77 Reasons To Meditate

A dream was realized last week. I sat and learned from Harvard Medical School professors. It wasn’t about the newest advancement in diabetes treatment or a surgical intervention that will change knee replacements forever, but about a type of medicine that has been around for centuries and practiced by people of all shapes, ages, colors and backgrounds. The Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine put on “The New Science of Resiliency and It’s Clinical Applications” and called all medical professionals to look past what we were taught in school and try a little tenderness and self-care with mindfulness and meditation. Day 1 we learned about the benefits of yoga, attachment, the Relaxation Response, and the power of empathy. The leading minds of cutting-edge research delivered some of the most inspiring and refreshing talks I’ve heard from medical professionals in a long time. Just being in Boston makes me feel like my telomeres are growing.

So in my attempt to bridge science and spirituality, I will now give you 77 reasons that I got from lectures in hopes that it will move you to at least try a few minutes of mindfulness. Why 77? Because I attended and learned these at 77 Louis Pasteur, a conference hall of Harvard Med School and I’m kind of obsessed with Harvard right now, if you couldn’t tell.

Here you go:

77. Easier to manage stress

76. Makes you look YOUNGER!! (as superficial as this is, we all know this is in the forefront of our thinking)

75. Increase in endorphins- the naturally produced feel-good drug of the body

74. Improves brain function

73. Improves memory

72. Improves sleep

71. Allows for better management of anxiety

70. Improves cerebral performance

69. Helps from brain deterioration

68. Certain types of meditation can lead you to a state of ‘superlearning’

67. Can lead to a more receptive state of learning as well as an accelerated one

66. Assists in addiction recovery

65. Can create a sustained prevention of relapse in addicts

64. Lowers heart rate (which can be a good thing for people in constant fight or flight mode, not so much for folks on drugs for blood pressure)

63. Decreases cortisol (the stress hormone)

62. Increases DHEA, the precursor to most hormones, which protects us from disease and key player in aging

61. Can decrease risk of mortality from heart disease

60. Creates a space for you to take control of your own health and well-being

59. Reduces insulin resistance, which is important in diabetes and also how certain diabetes med work

58. Reduces neurosis

57. Helps in self-realization

56. Reduces negative personality-traits

55. Lowers oxygen consumption, which helps in deeper relaxation

54. Decreases allostatic load- the price the body pays for being forced to adapt to adverse psychosocial or physical situations

53. Can change your genetic expression patterns (GEP)- what I always tell my patients is: 1) you are not your genes 2) you can turn genes on and off

52. Can aid in insomnia

51. Decreases inflammation which is involved in almost every symptom and disease from joint pain to heart disease

50. Improves brain blood flow

49. Reverses NF-kappa B and enzyme that plays a role in the immune response as well as memory

48. Changes structure of the amygdala, an area of the brain that is involved in memory, decision-making and emotions as shown on functional MRI

47. Changes in structure of the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is involved in memory and other processes. It is usually the first affected in Alzheimer’s disease.

46. Changes the structure of the pons in the brain. The pons acts as a highway to different areas of the brain and plays a key role in sleep and dreaming, including REM sleep.

45. Changes in the anterior cingulate cortex structure in the brain, which works in regulating heart rate and blood pressure

44. Changes in the structure of the intraparietal sulcus which directs eye movements and reaching ability

45. Changes in metabolism – monitored by oxygen and CO2 changes

44. Reverses dendrite shrinkage, a part of the neuron, which are the cells of the brain

43. Decreases blood levels of lactate, a substance that is produced when you break down sugars and causes panic attacks

42. Improves emotional regulation

41. Increases GABA levels which are hormones produced during relaxation and immunity and where drugs like Xanax, Valium and Clonopin work on.

40. Increases resilience

39. Reduces schizophrenic symptoms

38. Improves relationships

37. Improves quality of life

36. Reduces free-radical production

35. Can decrease pain

34. Increases exercise tolerance

33. Helps with symptoms Irritable Bowel Syndrome

32. Helps improve symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases like Crohns and Ulcerative Colitis

31. Helps accelerate post-operative healing

30. Reduces activity of viruses

29. Can help in asthma attacks

28. Aids in breaking bad habits

27. Aids in anger management

26. Increases empathy

25. Helps decrease road rage

24. Increases compassion

23. Helps in forgiveness of yourself and others

22. Increases synchronicity in your life (my favorite)

21. Increases equanimity

20. Reduces likelihood of criminal behavior

19. Decreases worry tendency

18. Increases will-power

17. Increases self-confidence

16. Improved tolerance for everything in life

15. Increases creativity

14. Helps resolve phobias

13. Slows mind aging

12.  Lowers blood pressure

11. Develops intuition

10. Increases serotonin

9. Helps with rational judgement

8. Encourages higher levels of brain gyrification, the process of folding as the brain grows

7. Increases grey matter in the brain

6. Increases social connection

5. Helps with ADD and ADHD in both children and adults

4. Helps you feel less lonely, allowing you to feel a part of a greater whole

3. Improves your ability to multitask

2. Increased acceptance of ones self.

1. It makes you happy!!!

What’s the common link to all of these benefits? Decreased stress. It’s a cascade effect that occurs decreased stress–> the world is a better place. So thank you Dr. Herb Benson for being a trailblazer in the science behind mindfulness and meditation. Thank you to everyone doing time and labor intensive research into the research behind meditation as medicine.

Any critics? Send me a message or write a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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