Physical Benefits of Meditation

physical benefits of meditation

“We now have compelling scientific proof that the mind can heal the body,” Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital

In the February 2011 edition of Self magazine, Erin Bried reviews research by Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Some highlights:

Mind/body practices (like meditation, yoga) calm the release of cortisol and adrenaline, lowering blood pressure, easing digestion and slowing the heart.

This “relaxation response” causes cells to release micropuffs of nitric oxide (a gas that dilates blood vessels) and stabilizes the immune system; in a report for “Medical Science Monitor,” Benson claims that mind/body methods worked as well as drugs designed to do the same thing.

Neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson says meditation is “like exercise for the brain, making it stronger.” Although your brain shrinks with age, a study in “Neuroreport” found that the prefrontal cortex and the anterior right insula (areas linked to attention and sensory processing) were thicker and more robust in those who meditate.

In a study comparing the genes of 38 people (half who meditated, half who didn’t), Benson – controlling for other factors – found that genes associated with stress-related illness behaved differently in the two groups: “It seems meditators’ genes were essentially telling their body to stress less and age more slowly.”

In the article, Dr. Brent Bauer – director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota – recommends music therapy and yoga as mind/body treatments for depression.

To read the full story, please click here.

References:

Bried, E. (2011, February). Use your mind to heal your body. Self, 95, 97.

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