Six Ways Meditation Can Improve Your Life

Whether you are dealing with a drug or alcohol addiction, a mental illness, or the standard difficult time in your life, you are probably under a lot of pressure and have a lot of stress build up.  An excessive amount of stress in one of the most common ailments currently affecting the bulk of US society.  The fast pace of the world and the pressure to keep up with everyone else can make every day a struggle just to get by.  Meditation is one of the best ways that we have to be able to take a little bit of time every day and focus on bringing ourselves inner peace in the face of all of the busyness and frantic activity.

There are several great benefits of integrating a meditation practice into your daily routine. Here are six of them.

1. Stress Reduction

Stress reduction is one of the best reasons you can start incorporating meditation into your day.  Meditation increases the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system which is in charge of the way your body functions when you are experiencing moments that are without stress or perceived danger.  (The sympathetic nervous system is in part responsible for the fight or flight response to stimuli.)  The parasympathetic nervous system lowers your respiration and your heart rate.  It also lowers your blood pressure, improves your blood flow, improves your digestion, and leaves you better equipped to handle stress.  While meditation is not going to be able to take away the twelve places your kids need to go after school or the fact that your boss cannot make up her mind, it may make you better able to deal with it.

2. Slowed Aging

Excessive drug and alcohol use has a way of expediting the aging process.  While it is impossible to undo what has already been done, meditation has been shown to be able to slow down the aging process.  Prolonged drug and alcohol abuse shortens the length of telomeres.  Telomeres are the protective caps that cover the ends of chromosomes.  Studies indicate that telomeres are instrumental in the rates at which cells age.  Therefore, the shortening of the telomeres makes a person appear older than he or she is.  Meditation has been shown to safeguard the telomeres and keep them from shortening further.

3. Spiritual Knowledge

Meditation has been practiced for centuries by mystics and yogis and monks.  It is part of the spiritual traditions of most religious sects and many non-religious spiritual practices as well.  Meditation has been known to bring people a better understanding of themselves and the world around them.  Regardless of the spiritual path you walk, meditation can help you feel more connected to the planet or the universe, and bring you closer to your own spiritual understanding, personality, and journey.

4. Increased Compassion and Empathy

Stress can make us selfish, particularly if it is related to addiction and recovery.  Recovery is an inherently selfish undertaking, which is as it should be.  Focusing on your own recovery is part of the package.  This can do a bit of damage to the relationships you have with people outside of the recovery setting.  Working meditation into your recovery process can equip you to deal with negative emotions in a more productive way.

5. Improved Immune Function

Sometimes the overuse of drugs and alcohol can inhibit the proper functionality of the immune system.  Very few people make it through addiction and recovery in spectacular health.  Often health concerns need to be addressed before the detox and rehab process can begin.  Research suggests that engaging in a daily meditation practice boots your immune system.  It will improve the function of all of the little bits that keep you healthy and make your body better able to heal itself.

6. Protection Against Mental Illness

In a recent study done at the University of Oregon, the research team found that some meditation techniques can help the brain protect itself against mental illness.  The meditation practice that was most effective was integrative body-mind training which increased the axonal density of the brain meaning that it increased the signaling connections in the brain.  Meditation was also shown to increase the myelin or protective tissue in the anterior cingulate region of the brain.

Dr. Raul J. Rodriguez

Dr. Raul Rodriguez


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