How Health Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation reduce Stress, Sadness and Parkinson's symptoms
The health benefits Mindfulness Meditation bring can help with common health issues and major diseases. Read on to find out why and how you can use the technique to reduce stress, sadness, Parkinson's symptoms, as well as many other wellbeing problems.
The health benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
The health and wellbeing benefits of meditation know no bounds. As anecdotal evidence grows exponentially across the globe, more and more people are seeking to experience its benefits first hand. Meditation (and Mindfulness) has grown so much in popularity that it’s being introduced in centres for education, health, the community and business all across the UK.
I’m going to share some overarching benefits of Mindfulness Meditation with you that cover core areas of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health and wellbeing. Moreover, I’m going to talk about how Mindfulness Meditation is proving to be of benefit in not only preventing illness and disease, but also for the many millions already suffering from common, yet debilitating symptoms, and of course as an invaluable tool for those caring and partnering those sufferers.
Overall, meditation plays an important part in maintaining health and wellness. In treatment, ‘people who meditate have a quicker response to treatment than those who don’t’, according to Australian energy healing modality, AcuEnergetics®. So, this would follow that Meditation and Mindfulness have a role to play in any journey to recovery.
Mindfulness Meditation can reduce stress, sadness, Parkinson's symptoms and many other health issues.
1. Reducing Stress
The most obvious mental health and wellbeing benefit Mindful Meditation can have is stress reduction. ‘Stress’ bombards us from all angles. Triggers can be anything from taking on too much, family or health concerns to work-related stress. According to the Health & Safety Executive, work-related stress alone accounted for 9.9 million working days lost in 2014-15, which equates to 23 days lost per case! Careers in the NHS and teaching appear to be two of the most susceptible ones, where absences were often stress-related.
Dr. Herbert Benson, professor, author, cardiologist, and founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute, actually renamed meditation ‘The Relaxation Response’ in an effort to demystify it and bring it to mainstream attention. The opposite of this response is the physiological fight or flight response (and in some individuals their default stress response setting), where perception of apparent danger is imminent.
Meditation or the ‘Relaxation Response’ is powerful enough to counteract the mental (and also physiological) effects of stress and the fight or flight response. By bringing the body back to pre-stress levels, meditation enables a state of deep relaxation through the parasympathetic nervous system, which then in turn reverses and prevents chronic stress. Chronic stress is often the culprit for many physical and mental conditions, including fibromyalgia, insomnia, hypertension, anxiety disorders and gastrointestinal ailments.
According to ‘Psychology Today’, Dr. Benson says, “one of the most valuable things we can do in life is to learn deep relaxation - making an effort to spend some time every day quietening our minds in order to create inner peace and better health.”
Breathing well reduces stress
Moving on and crossing over into the physical benefits, the importance of ‘breathing well’ goes hand in hand with meditation and the dramatic effects to health and wellbeing. Not only does good breathing benefit the cardio-vascular system, it also calms the mind. Dr. Patrizia Collard, author of ‘The Little Book of Mindfulness’ says, “Breath is life energy. When we restrict our breathing, we diminish our life energy...”.
According to Jeffrey A. Migdow, Author, MD and holistic physician, ‘most people unconsciously hold their breath 80% of the time; optimally we should be breathing 90-100% of the time’! The resulting increase in adrenaline and heart rate actually causes physical stress – and ‘as many as 90 per cent of physician visits are for stress-related diseases’, estimates Dr. Herbert Benson.
To really experience the benefits, a commitment to a daily practice over a dedicated period of time, will instill a sense of peace and wellbeing and manage both the mental and physical symptoms of stress longer term.
2. Reducing Sadness
Plenty of evidence has been emerging for years saluting the advantages that a regular practice of meditation can make us happier. Yet, as humans, we are habitually susceptible to one or more negative emotions, such as self-criticism, anger or fear. Ancient Taoist philosopher and author Lao Tzu says, “When you realise nothing is lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
From an emotional perspective, nothing can match a genuinely happy smile or face, and no emotion is more contagious (if you’re open to that emotion). Emotion in its nature is open, honest and direct. A genuinely smiling face often exudes warmth, love, kindness, forgiveness, oneness and connection – all straight from the heart.
Meditation can counteract negative emotional patterns
If all we really want is love and happiness, then meditation can help counteract negative emotional patterns with much more positive ones, making us happier. The Dalai Lama is a good example of a strong, grounded, and smiling personification of the benefits of meditation to the virtue of happiness and to life itself.
‘Emotional Intelligence’ was written by Daniel Goleman and in it he says, “Meditation helps us better manage our reactions to stress and recover more quickly from disturbing events. This is the key to happiness.”
On a spiritual level, meditation has a wonderful way of making us wake up, bringing us consciously to the here and now. By checking in with ourselves and becoming gently aware of how we treat ourselves; and how we interact with every person and every situation; we become much more aware of the present moment. This can sometimes be very confronting and uncomfortable. A good meditation teacher, doctor or therapist trained in Mindfulness and/or Meditation techniques can help work through any concerns.
Meditation brings our attention to our habitual patterns and default settings allows us to let go of anything that no longer serves us for optimal health and wellbeing. The power of inner peace, connection and better insight all have enormous benefits to the health and wellbeing of individuals, the community and the wider world.
3. Reducing Parkinson's Disease symptoms
For well over a year I’ve worked with the Basingstoke Branch of Parkinson's UK (Parkinson's Disease UK or PDUK) to deliver bespoke Mindfulness Meditation - now virtual - group classes to sufferers, carers and partners. I was invited to present the benefits to a 70-strong audience of those newly diagnosed in the region. With microphone in hand, I tried to balance being heard with conveying the gentle power and tranquility of Mindfulness Meditation. Mostly novices to Meditation, my audience listened and then entrusted me to guide them through a ten-minute meditation. Demand for more, led to the set up of a regular and very popular Mindfulness class.
Branch lead for Exercise & Therapy and Parkinson's sufferer, Len Potts, says, "Gillian's classes are ideal to help people living with a worsening physical condition that has no cure, in the middle of both adverse Pandemic and economic environments and where support resources are reducing. Being able to find time to think about your personal situation and to be given advice and techniques, in a structured and positive manner, that may help you cope, can be massively beneficial for people with Parkinson's together with their partners and carers."
Mindfulness Meditation reduces five common Parkinson's Disease symptoms
Mindfulness Meditation students are always reporting improvements in the following symptoms. The same symptoms are also among five of the most common inflicted on those diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease:
Some form of stress, anxiety, depression
Tension, discomfort, pain
Low energy problems, fatigue
In fact, anyone struggling through any health complaint, disease (including Parkinson’s) or medical treatment plan with any of the symptoms above have nothing to lose in giving Mindfulness Meditation a go.
From the very first class with Parkinson’s sufferers and their carers/partners, I noticed a dramatic lift in energy. I also witnessed what I can only describe as an overwhelming sense of relief, albeit temporary, and gratitude from perhaps taking a break from over-thinking and over-worrying. I observed less tension, brighter complexions, more relaxed postures, replacing those of exhaustion, worry and over-burden.
Another Parkinson’s student, Richard Underwood, says, “A fantastic experience which I highly recommend to all, Gillian’s classes have given me some peace from my over-active, busy mind. As part of my toolkit, I’m pleased to report Mindfulness Meditation has contributed to a dramatic change in the pain and stiffness in my right shoulder. I now have full mobility and no longer suffer in pain.”
As lockdown approached, my classes very quickly switched online. The Basingstoke Branch of Parkinson’s UK virtual group has attracted additional people through the opportunity to connect via Zoom. Being able to offer virtual classes weekly and from the comfort of our own homes, keeps us all connected, engaged and continuing to enjoy the cumulative benefits of Mindfulness Meditation.
Other health benefits Mindfulness Meditation can bring
Mental health and Wellbeing
Other gains to mental health and wellbeing include reduction of activity in the brain responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts. In just a few days, training in meditation:
Improves concentration and attention
Reduces anxiety and social anxiety
Can help with addiction
Can have effects that rival antidepressants for depression and anxiety
Additional physical benefits of Mindfulness Meditation include:
Lowering and balancing blood pressure
Regulating and lowering heart rate
Relief for asthma sufferers
Preservation of the ageing brain (meditators have more grey matter than non-meditators)
Looking younger by softening and relaxing facial muscles
Boosting the immune system
Weight loss by eating mindfully
Potential for pain relief
The benefits of meditation are cumulative, the more we meditate, the calmer and more relaxed we become. So, the one quarter of the UK population suffering from sleep problems could also benefit by meditating regularly.
Conclusion: Meditation has immeasurable mental, physical and emotional benefits
In conclusion, Meditation has immeasurable and numerous benefits for everyone’s health and wellbeing – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. It stills the mind, relaxes and strengthens every system in our body, calms the emotions and we become happier. By consciously sparing some quiet, dedicated time on a daily basis, meditation gives us an opportunity to become present, slow down and enjoy life much more.
Find a Mindfulness Meditation class for you
Any organisation, community, charity, corporate, or an individual can enquire about setting up a class near them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Whether new to meditation or more experienced, all are also welcome to join my regular classes (all virtual during lockdown, then following lockdown will return to a mix of virtual and face to face opportunities), including:
Sunday Restorative Meditation, a deeply relaxing class that runs fortnightly, face to face and online
Stress Management and Mindfulness 101 tasters and packages available for organisations - business, community and charitable
121 personalised coaching in meditation or stress management
5-day Online Sleep Retreat for anyone who can’t sleep or who suffers from wakefulness
Mindfulness Meditations available to stream/download
FREE Mindfulness Meditation classes continuing twice weekly during lockdown
Free Facebook private community called 'Sleep Retreat' for anyone suffering from sleep problems, stress and/or tension
Please note that this article is based on personal experience, research and opinions as a British School of Meditation qualified Meditation teacher. Further peer-reviewed Science is plentiful and in various stages of research. Excitingly, scientists have been looking closely at the power of mindfulness and meditation to treat common symptoms of illness and disease over the last half century. Prior to that the numerous and anecdotal benefits of meditation are known to date back 5000 years.
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