Five Ways Meditation Can Improve Your Health

Five ways meditation can improve your health

Five ways regular meditation can improve your health

As the pace of modern life continues to accelerate, many people are struggling to maintain a healthy work-life career. Stress, anxiety and fatigue are common symptoms of today’s society, in fact 44% of Millennials and Gen-Xers suffer from stress which, if prolonged, can become severely detrimental towards both our mental and physical wellbeing.

Meditation is a practice that can bring relief to the daily demands of work, keep you stress free in the workplace and vastly improve our personal lives. Restlessness is a major contributor to how we feel and contributes to the quality of our daily experience. Mindfulness meditation hones in on this area and helps to calm your mind, allowing you to find inner peace and balance, and maintain the energy and focus you need to reach your career goals.

1. Mindfulness meditation can reduce stress levels

Stress is an affliction of life in a world of pressures, demanding jobs and frustrations. While a certain degree of stress is normal, high stress levels can manifest in a variety of emotional, behavioural and physical symptoms harmful to our health.

Researchers have found that mindfulness meditation can reduce cortisol production – a hormone closely linked to stress. 66 participants were divided into two groups, one group had three consecutive days of 25 minute mindfulness training sessions, the other group were taught to analyse poetry in an effort to boost critical thinking skills.

At the end of the sessions, the two groups took part in stress-inducing tasks – completing speech or math tests in front of evaluators. It was found that the people who’d gone through mindfulness training had higher cortisol reactivity and found the speech and math tests to be less stressful than those who had been trained in critical thinking.

2. Regular meditation can boost your immune system

The immune system, more than any other system in the body, is central to your well-being because it is the body’s defense against infectious organisms and other harmful toxins. A number of studies have demonstrated that mindfulness meditation significantly boosts the immune system.

Researchers taught an 8-week mindfulness meditation course to a group of employees. After completion of the course, the meditation participants were given the flu vaccine along with a group who had not taken part in the meditation. Blood tests revealed that the meditation group generated a significantly greater number of antibodies than those who weren’t trained in mindfulness.

Remarkably, it has also been discovered that mindfulness meditation can help slow the progression of immunodeficiency viruses such as HIV.

3. Mindfulness training can prevent sleep deprivation

Sleep disturbances are most prevalent among adults and often stem from work-related stress. Insomnia can become a vicious cycle potentially leading to higher risk of chronic health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

Mindfulness meditation is one of the best ways to combat sleep deprivation. One study brought together 49 middle-aged adults who had trouble sleeping. Half completed a mindfulness meditation awareness program while the other half completed a sleep education class. Both groups met six times, for two hours at a time. Following the meditation and sleep awareness classes, it was found that those in the mindfulness group had less insomnia, fatigue, and depression than those in the sleep education group.

4. Meditation helps to slow down the ageing process

Meditation can help to delay the process of ageing by protecting caps on the ends of our chromosomes called telomeres. Telomeres play a key role in the ageing of cells. Each time a cell divides, its telomeres get shorter and when they become too short, a cell can no longer replicate and dies. People with shorter telomeres live shorter lives and are at greater risk of heart disease, diabetes and degenerative diseases such as arthritis and osteoporosis.

Nobel prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn and psychologist Elissa Epel investigated whether telomeres are affected by psychological factors. They discovered that those that meditate have significantly higher telomerase activity than those that don’t, suggesting that their telomeres were better protected.

5. Meditation helps you to eliminate bad habits

Many of us find our unhealthy habits such as smoking or eating junk food too difficult to cut out. This is because of dopamine, a chemical that regulates pleasure stimulus in the brain. At the most basic level, dopamine sends signals to receptors in the brain to say something feels good, tastes nice or is a pleasurable sensation.

Meditation has been shown to shrink the amygdala – the primal region of the brain associated with fear and emotion. As this area shrinks, the prefrontal cortex – associated with brain functions such as concentration and decision-making – becomes thicker. This enables us to widen the space between stimulus and response where choice lies. This is crucial when it comes to our impulsive behaviours and gives us the opportunity to recognise the various options ahead of us.

So the next time you are waiting for the bus or just missed your train, try taking a few breaths and practice meditation. Your mind and body will thank you for it.

Charlotte Giver

Charlotte is the founder and editor-in-chief at Your Coffee Break magazine. She studied English Literature at Fairfield University in Connecticut whilst taking evening classes in journalism at MediaBistro in NYC. She then pursued a BA degree in Public Relations at Bournemouth University in the UK. With a background working in the PR industry in Los Angeles, Barcelona and London, Charlotte then moved on to launching Your Coffee Break from the YCB HQ in London’s Covent Garden and has been running the online magazine for the past 10 years. She is a mother, an avid reader, runner and puts a bit too much effort into perfecting her morning brew.

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