Meditation has been used for thousands of years as a way of moving beyond stress inducing thoughts and the minds constant chatter to a place of calm, clarity and present moment awareness. Though there are many different traditions and meditation techniques, the cultivation of mindful awareness and expanded consciousness are the essence of all. These are the ultimate gifts of meditation, and there are many more besides as regular practice produces profound benefits that influence not only the physical, but also the mental, emotional and spiritual areas of our lives.
Many studies are conducted into the effects of meditation and have concluded that these are just a few of the health benefits:
Relief from stress and anxiety – meditation mitigates the ‘fight or flight’ response, decreasing the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.
Decreased blood pressure and hypertension.
Lower cholesterol levels.
More efficient oxygen use by the body.
Increased production of the anti-aging hormone DHEA.
A landmark study undertaken by Massachusetts General Hospital concluded that after only eight weeks of meditation not only did participants feel calmer, but changes were detectable in various areas of their brain including growth in the locations associated with memory, empathy, sense of self and stress regulation. Recent research has studied the effects of meditation upon telomere length. Telomeres are the caps at the end of our DNA chromosomes, that shorten with age and age related diseases, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. As telomeres shorten, cells age and die more quickly, conversely telomere lengthening can increase cells longevity creating the ‘fountain of youth’ effect. Meditation practice has been proved to alter and increase telomere length which in turns extends the length of a healthy life.
Meditation is a free, powerful tool that is accessible to all and as numerous studies have shown has far reaching benefits for all areas of our lives. Through daily practice we can transform ourselves and therefore the world around us, staying centred and calm through challenging times. It seems that now more than ever a more apt question might be why wouldn’t you want to meditate?