For many years, I have encouraged friends who are determined to pursue better health to attempt sitting meditation for training body and mind. But when talking about meditation, many people seem to think that this is a religious activity. In fact, both from a scientific or medical perspective, and when subjected to analysis and verification, meditation really can create a big change in physical and mental health.
The medical perspective proves that meditation resembles animal hibernation. The process creates very similar physiology changes in humans as hibernation does in animals. Meditation increases the effects of the parasympathetic nervous system. The body’s metabolic rate is reduced, including the heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. A person’s muscles become deeply relaxed. However, unlike hibernation, his/her mind stays alert and vigilant.
Meditation also eases the body’s response to stress. Endocrine related research about immunity has discovered that people who do meditation cope better when faced with stress. When we are in a state of stress our body will produce a lot of stress hormones (cortisol) and increase our use of energy. With too much stress the body eventually runs out of resources and ill health results. Meditation sets the basic rate of energy use lower. Promoting the parasympathetic system also allows the immune system to function more effectively. Moreover, during meditation it’s also possible to reduce blood levels of lactic acid, the end product of muscle metabolism i.e. reduce the accumulation of waste. This means that people doing meditation have a higher tolerance to stress when it comes. Their body is at metabolic rest, rather than perpetually ready and over-reactive, constantly making greater and greater adjustments to environmental stress.
While meditation can reduce the body’s oxygen demand, at the same time it can effectively improve blood oxygen concentration i.e. your relaxed muscles don’t need as much oxygen, so more remains in the blood to circulate to where the need is greater e.g. the brain. Meditation helps you think! It also helps your sleep be more restorative. A person usually needs to sleep 5 to 6 hours before they can significantly reduce their oxygen demand. But if you do some meditation before retiring for the night, your body will already have reduced its demand.
Many modern people are anxious, over stimulated, and under pressure for a long time. They gradually lose their mental and physical balance, resulting in an endless variety of mental and physical fatigue symptoms. Many can’t find a complete cure for their malaise. If you feel this way, try to learn some simple meditation as soon as possible. It can be as simple as sitting quietly, praying or being mindful for 30 minutes every day. You will see a great reduction of these fatigue symptoms.
If you have a few more minutes I would like to share with you my own personal experience. Meditation helped me reduce some symptoms of anxiety that have been plaguing me for several months. I had a dry cough every morning, but no cold or flu symptoms and would feel short of breath. No cough medicine helped me. Sometimes that cough was so deep it hurt. It also drove my wife crazy. I wasn’t sleeping well. I would have trouble falling asleep and then wake up halfway through the night.
I have been practicing meditation for over 20 years. Lately I’d been practicing just 1 or 2x a week. Apparently that wasn’t enough.
So, two weeks ago, I decided to sit for 45min-1 hour every morning. I listened to musical mantras and observed my thoughts and natural breathing pattern (mindfulness meditation). After 1 week, I felt my anxiety levels had already reduced. I wouldn’t wake up feeling stressed and have to cough. I was sleeping better too (except for after T’ai chi class when I drank green tea too late at night). This morning I didn’t cough once. My wife was amazed.
Meditation can not only promote your physical health. It can also decrease your sadness, anger or unhappiness with life. For anyone looking to maintain or improve their health, meditation is one of the best ways. You just need to find the time to do it. You don’t need space, you don’t need any special equipment. You just need will power, perseverance and to make the time.