Beyond spirituality: the role of meditation in mental health

Meditation has traditionally been connected with Eastern mysticism. Still, science is beginning to show that cultivating a “heightened” state of consciousness could have a significant effect on our brain, the same way as our body systems function and our rates of resilience.
Clinicians are increasingly attempting to find useful, preventative, non-pharmacological tools to treat mental illness. And meditation techniques – namely quietening the brain, understanding the self and exercising control – show promise alternatively mechanism to regulate emotions, mood, and stress.


Body
Meditation influences the body in unexpected ways. Experienced meditators, for instance, can speed or slow their metabolism by greater than 60% and boost their body temperature approximately 8°C.
Even a little learning in meditation can make people calmer, less stressed, and even more relaxed. As affordable as twenty to thirty minutes a day result in physical changes, such as reduced systolic pressure, lower heartbeat, more profound and calmer breathing. Improvements in arterial pressure because of meditation are linked to a much lower risk of a heart attack.


Meditation can also be commencing to prove useful to treat for chronic and acute pain. One experiment showed that four days of mindfulness meditation substantially reduced the participant’s experiences of unpleasantness and the intensity of their illness.


Mind, brain and beyond
Meditation increases left-sided, frontal brain activity, an area of one’s brain involved with a positive mood. Interestingly, this improvement in the left-brain business can also be related to developments in immunity activity. And the more significant amount of you practice meditation, and the more effective your immune is likely to be.


Studies have proven that long-term meditators have increased volumes of grey matter within the right orbitofrontal cortex and hippocampus regions of their brain, which happen to be liable for regulating emotion. Similar changes have often been discovered non-meditators who completed an eight-week course in mindfulness training.
So even a little stint of meditation delivers the chance to change the structure of our brain.


Aging
The cortex inside the brain usually thins as we start to get older – a sort of atrophy linked to dementia. Intriguingly, those with meditated around an hour per day for six years display increased cortical thickness. Older meditators also show decreased age-related decline in cortical thickness compared to non-meditators of a given same age.


Meditation may increase longevity by protecting our brain and heart from the damaging effects of stress. One study reported that meditation and yoga serve to prevent cellular damage because of chronic psychological stress. It has even been suggested that meditation may slow cellular aging.


Emotional stability
The causes and results of emotional experience exist throughout the body plus the brain, and as such, they are profoundly linked with psychological and physical stress.


Meditation enhances positive emotions and mood and appears to help make people less sensitive to the stresses and upsets of lifestyle. Research indicates meditators are better at regulating immediate responses to negative stimuli and also have reduced login to the amygdala – a section implicated in response to the threat. These bits of information reflect greater emotional resilience among meditators and even less psychological distress and anxiety.


Mindfulness, which can be cultivated through meditation, is probably one technique that can increase mental health and wellbeing. Several therapeutic methods have been based on these practices, such as mindfulness-based stress-relief and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. These treatments have taken success in treating anxiety and mood disorders.


Next steps in research
Research has shown us that meditation improves our mood, reduces the body’s reaction to stress, and, over time, alters the structure of a given brain.


Our staff for the University of Sydney is attempting to meet some of the gaps in your knowledge of how meditation acts on the mind and body to calm emotional reactions. We’re currently investigating impact meditation on brain and body function during emotional provocation, namely viewing disturbing photographic images.


We wish to understand better the old short, intensive bouts of meditation on brain and body functions involved with the regulation of emotional responses. We’re also examining the genetic elements that will often determine what different kinds of people benefit the best results from meditation training.


Should we demonstrate the efficacy of intensive meditation on emotion regulation, and characterize those who should benefit most, we’ll obtain established a significant role for meditation in improving mental and physical health.

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