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Improve your health by getting mindful about meditation

Improve your health by getting mindful about meditation

Robert Mitchell, left, and Vicki Mills meditate in a class called Mind Lab at Yoga Oasis, 2631 N. Campbell Ave. Researchers have found a connection between meditation and body health.

The cliché “mind over matter” seems to have scientific validity.

New research in Spain, France, and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison provides the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body after periods of what’s called “mindful meditation.”

Meditators in the study showed molecular and genetic differences that resulted in reduced inflammatory genes and rapid recovery from stress.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice,” said study author, Richard Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs,” says Perla Kaliman, primary author of the article and a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, Spain, where the molecular analyses were conducted.

Mindfulness meditation is a western-based form of meditation born 2,500 years ago through Buddhism. It was designed to help users concentrate on their thoughts and senses as well as practice patience.

The study compared the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness between a group of people who are experienced meditators and a group who are not. After eight hours of practice, the experienced meditators showed a striking molecular difference – including reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which resulted in more rapid recovery from a stressful condition.

Meditators experienced genetic changes following mindfulness practice that were not seen in the non-meditating group after other quiet activities.

Kenneth Pelletier of Stanford Medical School put it this way: “Mind and body are inextricably linked, and their second-by-second interaction exerts a profound influence upon health and illness, life and death.”

Research has implicated chronic stress as a major contributor to a wide variety of diseases and other health issues. The American Psychological Association says the six leading causes of death in the U.S. are all linked to stress – heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.

Increasing your capacity for mindfulness is said to support many attitudes that contribute to a satisfied life. Being mindful makes it easier to savor pleasures in life, helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events.

Many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets about the past, are less preoccupied, and are better able to form deep connections with others.

If greater well-being isn’t enough of an incentive, scientists have discovered that mindfulness techniques help improve physical health in a number of ways. It can help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, and alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.

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