(As seen in the Sun City Independent newspaper)
Is There More to Meditation Than Just Relaxation?
Meditation has long been praised for its beneficial effects on brain and body health. It is a wonderful way to not only relax our mind and body but also to calm fears, reduce stress and sharpen focus.
A study published this year in Biological Psychiatry provides some of the strongest evidence yet that meditation can positively change our brains, while also boosting our health. Half the participants in this study were taught formal mindfulness meditation while the other half received informal training in mindfulness meditation.
At the end of the study, brain scans were done on both groups. The participants who received the formal training, showed more activity in parts of the brain that process stress-related reactions and in areas related to focus and calm. Four months later, the formally trained group also showed much lower levels of unhealthy inflammation in their blood, when compared to the informal group.
While it is unclear how much meditation needs to be done to achieve these outcomes, it is encouraging to know that meditation has the capability to improve our health. Meditation has been found to lower blood pressure, improve blood circulation and decrease anxiety and depression.
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If you’ve never meditated before, you may be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to get started. Find a peaceful place, free of distractions, where you can sit comfortably. Close your eyes and focus on your breath while breathing normally.
If your mind wanders, simply return your focus back to your breath with as little judgment and self-criticism as possible.
Try this for few minutes, adding more time with each session. Over time you will find that you feel more energized, focused and refreshed after meditating. There are many styles of meditation. Explore and find the one that’s right for you.
Sue Witter teaches mediation classes at the Sun Health Center for Health and Wellbeing in Surprise. For more information, call 623-832-WELL (9355) or visit www.sunhealthwellbeing.org.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. This information should not be substituted for medical advice from a physician.
(Originally published May 25, 2016; last updated Jan. 12, 2019.)