So few of us make the effort to explore meditation or to practice it regularly, yet it can have such a profound and positive impact on the brain. Thanks to new advances in neuro-imaging technologies, scientists are now able to observe the effects of meditation on the mind. Prolonged meditation has the capacity to physically transform the organization of your brain and can empower you to become more attentive & relaxed. The practice of meditation – an essential part of Buddhist and Indian Yoga traditions – has entered the mainstream as people try to find ways to combat stress and improve their quality of life.
Now new research suggests that mindfulness meditation can have benefits for health and performance, including improved immune function, reduced blood pressure and enhanced cognitive function.
The study specifically identifies four key components of “mindfulness” – the state of meditation – that may account for its effects:
•sense of self
Together, these help us deal with the effects of stress.
In addition to stress relief, other positive effects of meditation include:
Transcendental meditation has been shown to significantly reduce depressive symptoms. One study of 36 patients with clinical depression found that symptoms almost halved after just three months and the benefits were maintained over a year-long period.
People who meditate in the long-term have “significantly larger” hippocampi – the part of the brain associated with memory and learning. The research on 44 people, half of whom had practiced meditation for between five and 46 years, found those who had meditated also had increased grey matter.
Reduce blood pressure and stroke risk
Researchers who tracked 201 people as they underwent either Transcendental Meditation or health education classes found that those who meditated had lower blood pressure and a 47% reduction in strokes, deaths and heart attacks, which they calculated together as one result.
Meditation can have greater pain relieving effects than morphine, a study earlier this year found. Researchers found that just one hour of meditation training could reduce pain by nearly half.
Meditation had the effect of reducing activity in an area of the brain that processes pain stimuli, while increasing activity in areas where the brain stores its experience of pain and comes up with coping mechanisms.
Meditation has always been touted as a way to relax, but a study least year found evidence to show that it really does work. Increased neuron connectivity was found in parts of the brain that were important for regulating emotional behavior and dealing with conflict.
Another study found that meditation decreases the levels of the stress-causing hormone, cortisol. Study subjects who were taught to meditate for 20 minutes a day for five days had measurably less anxiety and lower levels of the hormone than a group who were taught other relaxation techniques. Those who meditated also had lower levels of anger and fatigue.
At The Center for Natural and Integrative Medicine, we offer Mindfulness Meditation classes and Meditation Retreats with Elizabeth Cohen. We have a ‘Body, Mind and Heart’ retreat coming up on Saturday November 12th from 10am – 3pm. For more information on this retreat or any other classes we offer, please contact our office: (407) 355-9246 or see our Calendar & Events section on our website. For more information on Elizabeth Cohen go to www.ecohen.org or contact her by email: firstname.lastname@example.org