At plant-based4health.com, we embrace holistic healing practices, which address all parts of an individual – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. For optimum health and well-being, we recommend that you consider adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet (which helps in the prevention of chronic illnesses and can reverse cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes) and exercise regularly. In addition, we suggest that you experiment with meditation, ideally making it a lifelong daily practice.
What is meditation?
Meditation is taking time to sit in silence, relax, breath and go inward. Although it is based in spirituality and numerous world religions, you do not need to have any particular belief system to meditate effectively.
The benefits of meditation
People have been meditating for thousands of years for spiritual contemplation and enlightenment. But recent scientific studies now provide evidence that meditation offers a multitude of physical, mental and emotional benefits including a heightened sense of well-being, improvements in brain function and a slowing of the aging process. Through meditation you will raise the vibration of your body and energy field which allows for healing. See our blog post How your thoughts and emotions influence your health.
One of the first things you’ll notice when taking up meditation is a sense of calmness. Sitting in silence and focusing on your breathing relaxes you, pumps oxygen into your cells and decreases stress-related symptoms such as anxiety, high blood pressure and rapid heart rate. A happier mood and stronger sense of self impacts all aspects of your life. Meditation can help you make better decisions, improve your concentration, increase your creativity and enable you to bounce back more quickly from negative situations.
Physically, meditation has been scientifically proven to boost your immune system, decrease cellular inflammation, reduce pain and increase your brain’s activity. Studies have shown that long-term meditators have denser gray matter (nerve cells and connections) than non-meditators in regions like the hippocampus (which is crucial for learning and memory) and in areas of the cortex associated with regulating emotions and response control. Meditators also have heightened activity in the part of the brain associated with compassion.
In their book, Super Genes, authors Dr. Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. describe a study conducted in 2014 by the Chopra Center in which 64 healthy women were invited to stay at a resort for one week. One group just relaxed and vacationed while the other relaxed and learned to meditate. Both groups showed improvements in mental health and lower stress and immune response (including lower inflammation). The meditation group showed a lower propensity for viral infections, a suppression of genes for injury and wound repair, and they also experienced a “dramatic increase in the anti-aging activity of telomerase.” Telomerase is an enzyme that builds telomeres, which are like caps at the end of each chromosome. You have 46 strands of DNA coiled into chromosomes in each of your cells. These telomeres, which keep your DNA from unraveling and fraying, shorten each time your cells divide. If you can slow down the rate that telomeres shorten, you can slow down the aging process. The original study on telomeres by Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn showed that 3 months on a whole food plant-based diet, regular exercise and stress reduction significantly boosts telomerase activity. Add in a daily meditation practice and the anti-aging effect is magnified!
How to get started
A simple form of meditation is to sit alone (preferably in a quiet room) with your feet flat on the floor. Then close your eyes and begin breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Relax your jaw, neck and shoulders. Try to keep away any distracting thoughts and if they do come in, simply acknowledge them without judging and focus back on your breathing. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes as a start and build from there.
There are many types of meditation including the breath meditation described above. These include walking meditation, Primordial Sound Meditation (PSM) in which you silently recite a personalized sound or mantra, Transcendental Meditation, Mindfulness Meditation, and guided meditations which often use visualizations. An excellent 7-minute guided meditation that is available for free on YouTube is Connecting to Source by Caroline Cory of OMnium Universe. If you do this in the morning and again in the evening each day for 30 days, you will lock in a routine. Experiment from there. There are many other meditations to explore on OMnium Universe, Universal SoulSpa, the Chopra Center and Sounds True.
Keep with it. The benefits are worth it.
Don’t get discouraged if you start a meditation practice and then stop. With any new lifestyle change, setbacks happen. Be kind to yourself, recognize that it’s normal to feel a bit anxious about the process and then start up again. Try to stick with a regular routine such as waking 15 minutes earlier in the morning and meditating then and again when you get home from school or work in the evening or right before bed. It is also a practice that has compounded benefits. The more you do it, the easier it gets and the more you experience the benefits in your daily life.
Here are two beautiful guided meditations by Lisa Young, Visionary and Spiritual Thought Leader, to experience in the morning and evening: Violet Source Light Morning Meditation and Relaxing and Quieting Evening Meditation
Enjoy the process, give yourself time and soon the mind chatter will diminish and you’ll savor the peace and solitude that meditation brings, along with its multitude of benefits.
- Super Genes by Deepak Chopra, M.D. and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.
- A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation
- Does Meditation Affect Cellular Aging?
- Brain Mechanisms Supporting Modulation of Pain by Mindfulness Meditation
- The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: Larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter
- 20 Scientific Reasons to Start Meditating Today: New research shows meditation boosts your health, happiness, and success!
- Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training
- Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in the treatment of anxiety disorders
- Mindfulness meditation may relieve chronic inflammation