The benefits of meditation to health and wellbeing
Meditation has many benefits to health and wellbeing, and practiced regularly can help us to balance our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual states.
There are two sides to stress, the first being our response to a dangerous situation which can help keep us safe from harm. The other type being our response from our own thoughts about a challenging situation in our life. Both types of stress can affect the way we think, our behaviour and our emotions, which can lead us to feel out of control. When our mind is overloaded the body reacts to this stress by releasing the stress hormones, cortisol, vasopressin and adrenaline. With these hormones at work we can end up feeling extremely anxious, which then may lead us to react impulsively to situations, rather than responding rationally.
Back in 1970 Dr Herbert Benson, a professor at Harvard's Medical School did some research on meditation and its effect on the 'relaxation response'. Benson found that this mechanism within the body can offset the response to stressful situations, which are often referred to as 'fight-or-flight'. With meditation the trigger of the 'relaxation response' reduces blood pressure, slows breathing, decreases muscle tension, slows down heart rate, and also increases the level of alpha waves within the brain, which helps us relax.
When relaxed we are able to cope much more effectively with challenging situations, because we think more logically and react more calmly.
As stress reduces we also begin to enjoy the physical rewards that meditation brings with it.
When stressed our heart rate increases and our muscles tense up. If we are tense over a prolonged period of time this can lead to chronic stress, and cause physical ailments such as sleep problems, high blood pressure, digestive issues, weight gain, pain, asthma, and so on. With meditation we relax the muscles, we slow our breathing, tension subsides and our bodies reap the benefits.
As we meditate we begin to take control of our own lives, we begin to adopt healthy behaviours and outlooks, which have significant positive effects on our bodies.
As stress reduces, and our bodies become healthier our emotional wellbeing improves too.
Through meditation we begin to see our own thoughts, we realise that's all they are, just thoughts. They are not the reality of our life situation, they are not a truth, they are just our perception of what we think may happen, or what someone's thinking about us and so on. We begin to realise than even what we might call a negative situation can have a positive twist to it.
With meditation we let go of our life stories as we learn not to dwell on the past, we worry less about the future and live our lives more in the present moment. We become calm even in challenging moments of life, because we learn to stop letting our thoughts control us. We grow more loving to everything including ourselves, and in turn our relationships improve. With the help of meditation we become emotionally stronger, confident and happier individuals.
So, as stress reduces, our bodies become healthier and our emotional wellbeing is improved, we can also notice changes in our spiritual wellbeing.
As we meditate we learn to let go of the distractions in everyday life, and come face to face with ourselves. This is not the thinking self, but the self that watches the thinker. Through meditation we can watch the chaos of the mind become order, with the order we can find our sense of purpose in life as everything becomes more clear. We step away from the negative and limited beliefs we may have had, and learn that we are strong beings and can accomplish most things that we put our minds to.
We let go of any unhealthy attachment to things and people, and with that brings us a sense of freedom. We begin to understand that we are here to be of service to not just each other, but absolutely everything in existence. Imagine the universe is like one massive human body, and we are all part of its makeup working together to help it function, with that picture in mind we can see that everything, everywhere is connected.
Mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing all have an effect on each other.
Meditation is a powerful tool that can help us to balance all of these states. As we reap the rewards of meditation, we become at one with ourselves and the world.
Meditation helps to create an emotional balance, as we begin to clear our minds of the burdens and chaos within, that are often not our true reality. As we meditate rather that see our thoughts as in charge of us which can create an internal storm, we learn to watch them without judgement and let them pass.
We learn that the past has gone, there is only now, and that the future is our next now.