Today I want to share with you all an article that I wrote as a collage assignment when I was completing my freelance journalism degree two years ago. The article is still relevant today and it fits with the theme that I have been following on my blog.
Relaxing Is The Cure – Seven Health Benefits of Deep Relaxation
If a person’s basic state of mind is serene and calm, then it is possible for this inner peace to overwhelm a painful physical experience. – The Dalai Lama
For thousands of years, the yogis have told us to take a deep breath and relax, to watch the tension melt from our muscles and all our worries vanish. We all know that relaxation is good for us and now science has caught up and proven it to be so.
A comprehensive scientific study just published shows that deep relaxation changes our bodies on a genetic level. Researchers at Harvard medical School discovered that, in long-term practitioners of relaxation methods such as meditation and yoga, far more “disease-fighting genes” were active, compared to those who didn’t practice any form of relaxation.
In particular, this study found genes that protect the body from disorders such as pain, infertility, high blood pressure and even rheumatoid arthritis were switched on. The researches say the changes were induced by “the relaxation effect”, a phenomenon that could be just as powerful as any medical drug but without the side effects. Dr. Herbert Benson, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School said, “we found a range of disease-fighting genes were active in the relaxation practitioners that were not active in the control group.”
The experiment also showed how responsive genes are to behaviour, mood and environment and revealed that genes can switch on, just as easily as they switch off. Researchers asked the control group to start practising relaxation methods every day and after two months, their bodies began to change; the genes that help fight inflammation, kill diseased cells and protect the body from cancer all began to switch on. More encouraging, is the fact that the benefits of the relaxation effect were found to increase with regular practice. The more people practised relaxation methods such as mediation or deep breathing, the greater their chances of remaining free from pain. They also had stronger immunity and healthier hormone levels.
This research shows how the state of a person’s mind can affect the body on a physical and genetic level. It may also explain why relaxation induced by meditation is considered to be a powerful remedy in Tibetan medicine.
Research has shown over the years the negative effects of stress on the body. This is linked to the release of the stress-hormones adrenalin and cortisol. Stress raises heart rate and blood pressure and also weakens immunity and lowers fertility. By contrast, relaxation is linked to higher levels of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and the growth hormone that repairs cells and tissue. So, relaxation has the opposite effect, lowering heart rate, boosting immunity and allowing the body to thrive. To achieve this, a state of deep relaxation is required where tension is released from the body on a physical level and the mind completely switches off. This is achieved through meditation.
Seven Health Benefits of Deep Relaxation
Mediation or deep relaxation has been scientifically proven to work so the next time you tune out and switch off, remind yourself of all the good work that relaxation is doing for your body. Here are some of the proven benefits:
1. Increased Immunity
Relaxation boosts immunity in recovering cancer patients. A study carried out at the Ohio State University found that progressive muscular relaxation, when practised daily, reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence.
2. Emotional Balance
Emotional balance essentially means to be free of all neurotic behaviour that results from having a tortured and traumatized ego. This is hard to achieve but meditation helps to clear the mind of emotional memories, providing freedom and balance.
3. Increased Fertility
A study at the University of Western Australia found that women are more likely to conceive when they are relaxed. A study at Trakya University in Turkey, also found that stress reduces sperm count and motility.
4. Relives Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Researchers at the State University of New York found that when patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome began practising meditation twice daily, their symptoms of bloating, diarrhoea and constipation improved significantly. The meditation was so effective that it has been recommended as an effective treatment.
5. Lowers Blood Pressure
A study carried out at Harvard Medical School found that meditation lowered blood pressure in a similar way to blood pressure-lowering medication. A British Medical Journal report also found that patients who meditated has significantly lower blood pressure.
Researches at Emory University in the US found that stress leads to inflammation, a state linked to heart disease, arthritis, asthma and skin conditions such as psoriasis. Meditation can help prevent and treat such symptoms by switching off the stress response in the body. A study at McGill University in Canada found that meditation clinically improved the symptoms of psoriasis.
Everyone who practises meditation or relaxation therapies has reported a general overall feeling of calmness.
Harnessing the healing powers of relaxation is not difficult. Harvard researchers have found that meditation, yoga and even repetitive prayer all induced the relaxation effect. The more regularly these techniques are practised, the more rooted the benefits will be. Try one of these techniques for 15 minutes one or twice a day to see results.
There are many ways to meditate and these include focusing on breath, guided meditations, mantras and more. Joining a meditation group is a great way to begin and receive expert instruction. Meditation does not happen overnight and practice is required. Taking just five minutes each day to still the mind and relax all the muscles of the body has been proven to help with numerous medical conditions and studies are ongoing. The key to success is to remain comfortable during your meditation and allow your body to relax.
I hope you enjoyed this article and as always, please feel free to leave your comments and feeback.
Until next time,