Why Meditation Is The Best Thing Ever For Your Health
GUEST POST BY IAN GAWLER.
Want to be really well? Meditation may be the best individual thing you can do. Why? Well, we know that over 6000 research studies now tell us this is true (see ref 1). But who do you know that meditates? What are they like? Most I know are pretty cool. They seem happy most of the time. Bright, interested, engaged. Good people to hang out with and usually they look really vibrant, really well.
How about this? If the government wanted to save significantly on the health budget; if the health funds wanted to be more profitable or be able to afford better services, paying you to meditate would be one of the most cost effective things they could do!
Results of a recent, large five-year study (see ref 2) found that after one year, meditators’ expenditure on doctors had decreased by 11%. After five years, the regular meditators had reduced their cumulative health costs by nearly 30%. That is quite a reduction. Over the five years the non-meditating group’s expenditure rose, as you might expect for people getting older.
This study’s findings were similar to earlier ones. In a previous Canadian study, the meditation group exhibited reduced medical expenses between 5% and 13% relative to comparison subjects each year for six consecutive years. In a subsequent Canadian study of senior citizens, the meditators’ five-year cumulative reduction for people aged 65 years and older relative to comparison subjects was 70%.
In yet another study, people aged 45 and over who practised meditation had 88% fewer hospital days compared with controls. Their medical expenditures were 60% below the norm.
Would doctors support meditation being used more widely? Based on the widespread acceptance of meditation by general practitioners, we can be reasonably confident they would. A survey of nearly 500 GPs found that over 80% had referred patients to meditation practitioners and 34% had actually trained in meditation (see ref 3).
Is there evidence that meditation leads to physically detectable changes? Well yes, there is that too. Another recent break-through study has indicated that an eight-week meditation program can change brain structure! (see ref 4).
Participating in just an eight-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in areas of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. This study is the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain’s grey matter.
The analysis of MRI images, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection.
Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress.
None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.
So I wonder how long it will be before government and/or the health funds begin to provide incentives for people to meditate? Being paid to develop a calm and clear mind sounds pretty good to me!
COMING SOON – 4 EASY STEPS THAT WILL HAVE YOU MEDITATING IN COMFORT AND EASE.
1. A complete bibliography on published meditation research is kept up-to-date and publicly available at:
2. Herron, RE: Changes in Physician Costs Among High-Cost Transcendental Meditation Practitioners Compared With High-Cost Non-practitioners Over 5 Years;
American Journal of Health Promotion Sep 2011, Vol. 26, No. 1 pp. 56-60
2. Pirotta MV et al; Complementary Therapies: Have they become accepted in general practice? MJA 2000; 172(3): 105-109
4. Hölzel B K et al; Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain grey matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 2011; 191 (1): 36
Ian Gawler is one of Australia’s most experienced and respected authorities on Mind-Body Medicine and meditation. A long-term cancer survivor, Ian began one of the world’s first lifestyle-based cancer support groups, founded the Gawler Foundation and expanded his work and writings into the fields of disease prevention, health and well-being. Ian has a weekly newsletter/blog www.gawlerblog.com and his latest meditation book is “Meditation – an In-depth Guide”. Ian lectures widely as well as working on innovative ways to help people using new technologies.
He has also produced an on-line, meditation based mind training program called Mindbody Mastery, a great way to get into meditation: www.mindbodymastery.net. Mindbody Mastery has an initial 8 week program, followed up by regular new material as well as great support features. You receive daily emails to help your learning and practice of meditation, along with weekly SMS, monthly webinars and ready personal support whenever you need it. All for less than $10 per month!
Positive affirmation for the day: I attract loving, satisfying, happy relationships into my life.
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