Meditation has been around for centuries. Throughout much of human history, people have been meditating with the goal of creating a healthy balance between body and mind. Today, many medical professionals and researchers believe the practice of meditation has both physical and mental health benefits.
Many studies confirm the positive impact meditating can have on people who make it a regular part of daily life. There is evidence that meditation may reduce blood pressure, improve digestive problems, help with insomnia, strengthen the immune system, and ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Meditation also has been shown to help improve memory, increase mental alertness, and enhance cognitive functions such as perception, thinking, and reasoning.
A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that long-term meditation seems to actually slow down the age-related loss of gray matter in the brain. The study investigated the association between age and gray matter and the effects meditating may have on the loss of gray matter.
Researchers compared 50 people who had been mediating regularly for years with 50 people who did not practice meditation. People in both groups showed a loss of gray matter as they aged. However, researchers found that the volume of gray matter did not decline as much in the people who meditated as in those who did not.
Meditation is not difficult, and it requires no props or tools. All you need is a quiet place where you can sit or lie down comfortably without distraction. Meditation does take a time commitment, but usually no longer than 15 to 20 minutes. People who find it difficult or painful to remain in one position for more than a few minutes may not be appropriate candidates for meditation.
There are various forms of meditation. Some are more involved than others. Most include deep breathing and relaxation techniques that help relax the body and clear the mind. Speak with your doctor before trying out a form of meditation, especially if you are in your later years or have physical challenges. Your doctor may have recommendations for the type of meditation that would be best for you and may suggest a local resource where you can learn meditation techniques.