©2020 by Kama Hagar.

7 Scientific Health Benefits of Meditation

The benefits you reap from your meditation practice can vary based on the type of meditation you choose and the intention you go into your practice with. Types of meditation include but aren't limited to: mantra, mindfulness and guided imagery. Intentions in meditations include: love, energy, calm, abundance, relief, confidence - you name it. You practice it, you got it.


When you open your eyes after a meditation session, you've most likely already felt the undeniable feelings of positivity and satisfaction. With or without an intention, and regardless of the type of meditation you choose, you're bound to receive a laundry-list of surefire benefits. It's science-backed.


1. Decreases stress

A study conducted by John Hopkins University on over 3,500 participants concluded that meditation decreases stress. Meditation lowers the stress hormone, cortisol, calming the mind and body.


2. Aids in reducing inflammation

In a study across more than 1600 participants conducted by USC and UCLA, evidence was found that mindfulness meditation aids in reducing inflammation and helps cell defense. As stress causes inflammation, when stress is lowered, so is inflammation.


3. Helps strengthen immune system

Psychological factors, such as, "stress and emotions, influence the brain-immune relationship. Specifically, acute stressors enhance immunity while chronic stressors suppress immune function," concludes a study done by the Department of Psychology, Southeastern Louisiana University.

Of 111 studies with 4,777 non-healthy subjects reviewed by Oregon Health & Science University and Helfgott Research Institute, relaxation training "had the strongest scientific evidence of a mind-body medicine affecting immune outcomes." This suggests that incorporating some type of relaxation training may help improve health by mediating the immune system which could "could bolster immune function leading to an increased ability to [combat] infection and disease."


4. Guards against cell aging

According to a study conducted by University of Southern California and University of California Los Angeles, meditation was linked to an increase in enzyme activity that guards against cell aging.

Meditation has been found to "positively influence telomerase activity in immune cells." In order to understand telomerase, here's the breakdown of telomeres and what that means for us: "Human DNA consists of caps, called telomeres, located on the end of each chromosome. These ‘caps’ can offer protection from cellular deterioration and senescence, which occur when a telomere becomes too short, preventing cellular division."


Deterioration and damage can negatively impact our health. "Oxidative damage is known to shorten telomeres, a condition significantly associated with cell aging and higher rates of mortality in humans. Other factors that affect telomere length include age, poor diet, sedentary lifestyles, lack of sleep, smoking, overconsumption of alcohol, and psychological stress." The same study concluded that meditation is linked to decreasing stress, anxiety and depression, "all of which increase cortisol levels and lower telomerase activity." The study didn't simply stop at warding off cortisol to lower telomerase activity, it actually showed that in some cases, meditation can increase telomere length.


5. Can slow progression of onset autoimmune disease

Keck School of Medicine and Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences's study showed that, "MBSR (mindfulness-based stress-reduction) interventions have been shown to decrease depression and negative affect in healthy individuals, as well as HIV positive individuals." Meditation doesn't just help healthy people feel better - it can actually slow the progression of autoimmune diseases.


"A depletion of CD4+ T-lymphocytes, as seen in HIV, leaves the body susceptible to a wide array of viruses, as well as an accelerated progression of HIV. Research has demonstrated that meditation may delay HIV progression by safeguarding against the destruction of CD4+ T-lymphocytes by the virus and in some cases, increasing the amount present" (Robinson et al.). "Therefore, through meditation’s stress-reducing effects, it has the potential to significantly slow the progression of HIV by enhancing immune function." The study concluded: "Through meditation’s stress-reducing effects, it has the potential to significantly slow the progression of HIV by enhancing immune function."


6. Helps ward off viruses

One study revealed the ability of an experienced meditator "to modulate her immune system after being injected with the varicella-zoster antigen" - aka the virus responsible for chickenpox and shingles. "Through meditation and the direction of "healing energies” to the site of injection, the individual successfully delayed skin hypersensitivity and inhibited lymphocyte response to the varicella-zoster antigen."


7. Helps reduce symptoms (physical, mental and emotional) related to disease, disorder or illness

A single-subject study used two forms of mind-body intervention (transcendental meditation and visual imagery) to help a patient recovering from dermatomyositis, an inflammatory disease leading to muscle weakness and itchy, painful rashes. As a result, the patient seemed to improve arm strength and the rash and pain reduced on the patient's hands. The analysis concluded: "Consequently, stress reduction acquired through meditation has the ability to effectively improve immune function, reducing the symptomology associated with the disease."


Through various accredited studies, has been concluded that practicing meditation has several benefits, "including reducing the severity of psychological disorders and stress-related ailments, increasing immune function, and delaying the progression of various diseases." Incredible what just a few minutes of stillness and silence can do, huh?


Resources:

Black, David S, and George M Slavich. “Mindfulness Meditation and the Immune System: a Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4940234/.


From Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience (R.J.D. “Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by... : Psychosomatic Medicine.” LWW,

journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Abstract/2003/07000/Alterations_in_Brain_and_Immune_Function_Produced.14.aspx.


Team, Joint. “How Mindfulness Training Can Boost Your Immune System.” Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, 13 Nov. 2018, health.clevelandclinic.org/how-mindfulness-training-can-help-you-achieve-immunologic-health/.


Wahbeh, Helané, et al. “Mind-Body Medicine and Immune System Outcomes: A Systematic Review.” The Open Complementary Medicine Journal, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3516431/.

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