5 Surprising Benefits of Meditation That Can Boost Your Health & Improve Longevity
All that time spent working on your six pack can wear you out. Sometimes, you just need to relax and exercise your mind instead.
Meditation helps you stay centered and calm, but the ancient practice can do more than promote inner peace. Not sold? These hidden benefits will give you five new reasons to sit with yourself and your thoughts and meditate — every day.
1. Boost Immunity.
Meditation can increase electrical activity in the brain that may help improve immune function, research shows.
And mindfulness, a practice in paying attention to your current experience in a non-judgemental way often associated with meditation, helps you know yourself better. That helps all of the other benefits fall into place, shares Michael Bartelle, a yoga and meditation teacher in NYC.
“It helps you recognize that nothing can ever take away from or add to who you really are,” he says. “And when you know that, things just don’t bother you as much. Stress levels fall, so your heart is less at risk, and your system has more energy to bolster your immune system so you don’t have to worry about illness.”
2. Sleep Better.
Practicing deep relaxation techniques during the day can help improve sleep at night, studies show. Researchers from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Illinois divided 11 people between the ages of 25 and 45 who suffered from insomnia into two groups: one received health education while the other received education and also practiced Kriya Yoga, a form of meditation that has been show to reduce measures of arousal.
Those who meditated saw improvements in sleep time, sleep efficiency, and sleep quality after just two months.
3. Lower Blood Pressure.
One Kent State University study found that mindfulness-based stress reduction, a program that combines yoga and mindfulness meditation, lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure among those with pre-hypertension (higher than 120/80 but lower than 140/90) in eight weeks.
And the American Heart Association has recommended meditation as an alternative to medication and diet for lowering blood pressure.
4. Feel Less Pain.
Next time you have a headache, you might want to consider meditating. Researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that only a little over an hour of meditation can dramatically reduce pain.
In the study, those who practiced meditation saw a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness. Morphine and other pain-relieving drugs, on the other hand, typically only reduce pain ratings by about 25 percent.
5. Improve Heart Health.
Transcendental Meditation, a 20-minute, twice-daily form of meditation practiced by more than five million people worldwide could lower your risk of heart attack and stroke by almost half when practiced regularly, research suggests.
Meditation has recently been adapted to mindful eating, which helps people break out of mindless eating habits to prevent overeating, shares Susan Albers, Psy.D, a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in eating issues, weight loss, body image concerns, and mindfulness. Eating healthier and the appropriate amounts has serious heart benefits, she says.
“When you eat mindfully, you tune into your hunger and fullness,” she says. “In other words, you hear your body tell you more clearly to ‘stop’ when you are satisfied.”
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Kristen Domonell is a NASM certified freelance health and fitness writer for Lean It UP and other well-respected print and online publications. When she isn’t poring over new health and fitness studies, you can usually find her in downward facing dog, running, traveling, daydreaming about Costa Rica, and, after years as a “pescetarian,” having serious bacon withdrawals.
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