Mindfulness meditation has been touted as an antidote to stress, anxiety and depression. And science has backed it up with evidence showing that people who practice meditation on a regular basis produce less of the stress hormone cortisol and more of the happy hormone serotonin in their bodies.
Mindfulness meditation brings us into a balanced state of mind. It accomplishes this balance by stimulating the whole brain to maximum performance. Our brains have right and left hemispheres. The left hemisphere is our logical, practical side while the right hemisphere takes care of creativity and intuition. One side usually dominates. That’s why we often say artists are right-brain persons and scientists are left-brain creatures. But ideally, both sides should be equally operating. With regular meditation, we can achieve whole brain function and enter into harmony. New neural pathways are created, blood flow improves and the mind is better able to deal with negative sensations like pain. When the mind is relaxed, it becomes a fertile ground for healthy cells to regenerate.
Here are three chronic diseases that we can prevent or halt the progress of, through mindfulness meditation:
Mindfulness meditation and heart disease
Meditation involves focus on deep breathing and silent contemplation. When the mind goes into this state, the neural activity of the prefrontal cortex of the brain decreases, thereby lowering stress levels. Many researches have attested to these findings and taken brain scans of subjects for further tests and evaluation. It also found that participants in the study had lowered risks for heart diseases compared to a group who did not do meditation.
Mindfulness meditation and obesity
Mindful eating makes us aware of the food we eat, their taste, texture and appearance. It also keeps our focus on our hunger and satiety, so that we don’t overeat. But meditation has more than a psychological effect on our appetites. Science says that when meditation makes us more calm and less stressed, our bodies produce endorphins, neurotransmitters and hormones that have positive and relaxing effects on our bodies and minds. Endorphins give us a feeling of happiness and satisfaction, driving away hunger and emotional eating. The neurotransmitter GABA decreases neural excitability and stabilizes our moods, preventing binge eating, and the hormones DHEA, serotonin and melatonin strengthen our immune systems, help keep depression away and regulate our circadian rhythms to give us a good night’s sleep.
It should be noted that not all cases of obesity can be resolved by meditation alone. Genetic, environmental and organic factors can add to the excess pounds. These and the need to lose weight fast for health reasons will benefit from medical intervention. Although the human growth hormone (HGH) is also produced by the body during meditation, a doctor-prescribed HGH dosage for weight loss will give greater results in a shorter time.
Mindfulness meditation and diabetes
Diabetes is a debilitating disease that has grave complications. Anyone diagnosed with it has to take medicines for a lifetime. People with this disease are prone to stress and depression, and for good reason since diabetes curtails pleasurable activities. Meditation helps in reversing insulin’s effect on the pancreas and reducing blood sugar levels by lowering the person’s stress. Stress triggers the body to produce the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which in turn increases glucose in the blood, leading to or aggravating diabetes. When stress is relieved, sleep patterns become regular, which promotes healing of the pancreas.
The alleviation of stress and anxiety that comes from the practice of mindfulness meditation promotes the healing or halts the progress of chronic diseases. Aside from the most common conditions of heart disease, obesity and diabetes, other continuing illnesses are hypertension, cancer, diseases of the gut and many more.
Western medicine has embraced this ancient Eastern practice as an important component of any therapeutic regimen. But we need not wait to be ill to start practicing meditation.