You hear a lot of talk about meditation these days. And there are several different types: transcendental, kundalini yoga, breath awareness, and progressive relaxation medication, just to name a few.
But the one you’ve probably heard about the most is “mindfulness meditation” — a technique that’s been a pretty big buzzword in the alternative health space over the past few years.
But what exactly is it?
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of sitting quietly and bringing your full mind to an object or action in the present moment (whereas many other forms of meditation consist of pure visualization or contemplation.) For instance, it can be something like deliberately paying mind to the depth and pacing of your breathing, or directing your attention to the way a specific part of your body is feeling at that very moment.
There’s an outstanding plus that comes with this newfound attention to mindfulness meditation: It’s introducing a lot of people to its practice. And that means a lot more people can achieve three very important health benefits:
- A longer life
- Improved heart health
- Reduced anxiety
You might be surprised to learn that these benefits can be achieved quite quickly — in fact, you can reap the rewards right now, no matter where you are.
Meditation vastly improves heart markers
The latest breaking research on mindfulness dramatically demonstrates just how profound the effects of this practice can be.
Researchers in the department of biological sciences at Michigan Technological University recruited 14 healthy people, all of whom had:
- Normal blood pressure
- Symptoms of anxiety
Each of the individuals participated in a guided meditation session that focused on two basic elements of meditation: breathing and awareness of one’s thoughts.
The session lasted 60 minutes. But don’t be put off by the prospect of spending an entire hour meditating. As you’ll see in a moment, even a brief meditation session can provide extensive advantages.
According to cardiovascular functions measured before and after the meditation session, all participants improved in the following health measures:
- Aortic blood pressure
- Arterial stiffness
- Blood pressure
- Heart rate
The study authors noted that in addition to reducing anxiety, there was less stress on the arteries as well. And they added: “This could help to reduce stress on organs like the brain and kidneys, and help prevent conditions such as high blood pressure.”
And these are just the beginning of the major benefits you’ll receive after integrating meditation into your regular routine. According to Dr. Marc Micozzi, the most noteworthy advantage is meditation’s ability to extend your longevity.
Tiny changes will help you live longer
So how exactly does meditation help you live longer?
As Dr. Micozzi explains in his Insider’s Ultimate Guide to Outsmarting “Old Age,” it starts at the cellular level, where your cells are constantly dividing. This process makes it possible for your body to grow and repair itself.
And with each cell division, the ends of your chromosome strands — called telomeres — are cut a tiny bit shorter. Gradually over time, telomeres become so short that the division process stops.
Dr. Micozzi explains further: “Over a lifetime, cells can only undergo a finite number of divisions. Eventually, they enter a phase where they accumulate imperfections, lose their functions, and simply die. And that’s a big factor in the aging process.”
And this is where meditation can help save the day.
Dr. Micozzi notes that telomere shortening has become a hot topic in aging research. And he adds, “One of the factors shown in studies to positively influence telomeres is something I have been researching and recommending for years: Mindfulness meditation.
“Imaging studies demonstrate that mindfulness meditation helps stave off dementia and can help you achieve healthy aging.”
Finding the time for a mindful moment
Dr. Micozzi notes that many people believe their lives are too busy to carve out time for meditation sessions. But he suggests looking at meditation in a different way…
“You can find ways to incorporate contemplation, spiritual connection, and relaxation right in your own ‘mind’s eye,’ anytime, every day — even in the middle of your busy life.”
In Dr. Micozzi’s book New World Mindfulness, he and his co-author Don McCown offer practical guidelines for “everyday mindfulness” meditation. As they point out, “You don’t have to go away to a Buddhist Monastery (or even to the seashore) to get the full benefits of practicing meditation.”
In fact, you can do all this right now, without even getting up from your chair. Just follow these few simple steps to get started…
- Sit still and try not to move.
- Focus your attention on your breath.
- Be aware of thoughts, emotions, changes around you (sounds, sensations, etc.) that arise moment to moment.
- When your thoughts drift, bring your attention back to the present.
- Refocus on your breathing and on what’s occurring in this moment.
- Continue for several minutes.
Dr. Micozzi notes that 10 to 15 minutes is a good general range that most people can manage without interrupting their daily routine.
The tricky part is staying in the present. Your mind is accustomed to keeping track of all the details of your life while hopes, fears, memories, and their accompanying emotions swirl through your thoughts. So it can be challenging to stay present. But like any practice, the more you do it, the better you get.
For more information about Dr. Micozzi’s mindfulness book, along with other strategies for slamming the brakes on aging, check out his Insider’s Ultimate Guide to Outsmarting “Old Age.” Click here to learn more about this one-of-a-kind online learning protocol, or to enroll today.
“Even a single mindfulness meditation session can reduce anxiety” Science Daily, 4/23/18. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180423135048.htm)