Meditation is becoming well-known for its ability to relax the mind, soothe mental depression and anxiety, cure insomnia, and improve cognitive ability, mood, concentration, and focus.
These effects are likely the most obvious ones. But they are just the tip of the iceberg.
Meditation has incredible benefits for the physical body. The main action is by lowering a major stress hormone called “cortisol”. Cortisol is an extremely useful hormone in cases of acute stress – it could save your life when running away from a predator. But when levels are chronically high due to daily stress, cortisol can start to have a profound negative affect on many organ systems.
Lowering cortisol levels through meditation can lead to the following benefits:
1. A Healthy Heart. Cortisol causes your blood pressure to rise. So it’s no wonder stress can cause heart disease. Meditation has been shown to decrease the risk of having a heart attack by 48%. [ref]http://newsroom.heart.org/news/meditation-may-reduce-death-heart-240647[/ref]
2. Better Digestion. High cortisol levels slow down your digestive system. Why would you worry about digesting food when you’re running from a bear? Meditation can help resolve constipation, prevent ulcer formation, and has been shown to improve IBS symptoms. [ref] http://www.webmd.com/ibs/news/20110510/mindfulness-meditation-may-cut-ibs-symptoms[/ref]
3. Decreased Inflammation. Cortisol is known to increase inflammatory responses in the body. Inflammation can cause muscle aches/pains, joint pain, and headaches, as well as inflammatory organ diseases like asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and heart disease.
4. Less Belly Fat. When we are under acute stress, our body needs energy ASAP. That’s why cortisol causes the body to preferentially store fat instead of burning it. Higher than normal cortisol levels have been linked particularly to abdominal fat. If you’re having trouble losing weight, stress may in fact be the culprit and meditation may be the answer.
5. Protect Against Cancer. Researchers at Harvard Medical School found out that meditation can actually turn on certain genes, including those that protect against cancer!
So now that you know all the great things that can happen when you start to deal with your stress and start meditating, what are you waiting for?
Well Street’s Healthy Stress Program introduces the practice of meditation.