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 Science Shows 6 Ways Meditation Boosts Health

Can   meditation --- which  ,after  all, is  extolled  and practised  by millions  for  its efficacy  in  bestowing  peace  and harmony ------ lead the way  in resolving  the traditional  conflict  between  science  and  religion ? An  ever – increasing  volume  of  scientific  data   on meditation’s  documented  benefits   for  the human  body  and  mind seem  to  offer  a resounding  “yes “.  Here are brief snapshots of some of that diverse research.

 1. It   Enhances  the Performance  of  the Brain

Groundbreaking   new  research  is  demonstrating   that   ‘ meditative ‘  practice  can  change  the workings  of the brain” writes  Marc Kaufman  in the Washington Post ( January 3,2005). He quotes Dr. Richard  Davidson, a neuroscientist  at the University  of  Wisconsin : “What  we found  is that  the longtime  practitioner’s  showed  brain  activation  on a scale  we have never seen before.  Their mental practice is having an effect on the brain in the same way golf or tennis practice will enhance performance”. According  to Kaufman,  Professor  Davidson  says  the research  “ demonstrates  that  the brain is capable to being trained and physically modified  in ways  few people  can imagine”.

In her 2010  book  Brave  New Brain , Judith  Horstman writes: “ [Davidson ] and other  neuroscientists  studying  meditation  foresee a time  when mental  exercises  such as  meditation  will be taught  in the classroom, beginning with  preschool  or kindergarten , to make  them a  lifelong  habit  and help  children  learn how to quiet  mind  and  body, focus thoughts,  and control  emotions.”

 2. It   is  One  of  the Best  Pain Management  Strategies

Fadel  zeidan  ,Ph.D., leader  of  a study  done  at Wake  Forest  Baptist  Medical  Centre, said: “ Only  a little over an hour  of  meditation  training  can  dramatically  reduce  both  the experience  of  pain  and  pain related brain activation. Meditation produced a greater reduction in pain that even morphine or other pain relieving drugs.”

According  to  the  Los  Angeles times ( October 29,2007), “ increasingly, doctor’s  across  the country are recommending  meditation  to treat pain, and some of the nation’s  top  hospital’s, including Stanford, Duke  and NYU Medical Centre, now offer  meditation programs  to  pain patients.”

 3. It  reduces  blood pressure.

Dr. Randall Zusman, a researcher  at  Massachusetts  General  hospital, describes  the effect of meditation  on hypertension  patients who had been  unable  to get their  blood pressure  under control with drugs. For about  forty  of  the  sixty patients  trained  in  a basic  meditational practice  to induce the “ relaxation response”,  “ their  blood pressure  dropped, and they dropped  some of their  medication. It was striking. It was statistically significant, but more important it was clinically significant to these people,” he says.

 4. It  combats  aging  of  the Body

Intriguing  recent  research  about  what  causes  aging in the body  focuses  on the degeneration  of telomeres ------  the protective  caps  at the ends of  chromosomes. A 2009    study  reported  in the annals  of the New York  academy  of  Science  looked  at how  the length  of telomeres is related to Human longevity.” Telomere length has now been linked to chronic stress exposure and depression”, said the report. “ This  raises  the question  of  mechanism: How might  cellular  aging  be modulated  by psychological functioning ?”

Initial answers are emerging from the Shamatha project at University of California, Davis. The Observer ( UK )  reported on April 23,2011 : “ One  result in particular  has potentially stunning implications : that by protecting caps  called telomeres on the ends of our chromosomes, meditation might help to delay  the process  of aging.”

  5. It Can Be Better Than Sleep.

New Scientist  reported  in November 2005  on research  by  Bruce O’Hara and collaborator’s  at the University  of  Kentucky, who looked  at how  sleepiness  affects  mental  alertness. Volunteers were asked to stare at a computer monitor and press a button immediately when they saw an image appear.

“Typically , people   take 200 to 300 milliseconds to respond, but  sleep derived people  take much longer, and sometimes  miss the stimulus  altogether,” the article  said.” Volunteer’s were tested before   and after forty minutes of either sleep, meditation, reading or light conversation, with all subjects trying all conditions. The forty minute nap was known to improve performance 9 after an hour or so to recover from grogginess).  But   what astonished the researchers was that meditation was the only intervention that immediately led to superior performance.”

 6. It Boosts the Immune System.

Time magazine  ( July 27,2003), reported  that  Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical  School “ gave a group  of newly taught meditators and nonmeditators flu  shots  and measured  the antibody  levels  in their  blood. Researchers   also measured their brain activity to see how much the meditators mental activity shifted from the right brain to the left. Not only did the meditators have more anti bodies at both four weeks and eight weeks after the shots, but the people whose activity shifted the most had even more antibodies. The better your meditation technique, Kabat-Zinn suggests, the healthier your immune system.”

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