Why meditation is good for your health

Person relaxing in hammock

Over the forty odd years I’ve been meditating regularly, I have enjoyed good health. I firmly believe that this is the result of a combination of physical, mental, and spiritual care and nourishment. Each of these three things is of equal importance if we are to take the best possible care of our minds and bodies.

In the relentless “busy-ness” of city life – I certainly see this everywhere in London – we seem to spend a great deal of energy and time meeting deadlines, keeping appointments, and getting about from one place to another. As an antidote to lives which are increasingly subject to external demands on our energy, we need to spend more time on ourselves.

Giving yourself permission to take time out for a walk at lunchtime, to have a leisurely chat with a friend, or to do some yoga or meditation sometimes feels difficult when our calendars look full – but unless we at the very least maintain ourselves, and at the best set about improving our physical and mental health together with some spiritual exploration, we are not doing ourselves, or those around us, any favours in the short or long term.

A reluctance to – or even worse a feeling that we are unable to – set time aside to spend on ourselves will have a deleterious effect on your health and social life in the long term as your system becomes run down from having been in relentless ‘switched on’ mode. At the very least, we all need to get more sleep.

In a recent lecture by Matthew Walker, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, he stated that sleeping for less than six or seven hours a night is demolishing our immune systems. Lack of sleep can double our risk of cancer, is a marker for Alzheimer’s, affects our psychological and emotional wellbeing and reproductive health, and diminishes our capacity for work, memory and creativity.

If you struggle to get the sleep you need, you’re not alone. There is a sleep deficit epidemic in the UK today, with 39% of us sleeping, on average, for fewer than seven hours a night. The number getting just five or six hours’ sleep has risen dramatically in the last decade.

In his lecture, Matthew Walker also highlights that just one night of compromised sleep can affect your immune system by 70%. Take an average week for a busy worker and socialiser, and you soon begin to understand why viruses, bugs, and poor health are so prevalent.

It is vital that we no longer neglect our need for better and longer sleep, and meditation can help with this by giving you dedicated time twice a day to disengage, letting the body rest deeply and the mind settle, so that “stress chemicals” like adrenaline and cortisol are replaced with a combination of “good brain chemicals” including melatonin, the chemical that enables the onset of sleep.

Meditation will never replace sleep – so if you are aware that you regularly have fewer than seven hours’ sleep a night, it may be time to reconsider your bed time routines and rituals – but it will work to create a highly developed state of consciousness which makes us more aware of ourselves, and better able to deal with and remove many of the mental obstacles that get in the way of sleeping well.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how Vedic Meditation can help you, we’d love to invite you to one of our free introductory talks in London here.

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Anthony Thompson