For many, meditation is relegated to that somewhat obscure genre, commonly referred to as new age science. That’s ironic, since meditation is anything but new age. It’s been around for thousands of years. Successful people have been doing it their entire lives. There’s a good reason – the physiological benefits of meditation are eye opening.
Why meditate? Meditation reduces stress and repairs the physiological damage caused by stress. Stress is the byproduct of old brain (brain stem and limbic system) chemical reactions triggered by fight or flight reactions hardwired into our old brain. While humans were young and still evolving as a species, stress was a temporary trigger to release certain neural chemicals that enabled us to survive when real physical danger was present. In the modern era, stress is now triggered by worry, fears and anxiety caused by everyday life. Your job, family life, relationships, health problems and financial issues are the modern day triggers of stress. This is a problem because stress is physiologically intended to be an infrequent occurrence. Unfortunately, stress has become, for many, a daily occurrence. And that’s very bad. When stress is triggered, the hypothalamus releases a chemical that triggers receptors in the pituitary gland. This chemical then sends a signal to the adrenal glands, which then releases stress hormones called glucocordicoids. Glucocordicoids switch on certain defense responses such as fear, worry, anxiety, increases the heart rate, activates certain neurotransmitters in the brain, increases glucose levels and sends inflammatory proteins through the bloodstream. For many, this is happening every day, overtaxing the pituitary gland, adrenal glands, the heart and our brain. It also impairs the parasympathetic nervous system which can shut down digestion. Sustained stress damages our bodies and eventually creates health and mental issues.
Meditation reverses all this. When we meditate, our brains release healthy neuro-chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. These chemicals trigger positive emotions and produce feelings of euphoria and happiness. Blood pressure drops during meditation and reboots the parasympathetic nervous system, which gets digestion back on track. Five to twenty minutes of meditation a day will do the trick.
So how do you go about meditating? There are many variations but simple is always better. Close your eyes and count to one hundred. See each number. Let all thoughts pass by like railroad cars along a track. After you finish your count, visualize your ideal, perfect life. See yourself living this perfect life, with your perfect family, perfect friends, perfect job and perfect house. See all of your financial worries disappear. See all of your goals and dreams being realized. If you can do this twice a day, once upon waking and once prior to sleep, that is best. All the negative physiological affects of stress will be offset by mediating. You will be better able to think and cope with your day to day responsibilities. Try it for a month. Your body will thank you with good health.