In the west, we tend to think of meditation as an antidote to stress, and many people seek meditation as a stress reduction technique. While meditation carries many benefits, stress reduction is one that most of us can relate to and nearly all of us can use.
When we go into stress mode, we are activating the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism. This very human reaction is thousands of years old and is designed to save our lives. We are programmed to either fight a perceived threat or run from it.
Fight or flight served us well in centuries past when we might have to, say, decide whether to run or fight an advancing wild animal, but today most of us have stressors that are a bit different. Traffic jams when we’re already running late, for example, are stressful. This simple, everyday stress inducing event invokes the fight or flight response.
When your body goes into fight or flight, a number of physiological changes take place, including:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Faster breathing
- Increased stress hormone release
- Weakened immunity
- Clotting of blood platelets
These physical changes can be life saving in situations where we are being physically threatened. But, as you can imagine, they aren’t good for our health—especially when they are occurring multiple times every single day—and they certainly don’t do us any good when we’re sitting in traffic.
Volumes of scientific research have been done to support the many, many benefits of meditation. When our bodies shift into a meditative state, one of restful awareness, a number of physiological changes ensue. Here are a few of them:
- Decreased heart rate
- Normalization of blood pressure
- Quiet breathing
- Reduced stress hormones
- Reduced sweating
- Strengthened immunity
So, it’s clear that meditation directly combats the effects of stress on the body.
While there’s not much you can do to stave off every fight or flight reaction, ongoing meditation has been shown to reduce the fight or flight response over time. How much time? That depends on the individual. Some people experience results in days while some don’t see changes for months.
If stress reduction isn’t a good reason to meditate, how about improved sleep quality? Or perhaps you’re more interested in the spiritual aspects of meditation? After all, holistic health means spiritual health as well. Stay tuned…we’ve got a lot to cover on this topic.