The practice of meditation is believed to have originated in India around 3000 BCE as part of Hinduism. However, ancient records show that meditation has been practiced in various forms in every religion throughout recorded history. The word meditation comes from the Latin meditatum, which means “to ponder”. By practicing meditation, we achieve a more effective connection between the mind and body, helping us to understand how – and how much – one influences the other. Read on to learn about five ways meditation can benefit brain and gut health.
Meditation Effectively Reduces Stress
Medical experts are discovering more and more ways that mental stress negatively affects the physical body. Along with causing psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, anger issues, and more, stress is one of the leading causes of physical maladies such as headaches, high blood pressure, stomach issues, chest pain, etc. If stress is left unmanaged, it can initiate the release of inflammation-causing chemicals throughout the body called cytokines.
These harmful chemicals can cause fatigue, pain, high blood pressure, insomnia, trouble concentrating, depression, anxiety, and other unhealthy conditions. Studies have shown that meditation is instrumental in reducing stress and, as a result, brings relief from these and other issues brought on by stress.
Meditation Improves Focus and Concentration
Many things can disrupt our concentration and take our attention away from an important work project, schoolwork, or other activity. When we are unable to focus on what we are trying to accomplish in the present moment, it can result in negative feelings of frustration, stress, and low self-esteem, just to name a few. Meditation has been shown to improve concentration, focus, and memory, and to inspire creativity since the mind is able to relax and experience positive thoughts and enhanced sharpness.
Meditation Creates Awareness of Self
Meditation quiets the mind so that we can receive the messages our subconscious is trying to send us about the things we need to change in order to live richer, more fulfilling lives. When we aren’t being distracted by the “noise and junk” we are bombarded with daily, then we learn to recognize and identify the issues that are truly disrupting our inner peace and outer joy. For example, as long as you are constantly getting upset or angry about the smallest things, your mind will stay cluttered and you won’t be able to identify the real cause of these emotions.
Meditation teaches you to silence the useless chaos in your mind and release the clutter so that you can calmly and clearly find the underlying issue and deal with it in a healthy, effective way. You will learn to make personal improvements and like yourself for who you are. For those who are already practitioners, advanced meditation techniques can be customized by a meditation teacher to align with each person’s individual needs and level of consciousness.
Meditation Promotes a Healthy Heart and Immune System
Meditation promotes both mental and physical relaxation. Relaxation allows nitric oxide in the body to increase. This relaxes blood vessels, allowing them to become more open, which decreases high blood pressure. This puts less strain on the heart and other vital organs.
In April 2018, the University of Florida conducted an eight-day study on the effects of meditation on the immune system. Researchers wanted to understand the effects of meditation beyond what was known “on the surface.” They wanted to know about its genetic and molecular effects as well.
The 106 study participants had their genetic profiles recorded and studied before and after an experiment in which they were completely silent for eight days, adhered to a regular sleep schedule and vegan diet and meditated for over 10 hours each day. Following the meditation experiment, results showed an astonishing improvement in 220 genes that directly affect the immune system, including 68 genes that are vital to the body’s defensive responses to viruses and cancer.
These responses remained improved even when the test subjects resumed their previous diet and sleeping patterns and were no longer silent, but continued to meditate for various amounts of time daily.
Meditation Brings Happiness
Studies have proven that meditation has a direct effect on the left area of the prefrontal cortex of the brain, increasing its signaling. This area controls positive emotions and happiness. It was further indicated that signaling to the left prefrontal cortex, which controls negative emotions, simultaneously decreased. This activity improves one’s overall sense of happiness and well-being.
One of the best things about meditation is that it can be done by anyone, anywhere, at any time. A quiet, comfortable area is all that you need. The sooner you get started, the sooner you will be reaping the rewards this ancient, tried-and-true practice has to offer.