There’s been a lot of buzz lately about all the amazing benefits of mindfulness meditation; from stress relief and relaxation to sharper focus and improved concentration. What so few realize is this one amazing truth: Scientists agree that we may have actually discovered the Fountain of Youth we’ve all been looking for!
Meditation Lowers Cortisol Levels
Let’s first take a look at one of the most common ailments affecting 75% of the world’s population: Stress. When we are stressed, our body produces adrenaline, aptly known as the fight-or-flight hormone. This pushes our cortisol levels up (the stress hormone), which weakens our immune system. This leads to all the typical symptoms of stress: headaches, abdominal pain, anxiety and tension, to name a few. Elevated cortisol can even cause severe heart conditions, leading to eventual death.
Too much of this stress hormone has also been proven to affect the brain. The prefrontal cortex controls behaviors such as decision-making, focus, judgment and social interaction. Cortisol actually shrinks this part of the brain, lessening the synaptic connections between the neurons. This can have a tremendous impact on our behavior.
Meditation Lets You Live Forever because it Increases Telomerase
Meditation not only combats stress, but may actually slow down the aging process. The secret is an enzyme called Telomerase. It is a widely known fact that the cells in our bodies are constantly dying off and reproducing. At the end of each chromosome is a protective barrier made up of telomeres. Every time our cells reproduce, these telomeres shorten and unravel, which is now believed to be the source of aging.
Telomerase, the ‘anti-aging’ enzyme, repairs these telomeres, preventing them from shortening and separating. A study carried out by University of California-Davis in Colorado, discovered that after three months at a meditation retreat, people showed higher levels of Telomerase. This exciting discovery led to the conclusion that meditation may very well be the cure for aging we’ve all been searching for.
Meditation Fights Cancer
Telomerase may not only reverse aging, it may even defy death itself! The patients in the California-Davis study mentioned above, all had Cancer. Over their 3 month retreat, the Telomerase activity in the meditating patients had increased by an unbelievable 30%!
Aussie Scott Stevens beat Cancer three times through meditation and healthy living. Scott got his first bout of cancer at age 23 and is now healthy at 37 and 8 years Cancer-free. Many more exciting discoveries have been made in this area and research is ongoing.
Meditation Improves Happiness
Statistically, happy people tend to live longer, and thanks to new evidence scientists are starting to figure out why. Studies show that regular meditation improves psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression, which in turn can lengthen life expectancy.
In another UC San Francisco study, psychologist Aoife O’Donovan observed telomere length in the immune systems of post-menopausal women. What they discovered was not surprising; the pessimists had poorer immune system functioning and shorter telomeres than the optimists. “In fact, the correlation between pessimism and telomere length was a whopping -.55. Psychologists rarely get correlations of this magnitude.”
Meditation Lowers Blood Pressure
Not only does meditation lower your blood pressure, it seems to be the most effective and healthy way to do so. At least 5 studies by the National Institutes of Health have proven how effective it is in lowering hypertension. In 2007 it was found to be the most effective stress technique yet, when compared to other methods.
Yet another study reported by the New York Times showed a substantial decrease in blood pressure. but an incredible 50% lower rate of stroke, heart attack and early death, compared to non-meditating participants.
Meditation Helps You Sleep
Insomniacs tend to have an excess of beta brainwaves, the predominant mental state of anxiety and depression. Studies show that not only do practiced meditators have far less beta brainwaves; they have much higher levels of the far more helpful alpha, theta, and delta brainwave patterns.
Melatonin is the neurochemical which allows us to go to asleep. Stress decreases melatonin levels, inhibiting the natural sleep cycle. This sets off all sorts of emotional, psychological, and physical problems. Researchers and the Rutgers University learned that meditation practitioners’ melatonin levels were boosted on an average by 98%. In fact, many contributors increased by more than 300%! The study found that enhancing melatonin through meditation is a “far more effective long term solution for nightly deep sleep.”
Meditation Makes You Lose Weight
In 2011, researchers from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine proved that mindfulness meditation can be very beneficial in the prevention and management of obesity in children. Dangerous abdominal fat may be reduced with regular meditation, according to a study published in the Journal of Obesity. Meditation was found to reduce stimulation in the part of the brain linked to impulsiveness.
In December 2015, the French NutriNet-Santé study exposed the revelation that meditating regularly reduces the risk of obesity by a staggering 50%. Meditation was linked to a lower risk of being overweight and an even lower risk of obesity compared to individuals who never participated in this kind of practice.
Meditation Improves Cognitive Function Preventing Dementia or Alzheimer’s
Meditation has also been proven to improving attention and sensory processing, by physically changing parts of the brain associated with memory and learning. A team of scientists from all over the globe came together to compare the brain scans of 50 American men and women who meditated regularly to those of 50 Americans who did not regularly meditate, and the results were astounding!
The scans of the non-meditators showed a brain age which was the same as their actual age. Not so for the meditators! Their brains were on average, 7 years younger than their actual age! “These findings suggest that meditation is beneficial for brain preservation, with a slower rate of brain aging throughout life,“ according to Germany researcher Christian Gaser from Jena University Hospital.
Meditation Aids with Chronic Pain
Coping with chronic pain doesn’t necessarily mean living on painkillers, according to new research. Scientists at the University of Montreal aimed to find out why previous research suggested that practitioners of Zen meditation have a higher pain tolerance. They exposed Zen masters and non-meditators to the same pain and they measured their brain activity with am fMRI.
They found that not only did the Zen group feel less pain than the control group did, they felt less pain than the fMRI indicated. Their brains were getting the pain signals without translating them to actual feelings of pain.
Meditation Improves Relationships which is linked to Longevity
Meditation improves relationships through the positive impact it has on your perspective. Grateful people are more fulfilled in their relationships and feel closer to each another. Gratitude keeps you focused on and appreciative of your family and colleagues, which strengthens bonds.
Studies show that empathy and compassion have incredible health and happiness benefits, such as decreased depression and anxiety, and of course, a longer life. Social connections not only give us satisfaction, they also affect our long-term health. So many studies have shown that people who have fulfilling relationships with family, friends, and the people around them, have much less health problems, and generally live longer.
On the other hand, having a lack of social connections has been tied to causing depression and cognitive deterioration later in life, as well as higher mortality rates. One analysis, which scrutinized data from more than 300000 cases, concluded that “lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50% — an effect on mortality risk roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity .”