Scientific Proof of the Benefits of This Age-Old Practice
There are a myriad of health benefits, ranging from physical to emotional, that occur when establishing a regular meditation practice. As a certified yoga and meditation instructor, I have been teaching and practicing meditation for nearly 20 years and have directly seen these benefits both for my clients and myself. Below are three of the top health benefits of meditation.
1. Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Meditation has been proven to decrease the negative effects of stress and anxiety. From the Harvard Health Medical School's report on the benefits of meditation on anxiety and stress, Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says that mindfulness meditation makes perfect sense for treating anxiety. As Hoge states,
“People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power. They can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.”
Many of my own clients who have come to me with anxiety disorders and stress management difficulty have benefited tremendously from establishing a daily meditation practice and have learned to manage their anxiety and stress in a healthier way. As I often say, 'we can't control or stop stress in our lives, but we can control our reaction to stress.'
2. Improves Focus
Meditation has a positive effect on our brains and how we focus. According to an article in Psychology Today by Joshua Gowin, PhD, brain scans show the direct benefit of meditation on our ability to focus. As Gowin states,
"Italian neuroscientist Giuseppe Pagnoni found that meditation not only changes brain patterns, but it also confers advantages in mental focus that may improve cognitive performance."
In my own work with students, I have found that simply practicing a few minutes of deep breathing and visualization techniques before conquering an exam can help tremendously with their ability to stay focused on the material at hand.
3. Lowers Blood Pressure
Not only does meditation make you feel good, it is good for your heart! According to a Benson-Henry Institute study on the health benefits of meditation, relaxation response therapy reduces blood pressure in hypertension. Through the years of teaching meditation, many of my clients who have had struggled with high blood pressure have reported a reduction in their numbers when practicing deep relaxation and meditation. I have also witnessed patients' blood pressure numbers going down when practicing deep breathing and relaxation when I used to work with pre-surgical patients in a hospital setting.
Not only are these health benefits a convincing reason to take up meditation, the emotional and spiritual reasons are equally compelling. It just feels so good on so many levels! If going to a live meditation class is difficult, there are many free apps and streaming sites that can guide you through this process. Insight Timer has grown increasingly popular as an app based meditation site. There are several meditation teachers with different styles and techniques, so I suggest trying a few and seeing what resonates. Enjoy the journey and here’s to your health and well-being!
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