The benefits of meditation for mental tranquility and maintaining a calm and even-tempered outlook are well known. Because of this, meditation has often been relegated by the mainstream of American culture to a less-respected fringe area also occupied by acupuncture and other eastern influences. While meditation and yoga have made significant incursions into the mainstream milieu, they still don’t always get the respect they deserve. Recent studies though are beginning to show what practitioners of these eastern imports have suspected for a long time.
Meditation Can Make You Physically Healthier
It makes perfect sense that yoga would result in better physical condition. All the stretching exercises certainly look like they’d be beneficial. But researchers who have engaged in studies of long term meditation practitioners have begun to discover some surprising results. People who have made meditation a significant part of their daily routines for more than a few months have far fewer incidents of physical ailments than do their non-meditating peers. These aren’t folks who are practicing yoga either. These studies focused merely on measuring meditation benefits. Surprisingly, meditators have healthier immune systems than non-meditators. It’s hard to imagine a more profound physical phenomenon than the ability to ward off disease and infection.
Rewire Your Brain
Long-time meditators have better memory, fewer cases of anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue. This isn’t just because meditation makes a person feel better either. The same studies which indicated healthier immune systems in those who meditate also point to the brain’s ability to actually change neural pathways in the brain. This could mean, incredibly, that long-term meditation actually changes how the brain is wired. Perhaps our bodies and our future health scenarios are less biologically determined than we thought. And if individuals realize that they aren’t necessarily resigned to suffer inevitable physical and mental infirmities just because we all eventually age, more people may begin to practice meditation. And it’s never too late to start.
Meditation in College Context
Many folks encounter meditation through college physical education classes. Yoga and stretching classes often feature meditation as part of the curricula. Continuing these non-academic educational components as part of university life is key to ensuring that a wider swath of the general public will eventually tap into the health benefits inherent in long-term meditation. When students experience meditation as an effective method for reducing anxiety and maintaining a positive outlook as undergraduate students, they’re much more likely to continue the practice into adult life. Someone who meditates frequently will likely be a better employee, spouse and parent than someone who doesn’t. But you don’t have to begin meditation as a college student to capitalize on its health benefits.
Meditation for Older Individuals
The rubric which researchers used to produce their findings about meditation changing immune systems and brain functions involved people who meditated regularly for more than eight weeks. That means that a mere two months of regular meditation may be all it takes to produce such significant positive results. Older folks who wish to forestall health problems that may have plagued their parents and grandparents might find that meditation results in benefits that they never imagined. And unlike some forms of physical exercise which might be too high-impact for seniors, meditation has no negative side effects.
Jesse Langley lives near Chicago. He divides his time among work, writing, meditation and family life. He has a keen interest in meditation and blogging and also writes on behalf of Colorado Technical University He writes for www.professionalintern.com.