The daily bombardment of stress and demand for analytical solutions keeps us in high beta brainwave activity. Sometimes the problems appear to be never ending. How easy it is to overlook the beauty and wonder of what the pond holds beneath its surface until its ripples are stilled. Is there a practical and attainable solution? The solution can be found beneath our surface and in the reflection we see in the stillness of our mind.
Ongoing scientific research offers positive insight into how meditation can be an effective tool in the fight against cognitive stress and poor health. The data from numerous studies reveal a possible link between stress reduction and increased longevity due to cellular and hormonal changes.
• In March of 2011 the U.S. National Institute of Health released data from studies linking telomere length to cognitive stress. Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco along with colleagues Carol Greider and Jack Szostak, outlined telomeres as DNA structures that cap human chromosomes and protect the genetic code from damage. Their work showed that telomeres shield chromosomes from degradation and that an enzyme, called telomerase, replenishes them. Dr. Blackburn won the Noble Prize for the results of this work. “In all of these studies, you see time and time again that telomere shortness is related to really substantive and measurable risks for disease,” said Blackburn, “You can say once or twice is an accident, but we’ve kept seeing these associations.” Dr. Blackburn and her colleagues have been investigating the effect of stress on telomerase and telomeres with particular emphasis on how using mindfulness meditation can reduce it. Dr. Blackburn found that among people who meditate, after 4 to 6 months, the telomerase activity goes up by 30%.
• Dr. Deepak Chopra explained one of the health benefits of meditation can be found in slowing down the aging process. He cites the work of Dr. Blackburn. Other physiological benefits of meditation mentioned by Dr. Chopra are that it lowers metabolic rate, lowers heart rate, improves immune function, improves quality of sleep, and overall basically lowers everything within the body involving negative stress related responses.
• On Apr. 2, 2012 The Carnegie Mellon University released a research study outlining how inflammation and stress influences disease. It identified that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response. "Inflammation is partly regulated by the hormone cortisol and when cortisol is not allowed to serve this function, inflammation can get out of control," said Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty Professor of Psychology within CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Cohen argued that prolonged stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate the inflammatory response because it decreases tissue sensitivity to the hormone. Specifically, immune cells become insensitive to cortisol’s regulatory effect. In turn, runaway inflammation is thought to promote the development and progression of many diseases.
• In the January/February 2013 edition of LifeExtension Magazine, William Faloon - Contributing Author stated the following, "As humans age, there is a systemic increase in inflammatory cytokines (destructive cell-signaling chemicals) that contribute to virtually every degenerative disease. While inflammatory cytokines can cause agonizing pain as in arthritis, they can also disrupt the linings of our arteries, mutate DNA, and degrade brain cells. Chronic inflammation is directly involved in diseases as diverse as cancer, atherosclerosis, diabetes, aortic valve stenosis, congestive heart failure, Alzheimer's disease, and kidney failure. In aging people with multiple degenerative diseases, we often find elevated blood levels of C-reactive protein, indicating the presence of an inflammatory disorder."
• In 2011, the journal Psychological Science reported that even brief meditation training can trigger re-wiring of brain neurons. Researchers saw that people with as little as 5 hours of meditation training experiences more frontal lobe activity in brain areas associated with more positive emotional states.