Benefits: Physical Health conditions meditation
Implementing a regular mediation practice into your daily life can have many benefits on your physical body. Surprising benefits can be achieved by simply using a high blood pressure meditation to reduce the risks and complications associated with that common health issue. The effects of meditation are not only beneficial to your mental health or emotional health but to your other physical health conditions too.
Additionally, it is important to note that the mind and spirit are also connected with our bodies in ways we may not be aware of. The following article will help you understand how meditation affects your health.
Forms of meditation or practicing various meditation styles have been shown to improve overall well-being by reducing stress levels, improving sleep quality, increasing self-esteem, decreasing anxiety, depression, anger, fear, pain, and other negative emotions, as well as helping people cope better with illness or injury.
Disclaimer: meditation is in no way a treatment for any physical or mental condition or illness. It can act as a powerful tool for overall wellbeing alongside appropriate medication, medical therapy, and lifestyle changes. Please seek medical advice when necessary.
Mindfulness meditation during pregnancy is hugely beneficial for both the well-being of the mother and of the baby. Since meditation calms our nervous system down and puts us at ease it helps to support the pregnancy and helps support the drastic changes your body goes through.
Meditation during pregnancy benefits include:
- Activates the parasympathetic nervous system which aids in rest and digest while decreasing the stress hormone – cortisol.
- You don’t need any special equipment and it is accessible to all
- There are no risks associated with practicing mindfulness meditation during pregnancy – it can help to decrease fatigue, stabilize moods and enhance sleep.
- It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective because it promotes calmness and reduces stress which allows women to focus more effectively on their pregnancies and give birth safely.
- It improves maternal mental health and decreases postpartum depression rates.
- It implements a more aware state of being physically and mentally results in taking care of yourself and tuning into how your body feels during the different stages of pregnancy – this would also eventually influence the way you show up for your unborn child and inevitably raise them in a more mindful and conscious way. It teaches you about yourself and is a great personal empowerment tool.
- It releases the anxiety towards if you might be doing the right thing for your pregnancy and baby
- Most mindfulness practices use breathing techniques in order to create awareness around the breath. Different breathing techniques can be a powerful way to help you move through labor as it controls the pain perception by giving you something to focus on.
- The heightened state of awareness can help to build a connection with your baby
Why Science Is Telling Us To Meditate During Pregnancy
Pregnancy Meditation: The Benefits of Mindfulness
Most moms-to-be spend a lot of time worrying about their developing baby. But remember, it’s just as important during the next nine months to tune in to someone else’s cues: your own.
Maybe you’re exceedingly tired. Or thirsty. Or hungry. Maybe you and your growing baby need some quiet time to connect.
Your doctor or midwife may say, “Listen to your body.” But for many of us, that’s followed by, “How?” Meditation can help you listen to your voice, your body, that small heartbeat and help you feel refreshed and a bit more focused.
Which meditation is best in pregnancy?
There is no hierarchy to which meditation type is best – there is no right or wrong when it comes to practicing mindfulness. It is just dependent on what you are personally drawn to – if it does not work for you it is less likely that you will stick to it.
2. High Blood Pressure
Heart health is fundamental for our overall physical health. One of the main causes of high blood pressure is stress. What can help to combat stress of any kind? And it’s not high blood pressure medication it’s high blood pressure Meditation!
How can meditation lower blood pressure?
Recent studies have shown, through techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation one can significantly reduce the systolic and diastolic blood pressure of one’s heart which suggests that mindfulness can significantly help those that are at risk for heart disease.
A study published in 2016 looked at how mindful people’s heart rates changed when faced with stressful situations.
The findings were striking: When stressed out by an exam, students who practiced mindfulness showed lower heart rate variability than those who didn’t practice mindfulness. This means that while both groups experienced stress during the test, only one group was able to calm down afterward.
In other words, being mindful helped these individuals regulate their own body’s stress response and decrease their blood pressure as a result.
3. Chronic Adrenal Fatigue (Stress)
After a long period of emotional stress or chronic illness, the HPA axis becomes dysregulated and the adrenal glands lose their function. Our adrenals play an important role in energy production and blood sugar balancing, through controlling hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol, and aldosterone, which become imbalanced and dysregulated during adrenal fatigue.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue include:
- exhaustion (even after a long sleep),
- no energy and high levels of fatigue
- struggles to handle stress
- weakened immunity,
- sleep disturbances (insomnia or becomes more active at night)
- reliant on caffeine, sugar and for energy,
- and food cravings (specifically salty food)
Adrenal fatigue can also result in many other health complications if not addressed
How Meditation Can Help You Handle Stress
It is well-known that meditation reduces stress hormones and brings the cortisol production timing back on track.
Through breathing techniques, the parasympathetic nervous system gets activated which combats our body’s stress response of ‘fight or flight’ mode and results in decreasing the spike of our cortisol and adrenaline.
Meditation is also a great teacher in learning how to slow down, take time off and take time for yourself in order to rejuvenate and recoup. In a world where we are used to working 24/7 and chasing this idea of always having to be productive – meditation teaches us the opposite.
It allows us to access a restful state which is of utmost importance for optimal health.
Inflammatory pain is the hypersensitivity to pain that occurs in response to tissue damage, stress, and inflammation (e.g., postoperative pain, trauma, arthritis, etc.)
Pain and inflammation can once again be a physical response to experiencing stress or trauma.
How meditation helps to reduce pain and inflammation
The benefits of meditation have been proven over many years.
A recent meta-analysis found that regular meditators had less pain compared to nonmeditator controls, through lowering the inflammation. The researchers suggested that it could be due to the fact that mindfulness increases attention to bodily sensations and decreases rumination about them.
They go further by stating that “the mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of MBIs remain unknown” but they believe that there might be some overlap with the effect of exercise response. Another review article concluded that “mindfulness training may improve psychological outcomes related to pain.”
A study published in 2010 showed that people who practiced yoga were better able to cope with painful situations. Yoga has been shown to increase relaxation and self-awareness, thus reducing anxiety and depression. Yoga is a form of movement meditation practice.
In addition, there has been evidence showing that meditation decreases inflammatory markers like C reactive protein. CRP is a marker of systemic inflammation and elevated levels correlate with increased Stress Management risks of cardiovascular diseases.
There s also evidence that due to its effect on the inflammatory response it can aid in muscle recovery to repair either injured muscles or overtrained muscles from exercise/athletic activity. Remember although beneficial, exercise is also putting stress on the body’s physical capabilities.
Techniques such as Progressive muscle relaxation can greatly improve muscle recovery and therefore a decrease in pain as it gets rid of unwanted tension that the body might be holding onto.
5. Breathing problems due to illness or lung disfunction
Lungs are one of the most important organs of the human body because they help regulate blood pressure, temperature regulation, digestion, elimination of toxins, immune function, hormone secretion, oxygen exchange, and other vital functions. The lungs consist of two main parts; the air sacs called alveoli, and the bronchial tubes connecting them together. When you breathe out your diaphragm pushes against the chest wall causing an increase in intrathoracic pressure.
The increase in thoracic pressure through an extended exhale can have great positive effects on our lungs’ breathing capacity.
How a meditation session as a daily practice helps our lungs:
- Doing breathing exercises regularly increases our lung capacity which results in lower respiratory rate and lower blood pressure
- Increases oxygen uptake into the brain (allows for a clearer and focused mind), the heart (increase in oxygenated blood that can be taken to the organs and muscles for optimal function and repair of tissue).
- Improves the breathing quality which improves our general quality of life through conscious awareness of breath
Breathing and meditation exercises to try:
Seal off the lips. Inhale for the count of four, hold for four, exhale for a count of 8 9or double yoour chosen count) and hold for a count of 4
6. Nervous system dysfunction
A Practice of Meditation: The Vagus Nerve
What exactly is the vagus nerve?
To put it another way, it’s one of your body’s longest nerves (the sciatic nerve is the longest). The term loosely translates to “wandering nerve,”.
The vagus nerve runs from your brainstem to your abdomen, working its way down through your body. It links with numerous key organs along the route, including the heart and lungs. The vagus nerve is partially responsible for your body’s regulation of heart rate, breathing rate, digestion, and other functions.
Previously, it was thought that the vagus nerve acted on its own, without the cognitive input of the individual. While external influences such as stress, diet, or mobility might certainly influence it, it acted internally and could not be actively influenced externally.
However, research has uncovered the intricate relationship between awareness and physiology — as well as the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve, which has been described as a neurological system “hack”, appears to be science’s answer to the vexing question of how, exactly, Buddhist practices work through “vagal nerve activation.”
In addition, there has been research with moderate evidence indicating that vagus nerve stimulation could potentially treat chronic pain by modulating the central nervous system’s descending inhibitory pathways. This would allow patients suffering from chronic pain to experience relief without having to take opioid medications.
Meditation techniques used to stimulate the vagus nerve include Transcendental Meditation, Mindful Awareness Practices, Loving-Kindness Meditation, Compassionate Self-Compassion practices, and others.
Meditation also balances our nervous system and process of information through activation of the rest and digest system (parasympathetic) and deactivation of our fight and flight response (sympathetic) in order to cope with stress.
Mindfulness may reduce cell aging
Cell aging occurs naturally as cells repeatedly divide over the lifespan and can also be increased by disease or stress. Proteins called telomeres, which are found at the end of chromosomes and serve to protect them from aging, seem to be impacted by mindfulness meditation.
Stress speeds up the process of cells dividing which causes our cellular telomeres to shorten and speeds up the aging process. Since meditation and mindfulness practices combat stress it can not only make you feel younger mentally and emotionally but physically and biologically too.
8. Low or Compromised Immune System
Mindfulness may improve your immune response
Immune cells circulate in the blood when we encounter diseases. These cells help us fight diseases in many ways. Mindfulness may affect these disease-fighting cells.
Several studies show that meditation increases levels of T-cells in patients with cancer. This suggests that meditation could help fight cancer and other diseases. In people with cancer, a variety of markers that might indicate the progression of the disease have been improved by meditation.
People who practiced meditation had higher levels of the interleukin-8 in their mucus which plays a role in immunity.
A study found that patients who had greater increases in Mindfulness after a course also showed faster wound healing properties, which is regulated by the immune system.
Studies have shown effects on markers of inflammation, like C-reactive Protein, which can harm physical health at higher levels.
Overall, these findings suggest that mindfulness meditation can have disease-fighting powers through our immune response.
In addition, there is evidence that mindfulness training improves sleep quality, which has been linked to better immunity.
The Bottom Line
Meditation helps boost moods, reduces anxiety, and boosts brainpower. It’s no wonder why so many people practice this ancient art form today!
It seems that a Mindful meditation can do more than just calm down stressed minds; it may actually slow down the aging process. And while most research focuses on its benefits for mental well-being, some scientists believe that practicing mindfulness meditation may have huge physical health benefits too.
9. Managing Weight
A very common factor of weight gain or loss is due to increased amounts of stress. Many people use food as comfort through stressful or emotional times and this alongside high cortisol levels could also lead to weight gain. Similarly, some people lose their appetite under stress which results in weight loss. Meditation can be used as a form of emotional regulation.
Mindfulness-based interventions can also be of service for two reasons:
- If the weight loss/gain is due to an eating disorder, meditation helps us cope with this mental illness by teaching us to become a witness of our thoughts and not a judge.
- It strengthens our intuition – if the weight loss/gain is due to undereating or overeating because of stress, imbalanced hormones or health issues it can help us tune into what our body needs and feed it intuitively through being more aware or know when medial intervention is needed.
Does Mindful Meditation Practices Help You Lose Weight?
“People often put on weight from trying to comfort themselves with food,” says Adam Perlman, MD, executive director of Duke Integrative Medicine Although there’s not a lot of research showing that meditation directly helps you lose weight, meditation does help you become more aware of your thoughts and actions, including those that relate to food.
For example, a research review showed that meditation can help with both binge eating and emotional eating “Any way to become more mindful will guide that process,” Perlman says.
10. Increase in fitness through mental strength
We’ve seen how meditation can improve overall wellbeing but now let’s look at how it can benefit your fitness goals.
There are several ways that meditation can enhance your workout routine. For starters, it can make you feel calmer during exercise sessions. This means less muscle tension and soreness afterward.
Another reason meditation makes workouts easier is that it allows you to focus on each movement without distractions such as thinking about other things.
Meditation increases our mental strength and stability which results in an increase in determination, motivation, grit, and perseverance resulting in a greater ability to push your body through a tougher workout and higher performance. Meditation trains your mind in order to train your body.
All in all, it seems that Mindful meditation can do more than just calm down stressed minds; it may actually slow down the aging process. And while most research focuses on its benefits for mental well-being, some scientists believe that practicing mindfulness meditation may have huge physical health benefits too.