Studies have shown the way that meditation affects the brain physically and, as such, extends to benefit the whole body. Notable reductions in stress levels also help to create a healthier physical self.
The reason that so many people in the modern world suffer from stress and stress-related illnesses is simply because our bodies have not evolved to be able to handle it. Humans, biologically, still function at a very primitive level, while intellectually they can grasp many different issues at once. Our basic ‘flight or fight’ response system, here, is what fails us.
When we are stressed, our gut reaction – literally – is for our system to become flooded with endorphins and adrenaline, as if the only threats we could face were purely physical. At this point, we are prepared to run from an attacker or to take on their challenge. It is why people who can’t handle strong emotion often lash out violently when they feel overwhelmed, and it is why regular exercise helps us to feel better by burning off that extra energy.
Back in mankind’s earlier forms, threats were serious, but few. Running and fighting were all you really needed to solve most of the problems you would face. Your body would provide you with a burst of energy and the emotion needed to direct it. And by the time you had burned all that excess off, the threat would be long gone. Likely, you wouldn’t face another one for a while.
Today, stressors pile up on top of each other.
Life is significantly busier for humans today than it was for our ancestors. We have to be aware of social pressures and political weight and our impact on the world, on top of all our own personal and professional problems. We jump from task to task, from problem to problem, and we expect to be able to handle it all in one long, easy flow, often without stopping to relax and recover. We allow ourselves to be distracted from our problems instead of dealing with them. Sometimes, what we’re distracted by is just another problem.
Our system releases the same chemical reaction to stress with each one. But now we don’t give ourselves the time to let them drain out of our systems. They pile up and end up causing us medical and psychological problems, on top of the things we already have to stress about.
The value of meditation lies in giving us back this break. In clearing the mind of all the extra pressures we put on it in order to allow the body to relax. To focus on the moment, in which there is nothing but breathing, to allow both mind and body to stop panicking, to disable the fight or flight response and to return to a state of calm. To refresh the part of you that is dealing with the world head on.
Through this, it enables people to deal with problems that have gone unsolved for however long they’ve clung to them. It allows them to acknowledge what is specifically bothering them so that they can disregard for good the irrational neuroses that are born when people are too confused and overwhelmed to understand their problems.
Practicing often enough trains the brain to be in this state more often. It makes it easier to attain when you are physically in a stressful situation. It teaches the brain to empathise better as well as altering the brain to improve the areas associated with learning, pain tolerance, memory and emotion.
By entering a meditative state, you remove all the personal pressures weighing on you. You relieve your body from it, giving it the freedom to purge itself of its stress-related chemical reactions.
And you feel better.
Human biology and psychology are very closely entwined. In order to take good care of either, you need to pay attention to both.
Meditation consistently stands up to tests and trials as an aid to general health. As both an occasional habit and as a state of being, it is something that will have a positive effect of all aspects of you.
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