What happens in my body when I meditate?
Meditation can be good for the mind, but there are detectable changes in the body too.
Asked by: Kelly Moore, Chester
Mindfulness meditation is different from just relaxation. It involves retraining the mind to focus on all the stimuli received by the body, as they arrive. It limits your attention to the immediate present and the signals and reactions of your body. This state of awareness has been shown in numerous studies to cause measurable changes in the brain and the rest of the body that can persist beyond the meditation session.
The amygdala – a region of the brain that’s important for processing emotions such as fear and aggression – is less active after a meditation session, which helps reduce stress and anxiety levels.
Sprains and strains
Meditation affects the gene-regulating machinery in our cells and reduces the activity of genes that cause inflammation. This can speed up recovery from physical injury and sprains.
Studies have found that meditation lowers blood pressure in people at risk of developing high blood pressure, probably by reducing feelings of anger and anxiety.
Some studies have suggested small improvements to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis, possibly by reducing the production of stress hormones. Results are conflicting, though.
A form of mindfulness called ‘integrative body-mind training’ can help smokers to quit and avoid relapsing afterwards, by altering the activity in the areas of the brain associated with cravings.
Mindfulness has been shown to help control lower back pain, by redirecting your attention from the pain so you automatically relax your muscles. The method can be used in tandem with painkillers.
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