It took one visit to the Maharishi University in Fairfield, Iowa, to sell Oprah Winfrey on the idea of transcendental meditation. Not only did she embrace the discipline herself, she paid for all her 400 employees to take their transcendental meditation course. Now, at 9 A.M. and 4:30 P.M., no matter what is going on, life pauses (or should we say, refreshes) at Oprah’s company — for a meditation break. And it has worked wonders.
And you can’t imagine what has happened in my company. People who used to have migraines, don’t. People are sleeping better; they are having better relationships and they are interacting with people better. It’s been fantastic. — Oprah Winfrey
If you had the option of tossing a penny into a jar, and each of those pennies gave you an extra hour to live, how many pennies would you toss every day? Of course, life doesn’t work that way. However, there are things we can do every day that can add hours, days, or even years to our lives. Meditation is one of them. It is the most simple and inexpensive way to gain control of your health and well-being.
The Stress Factor
Many doctors feel that the root benefit of meditation lies in the alleviation of stress. Stress is a largely undefined condition that can be thought of both as a symptom and a cause of a variety of ailments. It is the perfect vicious cycle that drives people down a slow but sure health spiral from which there is often no return.
According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation is a type of mind-body complementary medicine, that leads to deep relaxation and tranquility. It gives you a sense of calm, peace, and balance benefiting both your emotional and physical health.
Long-Term Health Benefits of Meditation
Let us review some of the known health benefits of meditation.
Cardiovascular disease remains the biggest killer disease in the world, claiming 15 million lives in 2015. A clinical study was conducted on 201 subjects with existing coronary heart disease. Followed over a five-year period, the group that embraced transcendental meditation showed a 48% reduced rate in cardiovascular events compared to the traditional group.
While controlling high blood pressure is important to prevent cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes, it falls in a category of its own as a chronic disease. About 80 million people in the United States have high blood pressure, and the number of deaths being caused by this condition has grown by 39 percent between 2001 and 2011.
Meditation has been shown to lower blood pressure significantly. In a study conducted on patients with coronary heart disease, scientists found that meditation significantly reduces ambulatory blood pressure (both systolic and pulse) within 8 weeks.
Some of the biggest gains in meditation can be seen in the realm of cognitive health. Research has confirmed that the long-term practice of mindfulness meditation can lead to improved function of the areas in the brain related to attention.
Meditation has been shown to change the brain’s physical structure and increased gray matter density in the brain. It also improves attention and cognitive flexibility. Given that one out of every three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, maintaining long-term cognitive health should be a priority for everyone.
Depression and Anxiety
About 6.7 percent of the adult population in the United States suffers from some form of major depressive disorder. Depression also besets our younger populations, with 1 in 33 children, and 1 in 8 adolescents affected.
Anxiety and depression are the normal consequence of dealing with the stresses of modern life, and are important even if they are not manifested at clinical levels. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to be particularly beneficial in reducing stress-related anxiety and depression.
There is probably no disease that causes more stress than cancer. Numerous studies have shown that meditation has great benefits for patients suffering from this disease. In a wide-ranging study that included patients suffering from cancer, heart disease, pain, depression, anxiety, as well as non-clinical levels of stress, it was found that mindfulness meditation went a long way in helping patients cope with their condition.
Meditation is the secret weapon that we all have that is hiding from us in plain sight. Understanding the health benefits of meditation is only one aspect of the value we can gain from its practice. But to extract maximum value, we need to get disciplined first. It is not about trusting that meditation will work for us, it’s about letting meditation trust us first.
In the words of Chelsea Richer, "To earn the trust of your meditation, you have to visit it every day. It’s like having a puppy." Do you need a little help to get started? Namaste is the perfect tool to help you along this path.