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Meditate on Better Health

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Meditation has many benefits. People have known this for centuries. However, more and more studies have been done over the past 10 years to prove the benefits of meditation to be true. A number of Buddhist monks, led by Matthieu Ricard, a French-born monk with a Ph.D. in molecular biology, have made a series of visits from northern India and other South Asian countries to Davidson's lab in Madison. Ricard and his peers have worn a Medusa-like tangle of 256-electrode EEG nets while sitting on the floor of a little booth and responding to visual stimuli. They have spent two to three hours at a time in a magnetic resonance imaging machine, trying to meditate amid the clatter and thrum of the brain-imaging machinery.

No data from these experiments have been published formally yet, but in ''Visions of Compassion,'' a compilation of papers that came out last year, Davidson noted in passing that in one visiting monk, activation in several regions of his left prefrontal cortex -- an area of the brain just behind the forehead that recent research has associated with positive emotion -- was the most intense seen in about 175 experimental subjects. In the years since Davidson's fax from the Dalai Lama, the neuroscientific study of Buddhist practices has crossed a threshold of acceptability as a topic worthy of scientific attention.

Part of the reason for this lies in new, more powerful brain-scanning technologies that not only can reveal a mind in the midst of meditation but also can detect enduring changes in brain activity months after a prolonged course of meditation. And it hasn't hurt that some well-known mainstream neuroscientists are now intrigued by preliminary reports of exceptional Buddhist mental skills. Paul Ekman of the University of California at San Francisco and Stephen Kosslyn of Harvard have begun their own studies of the mental capabilities of monks. In addition, a few rigorous, controlled studies have suggested that Buddhist-style meditation in Western patients may cause physiological changes in the brain and the immune system.

This growing, if sometimes grudging, respect for the biology of meditation is achieving a milestone of sorts this weekend, when some of the country's leading neuroscientists and behavioral scientists are meeting with Tibetan Buddhists, including the Dalai Lama himself, at a symposium held at M.I.T. ''You can think of the monks as cases that show what the potential is here,'' Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, an emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School who has pioneered work in the health benefits of meditation, says. ''But you don't have to be weird or a Buddhist or sitting on top of a mountain in India to derive benefits from this. This kind of study is in its infancy, but we're on the verge of discovering hugely fascinating things.''

The Buddhist practice of mindfulness emphasizes enduring changes in mental activity, not just short-term results. And it is the neural and physical impact of the long-term changes, achieved after years of intense practice, that is increasingly intriguing to scientists. ''In Buddhist tradition,'' Davidson explains, '''meditation' is a word that is equivalent to a word like 'sports' in the U.S. It's a family of activity, not a single thing.'' Each of these meditative practices calls on different mental skills, according to Buddhist practitioners. This study suggests that meditation may leave a biological residue in the brain -- a residue that, with the increasing sophistication of new technology, might be captured and measured.

The power of the mind to influence bodily function has long been of interest to scientists, especially connections between the nervous, immune and endocrine systems. We will cover a few ways that you can practice meditation and mindfulness so that you can also change your physical functions.

Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental Meditation Anita Penn google

Transcendental Meditation

Meditate. The right type of meditation can provide profound rest to the physiology. Rest is nature’s way of dissolving stress and anxiety. The human body is designed to efficiently remove stress during sleep. However, in today’s world, stress is often carried over from day to day because the pace of life is intense and insomnia is widespread.

One of the most popular and effective meditations, the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique, has been scientifically proven to produce a deep state of relaxation in the body as well as brain wave coherence. 

During the twenty minutes of meditation, a unique state of restful alertness is experienced which reduces stress and fatigue.

Eat Clean and Natural Foods
Eat Clean and Natural Foods Anita Penn google

Eat Clean and Natural Foods

Eat a healthy diet. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry examined the dietary habits and Fresh Fruitlevels of depression and anxiety of over 1,000 women over 10 years. The women who ate a “western” diet of fast food, processed foods, refined grains, sweets and beer were more likely to be depressed or anxious than those who ate a more “traditional” diet – vegetables, fruit, whole grains, meat and fish.

To improve mood, add cheese, peanut butter, nuts, sesame seeds, oats, milk, poultry and bananas to your diet. Why? These foods contain tryptophan which helps the brain produce the neurotransmitter, serotonin. According to research, serotonin promotes feelings of wellbeing and calm.

Starting today, reduce your alcohol and caffeine intake by 50%. Then slowly, over a period of 10 days reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake by 10% a day. People with GAD often turn to alcohol to self-medicate. However, when alcohol is processed in the body, it can create anxiety-like symptoms. Likewise, caffeine increases anxiety and negatively affects sleep in those suffering from anxiety disorders.

Make Your Own Rules...
Make Your Own Rules... Anita Penn google

Make Your Own Rules...

Discovery your hobbies.

What can reduce anxiety? Doctors usually prescribe medication and recommend cognitive-behavioral therapy...

However, if you are willing to make a few changes of your own and decide what interests you and take up those hobbies... you can begin to treat these behaviors better.

Read the Tao...or keep a copy with you at all times
Read the Tao...or keep a copy with you at all times Anita Penn google

Read the Tao...or keep a copy with you at all times

Tao Te Ching, written by Lao Tzu 2,500 years ago, is a book of wisdom. Take in its teachings and appreciate how the ancient book unfolds the enigma of existence, even in the modern context.  And if you don't have time to read it all, keep a copy with you because it will remind you of "the way" when you're struggling.

The Yin and Yang
The Yin and Yang Anita Penn google

The Yin and Yang

Yin yang balance is a state of harmony of emotional stability. It is the basis of happiness. It is also the basis of our accomplishment, as only when we are emotionally balanced, that we can focus on bringing out the best in us.

The balance is often disrupted, unfortunately, by the mismatch of expectation and our ability to perform.  One of the most common symptoms of such yin-yang imbalance is stress.

How to get rid of the stress when it attacks you?
There are many ways to do so, but the last thing you should do is to resist the recognition of reality.

Accept what has happened.  This is the best way to regain the balance of yin yang.

When you accept what has happened as the reality, the mismatch between what you think should happen and what has actually happened vanishes.  When there is no mismatch, there is no imbalance, and your emotion would is back in alignment.
Better still, let your emotions goes blank...in a state of emptiness, emotions are no longer in existence...therefore you are in a state of peace.

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