Good Reasons to Meditate
The positive benefits of regular meditation may be due to the stimulating and inhibiting effects of each side of the autonomic nervous system. The ANS regulates many organs and muscles, controlling functions such as heart rate, sweating, breathing, and digesting foods. It has two divisions that are dualistic in nature.
The sympathetic nervous system, prepares the body for active response to any stressor. This generates the “fight-or-flight response”, which increases the heart rate and the breathing rate go up. Blood vessels narrow and blood flow is diverted from the internal organs to the muscles and specific areas of the brain that control muscle coordination. The brain releases chemicals that help to block pain and assist faster blood clotting. These symptoms can result in feelings of fatigue.
The parasympathetic nervous system causes the heart rate and breathing rate to slow down, the blood vessels to dilate, which improves blood circulation. The parasympathetic response to stress is a counter-balancing mechanism to the sympathetic fight-or-flight response. Meditation and relaxation, stimulated by the parasympathetic ANS stimulates other areas of the brain, which can help us to experience deep states of rest and peace.
The practice of meditation may reduce sympathetic activity and increase activity in the parasympathetic system
What meditation does:
Produces a deeper rest and rejuvenation state than sleep
Lowers blood pressure
Lowers heart rate
Increases blood flow to the heart
Increases tolerance to exercise and enhances sports performance
Decreases muscle tension
Enhances the immune system by increasing the activity of NK cells
Reduces adverse effects of pre-menstrual tension
Reduces stress hormones
Reduces blood lactate levels which lessen anxiety attacks
Increases the production of youth related hormones such as DHEA
Can reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 80%
There are many other ways that can help to stimulate the Parasympathetic ANS, in fact anything that taps into the right brain. These include activities such as yoga, breath-work and massage, and creative pursuits in music and art for example.
Albert Einstein was a right brain genius. He said, `Imagination (a right brain characteristic) is more important than knowledge.`
Davidson RJ, Kabat-Zinn J, Schumacher J, et al. Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2003;65(4):564–570
Newberg AB, Iversen J. The neural basis of the complex mental task of meditation: neurotransmitter and neurochemical considerations. Medical Hypotheses. 2003;61(2):282–291