Could Mindfulness Meditation Improve Your Physical Health?
The research on meditation and wellness that you need to know
Mindfulness meditation sits at the intersection of some of the values most important to me: presence, well-being, kindness, health, and — surprisingly — science. As a student and practitioner, I’ve been practicing meditation for more than a decade. For me, the emotional and physical benefits have transformed my life. I’ve discovered that meditation is a life tool that has improved the quality of my life and the lives of those around me, ultimately helping me to achieve great things personally and professionally.
Lately, I have become increasingly interested in the growing research around the relationship between mindfulness meditation and our physical health. Often, we sanction the benefits of meditation to just our emotional well-being, when in fact wellness inherently involves both the brain and the body. If this idea resonates with you, there’s plenty of quality, innovative research to consider. Here are three ways that mindfulness meditation could serve as a tool to improve some of our most difficult physical challenges:
1. Manage Inflammation & Prevent Disease
You might be surprised to learn that top research institutions are uncovering a significant link between the brain and the immune system. In fact, scientists at the Center for Healthy Minds University of Wisconsin-Madison have been studying the mind-body relationship and the idea that the brain and the immune system are a two-way street. It all comes down to how the brain influences the body’s inflammatory responses, and how our ability to train the brain to intervene on those responses might prevent chronic disease.
The takeaway here is to consider mindfulness meditation as a preventive measure that helps manage how your brain influences your body. Simply taking the time to donothing everyday could have a notable impact on your long-term physical health.
2. Intervene on Disordered Eating & Weight Loss
Mindfulness training has become a relatively common plan for those looking to lose weight and manage their eating patterns. People usually include meditation as part of their diet plan for the cognitive benefits — mindfulness is proven to impact the area of the brain that controls regulation of emotions and perspective, allowing negative thoughts to come and go without impeding your diet.
An increasing number of studies point to mindfulness meditation as an effective intervention for emotional eating that impacts weight gain. A 2016 exploratory study conducted by the UMass Medical School Center for Mindfulness found that people who participated in a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program reported that mindfulness helped lower their emotional eating behavior, leading researchers to conclude that mindfulness could be one way to intervene on disordered eating and help maintain weight loss.
3. Decrease the Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s Disease is universally considered one of the most difficult conditions we could face as we age. We’re learning more about how our daily decisions increase our risk of developing diseases like Alzheimer’s. Poor nutrition, high blood pressure, lack of exercise, and smoking are all associated with an increased risk of developing dementia. Prevention is slowly but surely taking precedence over treatment, and it’s imperative that we understand the way that our lifestyle impacts our risk of developing conditions like Alzheimer’s.
The Center for Healthy Minds recently launched a two-year study with the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center to learn more about how emotion interacts with the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. What does this have to do with mindfulness meditation? Ultimately, the study will help us understand if training the brain to have different emotional responses could help prevent the disease from developing and play a role in treating patients who already have it. The Center is currently recruiting volunteers to participate in the study, and getting involved could help researchers better understand the role of our emotions and lifestyle choices in Alzheimer’s Disease.
If you’re interested in the emotional and physical benefits of a mindfulness meditation practice, check out A Business Leader’s Guide to donothing, my free download that explains the science behind meditation and how to start your own practice (it’s easier than you might think!).