As a holistic physician and meditation practitioner with more than 25 years of experience, I have always believed strongly in the mental and emotional benefits of regular mindful meditation practice.
The practice of regular meditation has been found to increase brain density, boost the connections between neurons, decrease the symptoms of depression and anxiety, provide clarity of thought, and increase positive mood endorphins. Other published studies have shown that meditation can improve physical functioning, decrease chronic disease risks, and enhance overall quality of life.
These studies demonstrate that regular meditation effectively supports mental, emotional, and physical health in numerous tangible ways. In building upon this strong body of evidence, researchers are continuing to deepen our understanding of the profound and inspiring benefits of regular meditation practice in everyday life.
6 Surprising Benefits of Meditation
Meditation literally changes your brain
Most recently, neuroscientists at UCLA have shown another fascinating neural effect of regular meditation: improvement of the brain's ability to process information quickly. Meditation actually causes the cerebral cortex—the layer of neural tissue that serves an important role in controlling memory, consciousness, thought processing, decision-making, attention, and awareness—to fold, creating indented fissures and creases that increase neural processing and neurotransmitter communication. The technical term for this is "cortical folding."
The neuroscientists at UCLA compared meditators of different experience levels to people who never meditated. In those who meditated, the scientists found significant increases in cortical folding across a wide area of the brain, and not just in the cortex. They saw changes in areas of the brain responsible for emotional and mental health, influencing processes of emotional control and heightening awareness and introspection. This falls directly in line with some of the more noticeable results of regular meditation, which often include increased compassion for one's self and others and greater emotional stability.
Your body benefits, too
Meditation's physical payoffs are equally impressive. We all know that reducing stress can dramatically improve health on a number of levels. The proven beneficial effects of regular mindful meditation are protection against and reversal of DNA damage, a boost in immune function, reduction of cardiovascular disease risks, decreased inflammation, improved outcomes in cancer, reduced side effects of conventional treatment, and increased vital energy and physical capacity.
As regular meditation practice becomes better understood and more widely practiced, more and more doctors and health practitioners are recommending these ancient disciplines to their patients. If you are looking for some extra healing energy to improve your health, regular meditation can provide just the solution.
Soothe Chronic Pain—Meditate
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Meditation is most effective when practiced regularly. Just 10 minutes a day can offer significant and noticeable benefits over a short period of time.
While there are countless styles of meditation practice, one of the most profound is the ancient Tibetan practice of Shamatha Meditation (shamatha means "calm abiding" in Sanskrit). It's intended to help people access their mind's natural state of tranquility and clarity. The technique involves focusing the breath on a specific object, letting go of all other thoughts, and consistently training the attention on the process of breathing.
Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit, and pick a small object such as a rock to place on the ground in front of you. Focus your eyes and your breathing on the rock, and as thoughts inevitably arise, simply acknowledge and then release them, letting them slip away with each outward breath. When your mind wanders off, gently bring your attention back to your breathing and the rock, visualizing each inhalation and exhalation going to and from the rock.
As you become more practiced at meditation, you will likely notice significant improvements in your energy, health, and mental/emotional balance. You may find that as distractions and obscurities are peeled away during mindful meditation practice, the space between thoughts becomes greater and more profound. As we slowly turn down the constant chatter of our minds, we can begin to access deeper aspects of consciousness for growth and healing.
To me, one of the most beautiful and profound aspects of meditation is that this process of growth and unfolding (figuratively and literally) can continue throughout our lives. After all, we can never have too much love, compassion, and clarity.
Published on: August 20, 2012
Updated on: January 2, 2013