The Magic and Healing Power of Mindfulness Meditation
If you were told there was a free activity that you could do from just about any place in the world that could benefit your health, and even alter the levels of biomarkers (in a positive way) in the body, would you do it?
Hopefully, your answer is yes. If not, maybe this new information will change your mind.
Meditation is responsible for improving health (both physical and mental) in numerous ways and seems to continuously be brought into the spotlight for new benefits. Whether it’s reducing anxiety and it’s residual effects, improving heart health, or lending a hand to mental stimulation and brain function, meditation is the gift that keeps on giving.
There are many different types of meditation. Each one will benefit the practitioner in different ways. For instance, Ṭhāna (oceanic meditation) focuses on allowing thoughts to flow, especially intense negative thoughts, in order to gradually rid them of their power. When a person is doing this, he or she experiences a much deeper and fuller experience of inner peace and happiness. In contrast, mantra or japa meditation focuses on the repetition of a sacred Sanskrit mantra as a form of awakening or mental focus. The goal of this practice is to develop a more intense awareness of one’s highest self by using a set of Buddha prayer beads or beaded yoga bracelets to count the repetitions of each mantra.
In other words, the idea behind these types of meditation is that by letting the thoughts arise, one causes them to dissolve, and thus allows the psyche to go deeper and deeper.
Deepak Chopra says that we experience a “jet engine” of inner energy when we are in a meditative state. This inner energy transforms our body’s energetic environment, empowering our heart.
Meditation is not only a state of mind, and it is the process of transforming the mind from what it is to what it wants to be, expanding our consciousness. It is not a replacement for other spiritual practices. If anything, meditation should be more central and integrated into one’s spiritual practice, than just on its own.
More specifically, the practice of mindfulness meditation has recently been touted for its positive impact on the body and its ability to reduce biomarkers in the body that are linked to inflammation.
What exactly is mindfulness meditation? Psychology Today describes mindfulness meditation as a unique practice that differs slightly from usual meditation, saying:
“Mindful meditation is uncommon in that it is not aimed toward getting us to be changed from how we already are. Instead, it helps us become cognizant of what is true in each passing moment. Mindful meditation teaches us how to be completely present; that is, it encourages us to be present with whatever is occurring, no matter what.”
And what exactly are biomarkers? They’re actually pretty important, especially when it comes to assessing a person’s health, and treating potential illnesses–naturally, biomarkers vary from person to person and thus can prove to be a very beneficial way of understanding each specific individual, body’s needs. The National Cancer Institute defines a biomarker to be “a biological molecule detected in body fluids, or tissues that is a symptom of a common or unnatural process, or of a condition or disease. A biomarker may be utilized to see how well the body reacts to a procedure for a disease or condition.”
Now that we’ve gotten a rundown on mindfulness meditation and biomarkers are understood, here’s how they’re connected.
New research and studies have gone on to show the ways in which levels of biomarkers and “brain connectivity” positively changed in adults, and more specifically, stressed-out adults who practiced mindfulness meditation. According to Science Alert, David Creswell of Carnegie Mellon University, and a lead researcher on a study focused on neurobiological changes, and mindfulness meditation said, “We’ve now observed that mindfulness meditation practice can decrease inflammatory biomarkers in many initial studies, and this latest work sheds light into what mindfulness practice is doing to the brain to produce these types of positive health benefits.”
For the study, 35 adults were chosen who were categorized as stressed and looking for jobs. These adults were then taken on a three-day retreat, the retreats in which they were sent off to were broken into two: a mindfulness meditation retreat, or a relaxation retreat program that did not include “a mindfulness component.” According to Science Daily, each participant in the study was required to provide blood samples prior to participating in the retreat, and then again after, four months later, as a follow-up, the participants also were required to complete “a five-minute resting brain scan before and after the three-day program.”
By comparing the brain scans of those who were on the relaxation retreat to those on the mindfulness retreat, the scans were able to indicate that those who had the mindfulness component showed brain changes that the relaxation group did not. The mindfulness meditation group showed increases in “areas important to attention and executive control,” Science Daily reports, they also showed “reduced IL-6 levels and the changes in brain functional connectivity coupling accounted for the lower inflammation levels.”
The study went on to show, and prove, that mindfulness meditation has a positive impact on health, and by as one of the lead researchers, Creswell said in Carnegie Mellon University News, “mindfulness meditation instruction increases your brain’s capacity to help you handle stress,” and in conjunction with managing stress, you’re then able to manage the negative health impacts that come with it, “such as your inflammatory health.”
Do you use mindfulness mediation to manage your stress? Let us know in the comments below.