Why do people do meditations? What do those who do, gain from sitting in silence? What impacts does this habit have on us – our brain, our body, our relationsships… our life?
The other day I watched an amazing documentary titled “the healing power of meditation“. Even though I already meditated on a regular basis and have been a huge fan of it, this completely changed my point of view – now I am in love with it 😉 and want to share the true power behind this ancient method with YOU.
Little warning: Even though this article may get a little scientifical, I highly encourage you to read through it anyway as proven facts, numbers and scientific experiments are sometimes needed for us to really understand what is going on 🙂
Maybe you have heard the statement that meditation impacts our brain, and even our overall health. This no longer is only a claim. Scientists have published several studies showing this amazing fact being true.
Regular meditation impacts numerous regions of the brain – and therefore is able to calm our mind, affect our body and even change our organism. Meditation empowers our psyche.
In the documentary they even stated that the outcome of mediation is comparable with the effect of anti-depressants. 20 minutes would be enough to reduce the backfall of a depressed person by 50%.
The Amygdala, which is the home of fear and anxiety in the brain, has a bearing on our emotions. It also plays a huge role in decision making and memorizing. Only after 8 weeks of consistant mediation, they noticed a ruduced activity as well the patients being in touch with their emotions and feelings again.
With the help of meditation we are able to contribute to longterm changes in the brain. It is is very adaptable. As a result of experiences and practice the brain alters. Usually this happens unconsciously. During meditation however this takes part very consciously – it is a mental exercise.
Every time we sit down to meditate, we train our brain to slowly change the very complex balance. What an astonishing thought is that?! This means nothing else than: health starts in our brains!
At this point I need to mention a few things about stress.
It’s no secret that stress is as present in our life as it has never been before; it is the epidemic of this time and age.. The least of us got even 5 minutes to themselves per day, but rather are constantly in a rush.
If someone is stressed, their body does not only change its metabolism, produces more sweat and makes the heart beat much more rapidly, but also releases chemical substances. If there is too much cortisol, which is one of the substances, it may cause health issues and diseases. Cortisol also makes it easier for inflammations to occur, which in the longterm leads to chronic diseases, we all are just too familiar with.
Now, here are the good – if not amazing – news: Meditation influences stress positively. In stressful situations the cortisol level won’t climb as high, and after the stressful situation is over, its levels come back to normal much much faster – it acts anti-inflammatory. This means if we can control our stress levels, we can lower physical stress reactions. Again, how amazing is that?!
Another incredible fact: this time let’s talk about pain.
Pain is the warning signal of our body. It connects senses and brain in very special and subtle ways. But did you know that the main part of pain does not come from the actual pain itself, but rather from the fear of the pain!
Now, how is this connected to meditation?
They did an experiment on pain and fear of pain in relationship to meditation: Every person who participated was warned a few seconds before they experienced a burning pain on their wrists.
Group 1 were the ones with no meditation background. During the experiment there was a noticable alert in the brain even before they felt the pain. And even once the pain was over, their brain was much longer in this active state.
The brain of the ones who meditated on a regular basis didn’t show any abnormal activities before the pain took place (even though they knew it would happen). Afterwards it much faster went back to normal. However, during the phase of the pain, their brain was much more active – compared to the brains in group 1 – and therefore being able to react really fast.
Again, a very very interesting insight! – This experiment just stated that awareness impacts our experience of pain, and meditation changes the relationship to pain, plus that we are actually able to distance ourselves from pain…
Already amazing benefits right? But let me tell you, that’s not it. And let me tell you one more thing, you’ll be blown away by what you’re about to read – for real 😉
Meditation does not only enable us to control certain automatic reactions in our bodies, but also impacts our cells.
Through mental changes we can can act upon our cell nucleus – accordingly to the University of California we are able to affect our DNA.
Some of you may be familiar that the end part of our chromosomes is called telomere. (A great way to imagine this phenomen is to think about the little plastic cap on the end of a shoeslace). As we age those telomeres slowly get shorter and shorter. If they at one point got too short, the cells are unable to divide and no new tissue can be created. This is one of the reasons we get sick and eventually die.
Even though this process is very natural, we don’t want it to happen to fast.
Amazing fact #1: Through meditation those telomeres shorten less fast. This means we impact on cell aging!
Now breath taking fact #2: Meditation even reverses the process of shortening telomeres, and actually helps them grow back. And this means our livespan is deeply interwoven with our psyche!!
If cells listen to our thoughts and emotions – which is now a fact – we have the ability to create our biochemical environment. Aaaaand a living statement that what we think really matters just got born!!
To be able to control and steer our thoughts in a more positively way, conscious breathing & walking as well as relaxing our body are a great way to start.
Because if we turn from doing to being, something very interesting in our biology, our breath, our brain, our genome and our telomeres is happening.
We may stay young through living in this moment, and lengthen our lives by keeping our brain just as fit and active as our physical body.
Even though there are much more and many different benefits of developing a regular meditating practice (often they are very personal depending on the individual issues) let’s summarize the benefits of meditation we talked about on here:
empowers our psyche
influences stress positively
impacts our experience of pain and changes the relationship to pain
enables us to control certain automatic reactions in our bodies
impacts our cells – have the power over cell aging and therefore our livespan, and are able to create our biochemical environment
influences our genome and cell health positively
I really hope this brought a little bit more light to the question why meditating is beneficial and why people do it so passionately.
It is something we can all learn; being aware, present and sink into ourselves for a few minutes.
I will provide more tips on how to get started, what meditation really is and any other of your questions. I would love hearing any troubles or issues you’re facing to help you develop a practice you get the most out. If you do have any questions please send them my way.