Jillian Michaels

October 31, 2018

Life Changing Benefits of Meditation

The benefits of breaking a sweat are well known, but taking time to breath in between breaking a sweat can also turn back the years dramatically, improving both your physiology and state of mind. 

Incorporating the kind of exercise that works as a “mind-body intervention” (MBI), such as meditation, yoga, and Tai Chi, doesn’t simply relax you. MBIs can reverse the molecular reactions in your DNA that cause ill health and depression, according to a new study.[1]

And, in one study[2], participants switched to a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and unrefined grains; walked 30 minutes a day six days a week; and practiced stress-busting techniques such as yoga and meditation. Over time, their telomeres grew by roughly 10 percent!

Yet another incredible study[3]involved 39 family dementia caregivers (median age 60), who were given two options: either practice Kirtan Kriya, a type of meditation with chanting involved, or listen to relaxing music for just twelve minutes a day for eight weeks. Those who chose music experienced a 3.7 percent improvement in telomerase activity—not bad, right? But those who opted to chant and meditate improved their telomerase activity by a whopping 43 percent.

Meditation aids in stress management, improves the molecular reactions in your DNA that cause ill health and depression, and even helps preserve your telomeres. That’s major.

But… I haven’t yet mentioned that meditation literally changes your brain physiology for the better. Research has also shown that it may improve symptoms of stress-related conditions—including irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fibromyalgia[4]—and it helps relieve depression by lowering levels of inflammatory cytokines that are released in response to stress[5]

Meditation improves your immunity by boosting your antibodies. In a study[6]performed on biotech workers, participants who underwent weekly meditation training for eight weeks had significantly higher levels of antibodies than the control group. Another study out of UCLA found that when HIV-positive patients practiced mindful meditation, it helped them not only maintain but elevate their CD-4 cell count (immune cells that typically drop when the virus is propagating). 

It has has been shown to increase electrical activity in the prefrontal cortex, the right anterior insula, and right hippocampus—all areas that control positive emotions and anxiety. These areas of the brain also act as a command center for your immune system. 

And here is the super great part. Meditation is free and can be done anywhere. Start with five minutes a day, maybe first thing in the morning when you wake or at night before bed. You can even do it on your lunch hour in your office, car, or a park if need be. Build your way up to at least 10 to 15 minutes. 

If you’re curious what the optimal “dose” of meditation is, there really isn’t a fixed answer because we’re all different. We respond to meditation techniques differently and amounts of time differently. I recommend trying different apps, taking a class if you like, or reading a book on meditation techniques to see what works best for you. 

Bottom line, shoot to meditate for 5-15 minutes a day at any point that’s convenient for you.  And while it can feel tedious or difficult at first, it gets easier with time and the results are unsurpassed!

[1]Ivana Buric, Miguel Farias, Jonathan Jong, Christopher Mee, Inti A. Brazil. What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices. Frontiers in Immunology, 2017; 8

[2]Ornish D, Lin J, Chan JM, et al. Effect of comprehensive lifestyle changes on telomerase activity and telomere length in men with biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer: 5-year follow-up of a descriptive pilot study. The Lancet Oncology. 2013.

[3]Lavretsky H, Siddarth P, Nazarian N, et al. A pilot study of yogic meditation for family dementia caregivers with depressive symptoms: Effects on mental health, cognition, and telomerase activity. International journal of geriatric psychiatry. 2013;28(1):57-65. doi:10.1002/gps.3790.

[4]A review on how meditation could be used to comfort the terminally ill. Ball MS, Vernon B. Palliat Support Care. 2015 Oct;13(5):1469-72. doi: 10.1017/S1478951514001308.

The theoretical and empirical basis for meditation as an intervention for PTSD. Lang AJ, Strauss JL, Bomyea J, Bormann JE, Hickman SD, Good RC, Essex M. Behav Modif. 2012 Nov;36(6):759-86. doi: 10.1177/0145445512441200.

A randomized, wait-list controlled clinical trial: the effect of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction program on mood and symptoms of stress in cancer outpatients. Speca M, Carlson LE, Goodey E, Angen M. Psychosom Med. 2000 Sep-Oct;62(5):613-22.

 

The effects of meditation-based interventions on the treatment of fibromyalgia. Kozasa EH, Tanaka LH, Monson C, Little S, Leao FC, Peres MP. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2012 Oct;16(5):383-7. doi: 10.1007/s11916-012-0285-8.

[5]Effect of meditation on neurophysiological changes in stress mediated depression. Kasala ER, Bodduluru LN, Maneti Y, Thipparaboina R. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2014 Feb;20(1):74-80. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2013.10.001

[6]Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training reduces loneliness and pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults: a small randomized controlled trial. Creswell JD, Irwin MR, Burklund LJ, Lieberman MD, Arevalo JM, Ma J, Breen EC, Cole SW. Brain Behav Immun. 2012 Oct;26(7):1095-101.

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