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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Meditation Provides Cognitive and Psychological Benefits Keeping Us Happy and Relaxed?

I started meditation for stress relief and discovered there were more benefits of practicing it. There are many other benefits which you may not know yet, so this article helps you learn 'how meditation practice offers cognitive and psychological benefits also leading us to a way which keeps us relaxed and happier.
I experienced that meditation, can reduce the negative energies in our system leading to happiness. The state of relaxation and happiness encouraged me to continue practicing meditation for many years.

New research and studies show that Meditation may affect in brain aging and mental fitness. "Research has found that meditation reduces the production of stress hormones like cortisol and increases the production of neurotransmitters that help us feel happy and relaxed."

Meditation may reduce stress-induced cortisol secretion and this could have neuroprotective effects potentially via elevating levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

Meditation may also potentially have beneficial effects on lipid profiles and lower oxidative stress, both of which could in turn reduce the risk for cerebrovascular disease and age-related neurodegeneration. Further, meditation may potentially strengthen neuronal circuits and enhance cognitive reserve capacity.

At psychological level:  Meditation helps to encourage positive thinking and develop patience and understanding, helping those who meditate to come to terms with ‘what is’ rather than fighting endlessly for ‘what should be’ or often ‘what should have been’.

At physiological level:  Meditation slows breathing steadies the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and shifts activity away from the right hand side of our brains, concerned with speaking, making judgements and logical thinking, to the more intuitive, non verbal left hand side.

Mental benefits of meditation are:
  • Relaxation
  • Concentration
  • Creativity & Mental Expansiveness
  • Heightened Sense of Awareness
  • Improves Learning Ability and Memory
  • Lowers Incidents of Depression
  • Decrease in Neurotic Tendencies
  • Decrease in Irritability and Moodiness
  • Increased Emotional Stability
  • Vitality & Rejuvenation
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Better pain control
  • More optimism, less depression as indicated by elevation of serotonin
  • Greater self-awareness and self-actualisation
  • Improved coping capabilities
  • Improved well being and as an addition to psychotherapy
  • Reduced reliance on drugs, prescribed/unprescribed, or alcohol
  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced aggression and criminal tendency
  • Greater efficiency and output and reduced stress at work
  • Improved response time and reflexes
  • Improvement in perceptiveness of hearing and other senses
  • Improved concentration and memory
  • Facilitation of healthy change of undesired personality trait.
When you meditate, you allow mental activity to slow down in a natural way while your alertness is maintained and indeed enhanced. After meditating, you will feel mentally refreshed. You will feel calmer, more relaxed and have a greater sense of well-being. Benefits increase with regular practice.

Meditation leads to a feeling of being at ease with the world. Like many people who meditate, you may find that you have greater self-esteem, self-confidence and inner peace. You're able to concentrate more easily and and your ability to learn and remember improves. Meditation helps you to feel less anxious about issues that previously caused you stress, and many benefits arise out of a calm state of mind. You become a better listener and exhibit greater empathy, which in turn leads to closer and more fulfilling relationships. Calmness brings with it the capacity for more accurate judgement and enhances problem-solving skills. Being calm results in having greater patience and tolerance and gives you the composure to act in considered and constructive ways.

A large body of research has demonstrated that meditation produces comprehensive improvements in mental health, enhancing positive features and reducing various forms of psychological distress. In another statistical review of 42 independent research results, meditation was found to be effective in increasing self-actualization-an overall measure of positive mental health and personal development. Further analysis revealed that the technique is exceptionally effective in developing three independent components of this dimension: emotional maturity, a resilient sense of self, and a positive, integrated perspective on ourselves and the world (Journal of Social Behaviour and Personality)

Michael Anderson in his book “Mindfulness Meditation” (Australian Institute of Emotional Intelligence, Torquay, Victoria, 2004) describes meditation as an “opportunity to develop your mental skills”. Our increasing mental, emotional, and psychological skillfulness can then be applied in day to day living, not just in the moments of quiet meditation. Getting more control over our mental and emotional environments helps to clarify and simplify life,

Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers report the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain's grey matter.

"Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day," says Sara Lazar, PhD, of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, the study's senior author.

"This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing."

"It is fascinating to see the brain's plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life." says Britta Hölzel, PhD, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany. "Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change."

Amishi Jha, PhD, a University of Miami neuroscientist who investigates mindfulness-training's effects on individuals in high-stress situations, says, "These results shed light on the mechanisms of action of mindfulness-based training. They demonstrate that the first-person experience of stress can not only be reduced with an 8-week mindfulness training program but that this experiential change corresponds with structural changes in the amydala, a finding that opens doors to many possibilities for further research on MBSR's potential to protect against stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder." Jha was not one of the study investigators.

More studies and useful links:

The benefits of meditation
Meditation vs. Medication: Your Path to Happiness?
 * Physical and mental benefits of meditation
First published on: 'knoji'

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