The relationship between meditation and health is an interesting one in that meditation not only influence your mindset, but can also cause changes in your body to improve your health.
It seems that doing regular meditation over an extended period of time will have a measurable affect on the autonomic nervous system. This is the system that controls involuntary functions like regulating your heartbeat, breathing, digestion and body temperature.
It has two parts:
- The sympathetic system gets the body ready for action or the so-called “fight or flight response,” where the heart and breathing rate will increase, the blood vessels will narrow and the stress hormones cortisone and adrenaline are released.
- The parasympathetic system which relaxes you and re-balances the changes created by the sympathetic system. It slows down breathing and heart rate, causes blood vessels to dilate to improve blood flow and increases endorphins.
The stressors of daily life continually trigger the stress response but the relaxation response cant catch up and an imbalance occurs, which in turn causes accumulated stress…the bad stuff. Meditation increases the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system and decreases the activity of the sympathetic nervous system re-balancing mind and body and releasing the built up stress..
How meditation and health are connected
Doing regular meditation over a period of time will:
- Increase blood circulation to your limbs to up to 30% and to the frontal cerebral cortex by an average of 65%.
Murphy and Donovan, The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation, Institute of Noetic Sciences
- Lowers blood pressure in people who have normal to moderately high blood pressure with systolic decreases of 25 mmHg or more.
~ Murphy and Donovan, The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation, Institute of Noetic Sciences
- Brings relief for long-term sufferers of insomnia who found that they could fall asleep within 20 minutes after doing meditation.
~ Jacobs, Harvard Medical, Say Goodnight To Insomnia, Owl Books
- Chronic pain was lowered by as much as 50% by patients who were taught to do meditation.
~ Kabat-Zinn, Clinical Journal of Pain 2
- Patients who did a simple form of meditation recovered faster after surgery, had fewer complications and had less trouble with after-surgery pain.
~ Devine, University of Wisconsin, School of Nursing, Patient Education and Counseling 19
- Psychiatric related problems were dramatically decreased when doing meditation. 50% fewer emotional problems and 70% reduction of anxiety.
~ Roth and Creaser, Nurse Practitioner, 22 (3)
- Natural chronological aging slows down with regular meditation. Blood pressure, eye sight and hearing deterioration slowed down and long term meditators were found to be physiologically younger by as much as 12 years compared to their non-meditating counterparts.
~ International Journal of Neuroscience 16
Regular meditation improves our responses to stress. When you are put in a demanding setting that will cause you stress, you will experience less emotional distress and so your stress reaction is less and you end up with less of the bad built up stress meaning you are in better shape including your immune system.
The most important benefit of meditation (and health) is that it is a very effective measure of prevention against illness and stress related health complaints Doctors now recognize stress plays a significant role in most major illness.