by Elizabeth Renter
April 15th, 2014
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know of a way to help you relax after a long day, reduce your stress and chronic pain, help you focus better on what really matters in your life, and improve your health overall? While Big Pharma is working on that pill, there is a solution that is free and offers no side effects; it’s meditation.
A recent survey of 23,000 households in the U.S. found that about 38 percent of individuals use complementary and alternative medicine, and many of these people use meditation. The popularity of meditation is growing, and even doctors are getting in on the move—prescribing meditation to people who suffer from pain, stress, high blood pressure, and more.
The benefits of meditation have to be experienced first-hand to be fully appreciated, but science has provided several recent studies on just how this simple practice can positively influence your life.
In one of those studies, just a daily 20 minute meditation habit was found to reduce pain by a pretty remarkable 57 percent. These effects didn’t only come from questioning the study participants but by analyzing MRI scans of the brain, according to Christina Sarich. When the period of meditation was extended, participants experienced even greater benefits.
“Meditation produced a greater reduction in pain than even morphine or other pain-relieving drugs, which typically reduce pain ratings by about 25 percent,” said lead researcher Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D.
Another study, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience discovered people who regularly practiced mindful meditation to be better equipped to handle stress and emotional difficulties. Further, the meditation increased empathy, or the ability to relate to fellow humans.
“Since compassion meditation is designed to enhance compassionate feelings, it makes sense that it could increase amygdale response to seeing people suffer,” said researcher Gaelle Desbordes. “Increase amygdale activation was also correlated with decreased depression scores in the compassion meditation group, which suggests that having more compassion towards others may also be beneficial for oneself.”
Many of the known benefits of meditation could be attributed to the fact that it is actually able to alter your genes. A study in Psychoneuroendocrinology found that when compared with a non-meditating group, study participants who meditated intensively for 8-hour sessions experienced molecular changes, even reducing levels of inflammatory genes RIPK2 and COX2, which are related to faster recoveries from stressful situations.
The power of the mind is something science is only beginning to understand. Perhaps the best overall health advice is the simplest: slow down and sit in silence daily.