March 13, 2013
This week, Deepak Chopra and Oprah launched their 21 Day Meditation Challenge which was largely marketed through Facebook. The aim of the three week campaign is to allow subscribers (at no charge) to embark on a “journey to perfect health.” Sure, that sounds great in theory, but is there any truth to it? Can this ancient practice actually improve your life? Let’s take a look at all of the evidence so that you can draw your own conclusions.
Improved Mental Health
Amazingly, there are scientific studies that show the incredible benefits of meditation. The University of Massachusetts Medical School conducted an experiment using participants who did not meditate as well as a group that learned to meditate over an eight week period. When their brain scans were reviewed, it was discovered that the people who meditated actually shifted their brain activity from the stress-prone right frontal cortex to the left front lobe which resulted in a decrease in stress, depression and anxiety. They also noted less activity in the amygdala which is the area of the brain that processes fear.
More and more practitioners are suggesting that patients try meditation as a means of combating insomnia. In fact, major centers including Duke Medicine host seminars and workshops on how to improve quality of sleep through meditation. Whether the cause is unknown or is associated with worries, meditation can help since it calms the mind which is conducive to relaxation (and who doesn’t want to be more relaxed?).
Increased Sense of Well-Being
Many people who meditate on a regular basis report having a greater sense of well-being and tend to be more health-conscience by focusing on cleaner diets, exercising regularly and incorporating yoga into their routines. As a result, they feel better about themselves mentally and physically.
A practice that has been around since prehistoric times must have some benefits, right? More than 1,000 studies have been conducted on meditation and while it is likely that some of these are not as scientifically sound as others, clearly there is an interest in how it affects our bodies. Some researchers have found that the calming effect of meditation has helped with inflammation, high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis and more. Other studies have even shown that the quality of life of cancer patients is significantly improved by practicing meditation.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Meditation may not be for everyone and it is a personal choice. The practice has been around for centuries and more evidence continues to mount about the benefits, therefore, keeping an open mind can lead to the discovery of another tool for our physical and emotional health.