Meditation is still a relatively new field of study for scientists, but the practice of meditation is ancient. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., from the University of Massachusetts, studied actual brain movements of people who meditated. He found that through meditation we actually change the brain activity from one part of the cortex to another. This explains the scientific reason behind how meditation improves overall health.
Specifically, the act of meditating shifts activity from the right frontal cortex, the area prone to stress, to the left frontal cortex, an area of calm. Meditation also reduces the brainwave activity in the amyglada, the fear center of the brain. So practiced meditation actually helps you become more able to deal with stress, less likely to fall into depression and better at coping with the daily frustrations in life.
The National Institute of Health suggests that meditation may work on reducing activity in the parasympathetic nervous system, the system responsible for the fight or flight responses. At the same time, it increases activity in the sympathetic nervous system, slowing down breathing and heart rate. This helps again in the reduction in anxiety, ability to cope with daily challenges and overall improvement of health.
How does it affect the body in totality? There has been little actual scientific research that is conclusive, but it is a fairly new field of study for the National Institute of Health. They are investing money into researching this practice that Buddhists have been practicing for over 2500 years.
R. Bonadonna, at the Medical University of South Caroline, did a comprehensive study and review of health benefits of meditation. In her research, she found that meditation can potentially:
- reduce anxiety, pain, and depression
- enhance mood and self-esteem
- can positively influence the experience of chronic illness
- improve sleep
- and decrease stress
These five things alone can have profound secondary impacts on all areas of your life and relationships. It is simply astounding that a practice of sitting still can make us so much healthier. What is even more interesting to me is how hard so many of us find it is to sit still.
I challenge you all to think about how improving these areas could impact your life. Have they already? Please share your stories.
We will journey together to explore the various types of meditations on the next post.
Namaste. (I bow to you)