S. Pillay
Psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and author of
Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear (Rodale 2010).

Dr. Gabriel S. Weiss
Internist and founder and director of the Asclepius Wellness Center
in Oceanside, California, and author of The Healing Power of Meditation
(Basic Health Publications 2008).

How to Meditate

VIEW THE INSIDE OF HOW TO MEDITATE

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