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Health Benefits of Meditation

How meditation can help to reduce the effects of stress on the immune system


Why is the immune system important?

Our immune system is something that most of us probably don't give a lot of thought to, but is so important because it protects us against infection and disease. It has been estimated that up to 90% of doctor visits are stress related and one reason is because chronic stress affects our immune system 1.  During the first few minutes of getting stressed our immune system actually strengthens, as if we’re in physical danger and we’re about to be sliced and diced, then its good to have a few more antibodies in our system to help speed healing later. However if the stress goes on longer, which can often be the case when we worry, the strength of our immune system plummets, leaving us vulnerable to colds, flu and worse.


what are the health benefits of meditation & mindfulness? 

Effects of Meditation for wellbeing is a great way to reduce the effects if Stress on the Immune SystemResearch is increasingly showing the health benefits of meditation. For instance, a number of studies have demonstrated that mindfulness meditation for wellbeing significantly boosts the immune system. Researchers taught an 8-week meditation for wellbeing course to stressed-out employees silicon valley company. At the end of the course the participants, and an untrained control group were given the flu vaccine to test immune system response. Follow-up blood tests revealed that the mindfulness group generated a significantly greater number of antibodies than those who didn’t have the mindfulness training. 2

In a remarkable study conducted at UCLA, a similar 8-week course helped slow the progression of HIV.  People with the disease were randomly assigned to either a mindfulness-trained group or the control group. By the end of the course the control group’s CD4-T cells, the “brains” of the immune system, dropped by 25% - the usual rate for people with HIV. In those with mindfulness meditation for wellbeing training however, these cells did not decline but rather increased slightly, with the greatest increases experienced by those who had the greatest ‘dose’ of meditation (they meditated the most) 3. Pretty amazing stuff, eh?

The health benefits of meditation span across all aspects of living. In addition to reducing the effects of stress on the immune system, Meditation has also been found to help with a number of other physical ailments, such as irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue and even psoriasis, a stress-related skin disorder. Research at University of Massachusetts Medical School, found that the psoriasis of mindfulness practitioners cleared at about 4 times the rate of the non-meditators 4,5,6.

So, if you’d like to increase your body’s health, strengthen your immune system, and develop greater physical and psychological resilience, then why not try meditation for beginners and let us help you get some Headspace.


Get started on your journey now for free

References

1. Perkins, A. (1994). Saving money by reducing stress. Harvard Business Review, 72(6), 12.

2. Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., et al. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65(4), 564–570.

3.  Creswell, J. D., Myers, H. F., Cole, S. W., & Irwin, M. R. (2009). Mindfulness meditation training effects on CD4+ T lymphocytes in HIV-1 infected adults: A small randomized controlled trial. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 23(2), 184-188.

4. Gaylord SA, Whitehead WE, Coble RS, Faurot KR, Palsson OS, Garland EL, Frey W, Mann JD. Mindfulness for irritable bowel syndrome: protocol development for a controlled clinical trial. BMC: Complement Altern Med. 2009;9:24.

5.  Rimes, K. A. and Wingrove (2011). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for People with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Still Experiencing Excessive Fatigue after Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: A Pilot Randomized Study.   Journal of Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy.

6. Kabat-Zinn, J., Wheeler, E., Light, T., Skillings, A., Scharf, M. J., Cropley, T. G., et al. (1998). Influence of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention on rates of skin clearing in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis undergoing phototherapy (UVB) and photochemotherapy (PUVA). Psychosomatic Medicine, 60(5), 625-632



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