In June I wrote about how meditation affects your brain. Specifically, fMRI scans revealed that long time meditators had increased activity in the parts of the brain that are important in processing empathy – especially in perceiving the mental and emotional state of others. That is, cultivating compassion and kindness through meditation affects brain regions that can make a person more empathetic to other peoples’ mental states.
But, did you also know that meditation can influence the body? A recent study examining immune function in meditators discovered that a daily practice of meditation improved immune function. As we all know, immune function diminishes during times of stress. At the end of the three-month period, the meditators had increased levels of immune function, decreased measures of neuroticism and increases in mindfulness and purpose of life in comparison to a matched control group.
Another study measured the length of the telomeres on cells. Telomere length is a biological marker of age – the older the cell, the shorter the telomere. The study discovered that the more mind-wandering the participants reported, the shorter the telomeres were; that is – the more your mind wanders, the more biologically-aged your cells were.
Meditators have long touted the value of meditation, particularly in reducing stress and responses to stressful situations. Not only can meditation affect your immunity and your stress levels, it also keeps you young. These studies provide a cogent argument for the benefits of meditation – on your body and your mind.
What are you waiting for?
Take a seat: on the floor, a cushion or in a chair.
Sit quietly with a straight spine and relaxed hands in your lap.
Notice your breath coming in and out.
When you notice that you are thinking – label your thoughts “thinking” and with gentleness return to your breath. Repeat until your time is up.
Dedicate your practice to the benefit of all beings.
Make this a habit – like flossing!
©Tamsin Astor-Jack, Yoga Brained LLC