Meditate, Don’t Medicate: The Benefits of Meditation Over Chemical Medication

This is a guest post written by Lily Harvey, a writer who is helping to promote responsible, ethical healthcare business leading towards a healthier lifestyle.

Despite a history that dates back to prehistoric times, meditation is still often regarded as rather whimsy ‘hippy’ practice. Certainly not something that can stack up against science, drugs and medication. However the art of meditation, a mode of brain training which is defined by Meditation Station as ‘a process that leads to a state of consciousness that brings serenity, clarity and bliss, has been proven to naturally benefit both mental and physical health.

Whilst nobody should consider replacing their medication with meditation (unless advised to do so by a health care professional) they should be aware that meditating is a more natural, cheaper way to alleviate and improve certain health conditions from the comfort of the home. Here are five conditions that may benefit from meditation. 

Depression

In a recent trial carried out by Segal et al, research indicated that an 8 week period of regular ‘mindfulness meditation’ is as successful at alleviating the symptoms of depression as an 18 month medication/antidepressant treatment. Using meditation in order to combat depression is very simple – it is all about training the mind to become detached from your own thoughts and feelings. It is about being a state of alertness; present but not lost in a stream of harmful thoughts.

Of course, a person cannot be completely detached from their feelings all of the time. But eventually mindfulness meditation can help you notice negative feelings but not be directly affected by them. Someone who is constantly focused upon their negative thoughts will find that their whole energy field becomes depleted and so they become very de-motivated, unfulfilled and consequently unhappy. Mindfulness meditation works by focusing on an object, a sound or even silence (which according to Out of Stress, silence has a very nourishing effect on the body’s cells). This, in turn, allows the body to find inner peace, repair itself and rectify any chemical imbalances. The attention is also freed from any negative thoughts/feelings.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a serious ailment which can often be a major contributor to potentially fatal conditions such as heart disease, stroke and organ failure. Meditation is thought to help actively prevent and lower high blood pressure naturally, although not usually to the extent where all medication can be completely eradicated. Because the body is in such a calm, relaxed state during meditation processes, it means that the body needs less oxygen and therefore the heart beats far less – usually around 3-10% less according to Secrets of Meditation. This lowered rate of heartbeats allows the blood pressure to reduce significantly.

In a 5 year study conducted by the Medical College of Wisconsin, 201 heart disease patients were split into two focus groups – one who practiced meditation daily and one that did not. In the following years, the meditating group suffered 47% less heart attacks and deaths. This goes some way to proving that meditation must support blood pressure.

Insomnia

Sleep is the foundation for a healthy lifestyle so being persistently deprived of it can become a debilitating problem. For those suffering with insomnia, reaching for the sleeping tablets in the hope of an instant knock-out can seem like the best option. But sleeping tablets can come with a variety of problems such as drowsiness, drug dependency issues and likelihood of making an underlying problem. Using natural methods to cure insomnia is a far healthier option and meditation is proven to help relieve this in exactly same way that it can relieve depression and anxiety.

Often our anxieties feed insomnia – we are simply unable to ‘shut off’ and go to sleep. A 10 minute mindfulness meditation routine before bed can help the body relax and in turn, encourage the brain to release high levels of serotonin – the ‘happy hormone’ which leaves us feeling content and at peace. Low levels of this are often associated with insomnia and low mood.

Depleted Immune System

The immune system is the body’s natural defence so keeping it in tip top condition is vital to avoid contracting viruses and diseases. It is thought that meditation can help boost the immune system through a variety of methods. Firstly, it encourages positive activity in the areas of the brain responsible for mood and emotion which generally makes us happy, thus sleeping and functioning as we should. In times of emotional distress of defences are down making us more susceptible to incoming viruses. It is also thought to increase the activity of the natural ‘killer’ cells that ward off harmful bacteria and germs. It also decreases our oxygen intake which can promote lung and respiratory health.

With some research indicating that meditation can even be relevant in keeping killer diseases such as cancer at bay, it is surely worth a try. 

Pain

Whether it be muscular pain, burns, menstrual pain, migraine or broken bones – any form of severe pain can be distressing. According to British newspaper, The Telegraph, meditation can be stronger than drugs when it comes to relieving pain. Studies have indicated that focusing on breathing techniques and achieving a high level of consciousness can reduce brain activity in the somatosensroy cortex – the area of the brain responsible for identifying the location and intensity of pain in the body. At the same time it increased activity in the area of the brain responsible for coping techniques thereby acting as a natural pain relieving mode of thought. 

Meditation Can Change the World

This is a guest post written by Carol Studenka, a long-term meditator and a student of the Teacher Certification Program with the McLean Meditation Institute

Meditation can change the world. There I’ve said it. Sounds crazy, maybe. But I believe meditation can change the world.

I know I saw it this weekend at the Soul Radiance Retreat. Those unexplainable “aha” moments when all your senses tingle. When you and everyone else understand completely the other. When we see each other in ourselves and we know what separates us is meaningless.

It gives me hope and makes me a believer that in extension we can change the world.  Perhaps even ten minutes a day of meditation may be the ticket. If what I see happening with 50 people in a room can be taken into the larger world, why not do it?

At the three-day retreat most people sit in chairs, few are scattered around the room on floor cushions. One woman shiny in front, Sarah McLean, leads the meditation and reminds us to pay attention to each breath, She rings a bell to begin and we do, each closed-eyed and focusing on the sensation of each breath in and out. The sounds of the room fade into the background, even the revving of a motorcycle outside doesn’t seem to matter. We are all breathing together. Sarah’s gentle voice reminds us to focus on each breath, then a silent mantra, and then a word – freedom, and we do, until the bell sounds again and the meditation is over.

What’s changed? For most of us deep relaxation is the norm. I feel well rested. For a few first time meditators they sat through some agitation brought on by slowing down – too new to their systems. Each experiences a deeper relationship to an inner place inside oneself – one not easily described. It’s that part of each of us that has been there since birth, and that may go on after death, some call it our essence, others, the soul or the spirit. Whatever the word, we all have a deeper sense of it.

This is where it begins – that change in the world I talked about earlier. It’s meditation that opens the door to the part of self that is overlooked and forgotten. Love thy neighbor as thyself…it’s the self we are supposed to love and cherish always. How many of us have time or energy to do this in this hectic world we live in?

What I experienced in that retreat in Sedona gives me hope that we can and could find this place more often. Meditation creates an avenue of awareness unveiling our true heart, and seeing each other as a true part of the community of humanity. People shared their stories. Some dramatic, others mundane, but as each of us listened from that center unearthed by meditating, we knew we only had to change a details or two for every one of those stories to be our own.

As I listen to those stories told, I hear my own heart speaking. I silently love them, telling them to love themselves, forgive themselves, and believe in their own value. I remember that I need to do the same. As I see these transformations take place before my eyes, I truly believe each individual in this world has the capacity to feel this way too.

It’s like what we all feel looking into a baby’s eyes. We know all possibilities are there in that moment. And that everything good and loving about humanity is embodied right there.

The simple truth is that we have always known what will change the world. And that is love. You could say meditation is love. Loving yourself so you can love others, and therefore love the world. I hope everyone will take time every day to love one’s self through meditation. I love Sarah’s retreats because they give me hope that so many people are beginning to see the same possibilities that I do through their own practices of meditation.