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Long Term Benefits of Meditation

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It often feels like there are just not enough hours in a day and not enough days in a week to get things done. The forty-hour work week is a distant memory. We barely find the time for all our chores and errands, let alone to unwind with our family and friends. The absence of space for self-care can add to the stress, and stress, if not checked early enough, can develop into depression.

With so much to do and so little time, you naturally may wonder if it’s worth the effort to make space for meditation. Especially in the beginning, when your mind tends to jump from to-do lists to unfinished business and back again, simply sitting can feel painfully unproductive. This might be a good time to learn a little bit about what happens when you’ve been meditating for a long time.

Long term effects of meditation

Long Term Benefits of Meditation
  1. Better sleep

Studies have shown that people who practice meditation report improved sleep. It’s one of the most wholesome and best-appreciated long-term benefits that meditation provides. Medical professionals are now encouraging patients who suffer from insomnia and similar sleep disorders to try different techniques, especially certain forms of guided meditation, to help manage their symptoms. The American Journal of Medicine once reported on a study that aimed to determine the effects of meditation on insomniacs. The results were incredible – all of the patients involved in the study reported improved sleep quality, and 91% reduced their sleeping pill intake or stopped using them altogether.

  1. Enhanced memory, concentration and perception

If you’re curious about what happens when you meditate for a long time, consider the scientific studies involving Buddhist monks and possibly borrow a leaf from them. A good number of Buddhist monks and lay practitioners have perfected the art of meditation over many years. Studies conducted on some of the monks highlight the long-term effects of meditation on the brain. They showed signs of elevated brain activity within the cerebral regions associated with relaxation, happiness, concentration, self-awareness, and other positive emotions and qualities. Conversely, the brain areas responsible for stress and anxiety were less developed.

  1. Increased levels of happiness and compassion

Increased levels of contentment and compassion are among the most desirable long-term benefits of meditation. According to Rachel Parrish, a seasoned meditation instructor, your ability to exhibit true compassion isn’t based on your situation but rather on your complete openness. Compassion is a remarkable trait that’s hard-wired into all of us. Meditation will give you the tools you need to dig deep and access the happiness and compassion that await discovery within. Looking to external sources for comfort and well-being is a deeply ingrained habit, but if you meditate regularly, you’ll surely come to agree that true happiness comes from within.

  1. A healthier immune system

Just as they calm the mind, long-term effects of meditation also benefit the entire body. Some studies have indicated that people who practice meditation produce a higher number of antibodies more rapidly than those who don’t. More antibodies mean you’ll fight diseases more effectively – pathogens will be detected and eliminated with much more efficiency. So meditation not only improves your state of mind, but it also strengthens your body’s disease-fighting mechanisms. A healthy body is one reflection of a peaceful mind.

  1. Improved alertness and ability to focus

We all need to be able to focus in order to carry out our different responsibilities. Any activity that is performed without the proper focus and attention is bound to produce lacklustre results. It’s hard to do a good job when you’re stressed and exhausted, and even more so when you can’t concentrate on the task at hand. At work, factors like stress and exhaustion can lead to a lack of discernment and mistakes. Happily, studies have shown that one of the long-term effects of meditation is improved concentration. Experts now recommend mindfulness meditation to help pacify the mind and increase our ability to remain alert. Luckily, many of our everyday activities at home or at work are fertile ground for the practice of mindfulness. Instead of multitasking, try picking one job or activity and apply yourself to it. With practice, this will improve your productivity and give your intelligence and creativity plenty of space to express themselves.

If you aspire to a better quality of life, meditation is the way to go. Don’t worry, your meditation practice won’t monopolize all of your free time – even sitting for 5 minutes a day can improve your cognition and reduce anxiety and depression. 

 

posted Mar 25 by Mahendra.h.s

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The popularity of meditation is increasing as more people discover its benefits. Meditation is a habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts.

You can use it to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Many people think of it as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration. People also use the practice to develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns and even increased pain tolerance. 

This article reviews 11 health benefits of meditation.

1. Reduces Stress

Stress reduction is one of the most common reasons people try meditation. One study including over 3,500 adults showed that it lives up to its reputation for stress reduction.

Normally, mental and physical stress cause increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This produces many of the harmful effects of stress, such as the release of inflammation-promoting chemicals called cytokines. These effects can disrupt sleep, promote depression and anxiety, increase blood pressure and contribute to fatigue and cloudy thinking. 

In an eight-week study, a meditation style called "mindfulness meditation" reduced the inflammation response caused by stress. Another study in nearly 1,300 adults demonstrated that meditation may decrease stress. Notably, this effect was strongest in individuals with the highest levels of stress .

Research has shown that meditation may also improve symptoms of stress-related conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder and fibromyalgia.

2. Controls Anxiety

Less stress translates to less anxiety. For example, an eight-week study of mindfulness meditation helped participants reduce their anxiety. It also reduced symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as phobias, social anxiety, paranoid thoughts, obsessive-compulsive behaviors and panic attacks (9).

Another study followed up with 18 volunteers three years after they had completed an eight-week meditation program. Most volunteers had continued practicing regular meditation and maintained lower anxiety levels over the long term (10). A larger study in 2,466 participants also showed that a variety of different meditation strategies may reduce anxiety levels.

For example, yoga has been shown to help people reduce anxiety. This is likely due to benefits from both meditative practice and physical activity 

Meditation may also help control job-related anxiety in high-pressure work environments. One study found that a meditation program reduced anxiety in a group of nurses 

3. Promotes Emotional Health

Some forms of meditation can also lead to an improved self-image and more positive outlook on life. Two studies of mindfulness meditation found decreased depression in over 4,600 adults.

One study followed 18 volunteers as they practiced meditation over three years. The study found that participants experienced long-term decreases in depression.

Inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, which are released in response to stress, can affect mood, leading to depression. A review of several studies suggests meditation may reduce depression by decreasing these inflammatory chemicals. Another controlled study compared electrical activity between the brains of people who practiced mindfulness meditation and the brains of others who did not. Those who meditated showed measurable changes in activity in areas related to positive thinking and optimism.

4. Enhances Self-Awareness

Some forms of meditation may help you develop a stronger understanding of yourself, helping you grow into your best self. For example, self-inquiry meditation explicitly aims to help you develop a greater understanding of yourself and how you relate to those around you.

Other forms teach you to recognize thoughts that may be harmful or self-defeating. The idea is that as you gain greater awareness of your thought habits, you can steer them toward more constructive patterns. A study of 21 women fighting breast cancer found that when they took part in a tai chi program, their self-esteem improved more than it did than in those who received social support sessions.

5. Lengthens Attention Span

Focused-attention meditation is like weight lifting for your attention span. It helps increase the strength and endurance of your attention. For example, a study looked at the effects of an eight-week mindfulness meditation course and found it improved participants' ability to reorient and maintain their attentionA similar study showed that human resource workers who regularly practiced mindfulness meditation stayed focused on a task for longer. These workers also remembered details of their tasks better than their peers who did not practice meditation.

6. May Reduce Age-Related Memory Loss

Improvements in attention and clarity of thinking may help keep your mind young. 

Kirtan Kriya is a method of meditation that combines a mantra or chant with repetitive motion of the fingers to focus thoughts. It improved participants' ability to perform memory tasks in multiple studies of age-related memory lossFurthermore, a review of 12 studies found that multiple meditation styles increased attention, memory and mental quickness in older volunteersIn addition to fighting normal age-related memory loss, meditation can at least partially improve memory in patients with dementia. It can also help control stress and improve coping in those caring for family members with dementia.

7. Can Generate Kindness

Some types of meditation may particularly increase positive feelings and actions toward yourself and others. Metta, a type of meditation also known as loving-kindness meditation, begins with developing kind thoughts and feelings toward yourself. Through practice, people learn to extend this kindness and forgiveness externally, first to friends, then acquaintances and ultimately enemies.

Twenty-two studies of this form of meditation have demonstrated its ability to increase peoples' compassion toward themselves and othersOne study of 100 adults randomly assigned to a program that included loving-kindness meditation found that these benefits were dose-dependent.

In other words, the more effort people put into Metta meditation, the more positive feelings they experiencedAnother group of studies showed the positive feelings people develop through Metta meditation can improve social anxiety, reduce marriage conflict and help anger management. These benefits also appear to accumulate over time with the practice of loving-kindness meditation.

8. May Help Fight Addictions

The mental discipline you can develop through meditation may help you break dependencies by increasing your self-control and awareness of triggers for addictive behaviours. Research has shown that meditation may help people learn to redirect their attention, increase their willpower, control their emotions and impulses and increase their understanding of the causes behind their addictive behaviours. One study that taught 19 recovering alcoholics how to meditate found that participants who received the training got better at controlling their cravings and craving-related stress. Meditation may also help you control food cravings. A review of 14 studies found mindfulness meditation helped participants reduce emotional and binge eating.

9. Improves Sleep

Nearly half the population will struggle with insomnia at some point. One study compared two mindfulness-based meditation programs by randomly assigning participants to one of two groups. One group practiced meditation, while the other didn't. Participants who meditated fell asleep sooner and stayed asleep longer, compared to those who didn't meditate.Becoming skilled in meditation may help you control or redirect the racing or "runaway" thoughts that often lead to insomnia. Additionally, it can help relax your body, releasing tension and placing you in a peaceful state in which you're more likely to fall asleep.

10. Helps Control Pain

Your perception of pain is connected to your state of mind, and it can be elevated in stressful conditions. For example, one study used functional MRI techniques to observe brain activity as participants experienced a painful stimulus. Some participants had gone through four days of mindfulness meditation training, while others had not. 

The meditating patients showed increased activity in the brain centers known to control pain. They also reported less sensitivity to pain.One larger study looked at the effects of habitual meditation in 3,500 participants. It found that meditation was associated with decreased complaints of chronic or intermittent painAn additional study of meditation in patients with terminal diseases found meditation may help mitigate chronic pain at the end of lifeIn each of these scenarios, meditators and non-meditators experienced the same causes of pain, but meditators showed a greater ability to cope with pain and even experienced a reduced sensation of pain.

11. Can Decrease Blood Pressure

Meditation can also improve physical health by reducing strain on the heart. Over time, high blood pressure makes the heart work harder to pump blood, which can lead to poor heart function. 

High blood pressure also contributes to atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. A study of 996 volunteers found that when they meditated by concentrating on a "silent mantra" — a repeated, non-vocalized word — reduced blood pressure by about five points, on average.

This was more effective among older volunteers and those who had higher blood pressure prior to the studyA review concluded that several types of meditation produced similar improvements in blood pressureIn part, meditation appears to control blood pressure by relaxing the nerve signals that coordinate heart function, tension in blood vessels and the "fight-or-flight" response that increases alertness in stressful situations.

We don't provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information.
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