We believe good health requires looking after the mind as well as the body and a great place to start is by learning how to meditate. If we can learn how to still the busy mind and create peace within ourselves we will feel much better. We will find that pain decreases as we learn how to let go of tension in the body. We will notice that we feel less anxious and are able to cope with the stresses of life more easily. We will also feel empowered to make beneficial lifestyle changes.
If we aren’t in the correct mental space we will struggle to make and sustain the necessary changes, inevitably sliding back to our old habits. So we could say that meditation keeps us on track by increasing our focus, clarity, confidence, motivation and hope. It’s no good expecting someone to be given a list of “do’s and don’ts” if we haven’t established the correct mentality to undertake these changes. We all need support and meditation gives us this.
Periods of prolonged stress or not feeling in control are associated with an increase in a hormone called cortisol (link). Cortisol (sometimes referred to as the “stress hormone”) is a potent anti-inflammatory, preventing widespread tissue and nerve damage in times of acute stress.
Prolonged conditions of stress elevate levels of cortisol resulting in stress-induced inflammation. Elevated cortisol levels have been associated with abdominal obesity (link). Elevated cortisol depresses the immune system and is thought to be a major factor in inducing infectious diseases and depression (link). Stress management is therefore vital to resolving cortisol dysfunction. A meditation style called “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction” has been shown to reduce stress-induced inflammation (link).
There’s an increasing amount of research which suggests “mind-body practices” dampen the activity of genes associated with inflammation – essentially reversing molecular damage caused by stress. Meditation doesn’t just calm the mind – it also seems to affect our DNA (link).