Science says meditation has a lot of health and relationship benefits; are you practicing it?

Science says meditation has a lot of health and relationship benefits; are you practicing it?

Meditation has been around for over 5000 years. Here is how modern science has finally caught up and confirmed the health benefits of meditation.

Meditation doesn't just feel good, but does your body and mind a whole lot of good.

 Here are the science-based benefits of meditation. 

1. It reduces stress

Well, this tops the list of all articles and research papers of meditation. That's because stress is the underlying factor in most mental and physical ailments. When you experience stress, your body creates cortisol. An excess of cortisol can decrease the production of the good chemicals and make your emotional center (amygdala) enlarged and thus make you more sensitive and emotionally charged.

Benefits of meditation (iStock)
Benefits of meditation (iStock)

Meditation acts directly on this center by calming your entire system to go from fight-or-flight to a state of bliss and wellbeing. Research reveals that meditation along with therapy can repair the physical damage done to the brain. It even reduces the chances of relapse in those struggling with clinical depression.

Meditation helps battle depression. (iStock)
Meditation helps battle depression. (iStock)

2. It helps fight depression, anxiety, and other mental ailments.

A traumatized brain or brain exposed to many stressors gets rewired in a way that it becomes self-sabotaging. Sad or stressful thoughts create more sadness/stress, which creates chemicals that make them biologically more vulnerable to pain, which in turn makes them choose more unhappy/anxious thoughts. Meditation can help break this vicious circle by offering individuals a space beyond their thoughts. One of the many studies on the effects of meditation on stress, anxiety, and depression.

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers. (iStock)
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers. (iStock)

3. It aids self-awareness and self-esteem

The way we see the world is heavily colored by our self-beliefs. Think about it. The day you feel sure of yourself, everything from your work, boss, annoying strangers, etc. are easy to handle. The day you don't feel your best, even random comments seem like a personal attack. Through meditation, you wipe clean your slate of self-beliefs and get to know yourself in a way that cannot be defined by external labels or tarnished by external comments and criticism.

Meditation is a source of self-insight. (Pexels)
Meditation is a source of self-insight. (Pexels)

4. It increases attention span and concentration

The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for decision making and forming new memories, functions poorly due to stress and chemical imbalances in the brain. Meditation strengthens this part by charging neural pathways that were once alive but receding and helps promote brain plasticity.

Meditation promotes clarity and concentration. (Pexels)
Meditation promotes clarity and concentration. (Pexels)

5. It reduces the risk of heart diseases.

The Journal of American Heart Association published an article that confirms the effects of meditation on cardiovascular health.  Since it acts as a direct stress-buster and addresses deep-seated patterns of thinking, all the side effects of stress are kept in check. This means you are at a much lower risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart ailments.

Meditation works at a physical level. (iStock)
Meditation works at a physical level. (iStock)

6. It promotes digestive health

There is a reason your gut is called the second brain.  The two major neurotransmitters responsible for your mental health and cognitive functions - serotonin and dopamine - are primarily produced in the gut. This is why when you are stressed out, or hear a bad news, or find it hard to cope with a breakup, your digestion is the first thing to go for a toss. When you meditate, you regulate not just your emotional health, but also ensure your body produces enough feel-good chemicals to keep you healthy physically and mentally.

Feeling good is important for your digestive health. (Pexels)
Feeling good is important for your digestive health. (Pexels)

7. It improves your relationships, BIG TIME

Meditation takes you to a space of inner stillness. When you are in touch with this space within:

you don't feel the need to label things: Your mind doesn't jump to label yourself/people/things/events as right/wrong, good/bad/, pure/sinful.

Self-awareness is the key to healthy relationships. (Pexels)
Self-awareness is the key to healthy relationships. (Pexels)

you embrace yourself including your flaws: You feel a sense of wholeness; you get rid of feeling split of guilty for your seemingly opposing traits.

you feel a sense of belonging: Being nice is no more an effort. You feel connected to people, animals, things from a space of fullness, not need.

It promotes a sense of belonging from within. (Pexels)
It promotes a sense of belonging from within. (Pexels)

you are more self-compassionate: You feel more at peace with who you are; you appreciate all your decisions and experiences by being kind to yourself. Self-criticism and negative self-talk reduce.

you are untouched by drama: The drama and noise around you don't affect you as much. You care deeply, but you see things from a space of acceptance and detachment.

It makes you less affected by drama. (Pexels)
It makes you less affected by drama. (Pexels)

your emotions don't overwhelm you: You understand your defenses, your touchy points, your triggers, and why you feel the way you do. And, you CHOOSE to feel and think; your thoughts and feelings don't overrule you.

Emotional imbalance can ruin your relationship. (iStock)
Emotional imbalance can ruin your relationship. (iStock)

Apart from this, meditation also:

reduces aging and age-related memory;

promotes compassion;

reduces violence on a;

boosts physical and mental immunity. 

Here is one way of breaking the stages of meditation, although when you sit to meditate, you don't feel you are trying to get somewhere. Each stage feels whole and complete by itself.

Meditation boosts emotional and physical immunity. (iStock)
Meditation boosts emotional and physical immunity. (iStock)

Presence: This is the first, but the most liberating step for all those stuck in the world of thinking. Unlike Western philosophers (I think therefore I am ~ Descartes), the Eastern mystics figured five thousand years ago that human beings are not defined by their thoughts. Meditation helps you understand this in a real sense.

Meditation helps you "observe" your thoughts. (iStock)
Meditation helps you "observe" your thoughts. (iStock)

You begin to watch your mind (Like you would the antics of a child ~ Eckhart Tolle) and stop believing every passing thought. Soon enough, you will begin to experience "gaps" between thoughts where you know you are, but don't need a thought to identify with.

You have a million thoughts in a day. Don't buy into each of them. (Pexels)
You have a million thoughts in a day. Don't buy into each of them. (Pexels)

Heart: Through meditation, you begin to experience your heart space as an energy field. Self-compassion, kindness, inclusiveness, feeling one with all, and feeling connected to the Source or the Self is felt as a deeply emotional experience here.

Kindness and inclusiveness become organic through meditation. (Pexels)
Kindness and inclusiveness become organic through meditation. (Pexels)

Being: This is the deepest state, one that is hard to explain in words. Eastern science identifies your navel as the core of your being. Where you exist, without thought or feelings but as a spiritual being experiencing onself in a physical form. 

The deepest state of meditation is being one with your source. (iStock)
The deepest state of meditation is being one with your source. (iStock)

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