At the Chedi Luang temple, a monk told me, “meditation is medicine for the mind.” While research shows that this is unequivocally true, what exactly does this medicine do?
1. Stress Reduction
The most commonly touted benefit of meditation, stress reduction has been found to occur immediately after meditating. Don’t believe me? Close your eyes for a minute and take a few deep breaths….See?
2. Emotional Response
Over time, meditating actually helps to alter the structure of your brain, decreasing the density of areas that lead to acute stress and emotional responses. This helps you manage your emotions in a healthy way, rather than them managing you!
3. Pain Management
Meditating has a positive effect on how you perceive pain. If done correctly on a regular basis, it can even change the way the neurons in your brain respond to it!
4. Memory Retention
In some studies, groups who practiced meditation showed an increase in gray matter in areas related to memory. Stress can weaken these areas, making meditation that much more important.
5. Cognitive Function
With age, areas of the brain related to cognitive function naturally decay. With meditation, you can slow or even reverse this process!
6. Creative Thought
Believe it or not, there’s an area of the brain responsible for thought processes such as creative thinking and personal reflection. Meditating strengthens this area of the brain, which can help you be more imaginative and introspective.
7. Empathy Building
At the same time, meditation also strengthens the area of the brain responsible for how we perceive others, helping us to empathize with others.
8. Heart Health
One study has shown that meditators had less of a specific protein marker that has been linked to heart disease. Research in this area continues, but even indirectly, having less stress helps to keep your heart happy!
9. Immune Health
In the same study, researchers found less of the genetic markers which are involved with inflammatory responses and the immune system. In other words, meditation can keep you from burning the candle at both ends!
10. Blood Pressure
Meditation has been linked with lower blood pressure, thanks to higher levels of a gas that helps to expand your blood vessels, making it easier for your blood to flow!
Whatever ails you, meditation is a wonderful, stress-relieving practice. Science is on your side, so pull up a zafu and clear your mind. Doctor’s orders!