Health and Meditation
Being able to develop and maintain emotional and mental health has long been the hallmark of meditation, but meditation is increasingly being recommended to help with managing many of the physical health problems that have become endemic today such as pain management, addiction and cardiovascular issues.
The key to these physical benefits is a state of deep relaxation, which can keep your body healthy and balanced and can help to heal when you are sick as well.
The Impact of Thought Patterns
Stress is mainly related to emotional health, but it also contributes to many physical illnesses, and even if it is not the primary cause of these, it is frequently an aggravating factor. One of the main sources of our stress is how we react and respond to the people and events in our lives. We get stuck in our habitual thought patterns and behaviours and are often unable to free ourselves. We have much more control over this than we realize. Through meditation, you can start to see your emotional patterns and the hold they have on you, and by becoming aware of them in this way, you can begin the work to release them.
The emotional or mental states we experience are also reflected in the way we breathe. And the way we breathe is an immediate indicator of how tense or relaxed we are. When we are very stressed, we breathe in short, jerky patterns. This restricts the blood flow to our organs and muscles and they gradually become starved of oxygen. When we are not aware of how we are breathing, we perpetuate this tight, shallow breath pattern and so, without realizing it, keep our stress levels on full alert.
The smooth, open breathing of meditation gives you the ability to change your breathing pattern quickly and easily by balancing your body and your mind and allowing it to relax, which improves blood flow. This can restore your whole system to its state of homeostasis, where it naturally takes in the amount of oxygen it needs.
The tension emotional stress comes with can lead to chronically tight muscles, which can use up quite a lot of energy and be exhausting for the body. Tense muscles are rigid, hard and inflexible and are also more vulnerable to injury. When we relax, our muscles become flexible and supple and burn far less energy.
The Immune System
Then, if we are worn out or tired on top of this, out body’s immune system doesn’t function properly either. Chronic worry and anxiety can have a detrimental effect because they give the same signals to the body as an outer emergency. When this happens, the body’s resources are directed to the emergency, and it starts producing cortisol and adrenaline. The self-healing mechanism then shuts down, or switches off, and the immune system’s principle function of combating disease and helping the body repair itself is suppressed. It is only when we are sleeping or calm that the immune system is switched on and has the opportunity to function properly. This is where meditation can help, as it provides the body with the ability to attain states of deep relaxation consciously and often.
All meditations can bring you to a state of mental, physical and emotional balance, where you are relaxed, free from unhealthy emotions, inner conflict and stress. And, even if this is only for a few seconds, it can have a significant effect on your body and your health.
Dr Graham Williams