Friday, December 9, 2016

Heal Thyself: Meditate

Monks have been meditating for millennia, to gain spiritual enlightenment. Their efforts have enhanced their physical health, too.

Trials looking at the effects of meditation have proofed a range of benefits. There isevidence that meditation boosts the immune response in vaccine recipients and people with cancer, protects against a relapse in major depression, soothes skin conditions and even slows the progression of HIV.

Meditation even slows the ageing process. Telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes, get shorter every time a cell divides and so play a role in ageing. Clifford Saron of the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis, and colleagues recently showed that levels of an enzyme that builds up telomeres were higher in people who attended a three-month meditation retreat than in a control group.

As with social interaction, meditation works largely by influencing stress response pathways. People who meditate have lower cortisol levels, and one study showed they have changes in their amygdala, a brain area involved in fear and the response to threat.

One of the co-authors of Saron’s study, Elissa Epel, a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, believes that meditation also boost “pathways of restoration and health enhancement”,  by triggering a release of growth and sex hormones.

If you don’t have time for a three-month retreat, don’t worry, studies show that meditation can cause structural changes in the brain after as little as 11 hours of training. Epel suggests fitting in short “mini-meditations” throughout the day, taking a few minutes at your desk to focus on your breathing, for example: “Little moments here and there all matter.” Practice meditation by listening to the healing powers of the Tibetan Flute and Singing Bowl, will  enhance the healing powers of meditation to your mind and body.

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