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The Benefits of Meditation

Meditation is defined as an action where an individual
engages in practices such as mindfulness or focusing their mind in a particular
object which aims at training their attention, awareness and achieves an
emotionally clear, calm and stable state. It has been used since 500 BCE and it
has been part of so many different religions all over the world like Judaism,
Taoism, Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and Christianity. The Rosary for example,
is a devotion for the meditation of the mysteries of Jesus and Mary. Extensive
research and clinical studies have indicated the health benefits of meditation
in the general population and in seniors too.

Some of the benefits of meditation is the fact that it increases immune function, decreases inflammation at a cellular level and pain. To be more specific, a study conducted by the Institute of Seattle indicated that it relieves chronic back pain, something that elders often suffer from. Researchers compared cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation and pain meds. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on reframing the way in which the participants thought of pain. It tries to turn the perception of it being something horrible to something manageable. At the same time meditation was conducted in the form of a mindfulness based stress reduction session. What they concluded is that out of the 229 adult participants, 47% of the people who practiced meditation indicated a less disabling back pain. At the same time, 52 % of the CBT group reported less disabling pain after an 8-weeks period. On the other hand, only 35 % of the group who were administered a pain med experienced an improvement.

Meditation in the form of a mindfulness-based stress reduction technique focuses on both emotional and physical feelings, like pain. It helps the individual handle the way they interpret, process and react to pain. The reason behind it is that it alters activity in those regions of the brain related to attention and emotion. It has also been noted that it can improve additional types of pain such as shoulder pain, arthritis and fibromyalgia.

Surprisingly enough, research suggests that meditation plays an important role in slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It increases cortical thickness and grey matter, both of which are associated to decision making and memory. Thus, it slows down the aging process of the brain. It also improves mental alertness and the processing of negative emotions which are associated to Alzheimer’s and dementia (especially feelings of depression, confusion, stress and anxiety). Furthermore, it decreases the levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), which has been linked to the risk of developing dementia.

Truth is that none of us can control what happens outside,
what life throws at us. But what we do have control over is our mind. And
meditation is a medium that helps achieve all that. Not only does it help in
memory, attention, emotion regulation and self-control. Not only does it
decrease pain, depression, anxiety and stress but it also helps gain control of
our mind, of our emotions (whether physical or psychological). It improves our
well-being, holistically, from the inside out! So in case you haven’t tried it
yet, incorporating a 20 min meditation session in your daily routine could make
a big difference!

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