#6 of 52 Reasons Why
April Update: I was hacked!
I have been a little MIA from the online world recently after waking one morning to find all manner of mischief having rained down on my digital world. [Long, slow, deep breath]. After jumping into action, calling friends, and wandering aimlessly on the webs for support .. also checking if it was Mercury Retrograde (not)
52 REASONS WHY .. YOU SHOULD MEDITATE
I am a little behind my schedule of sharing ’52 Reasons Why You Should Meditate’ as I was trying for once a week .. but I will catch up and continue my mission to inspire you to start meditating with some scientific research and my own personal insights. I am linking these posts to my LinkedIn page .. so come say hello here!
#6 IMPROVED RESISTANCE TO COLD & FLU
I have to (hand on heart) admit that I have never been a person prone to colds. I don’t think I have ever had the flu. I may get the odd bout of sniffles, but they only last a day or two. But I have experienced a chest infection and would do almost anything to avoid having that reoccur .. so at this time of year, when we are transitioning from Summer heat and sunshine into the cooler, windier, and darker season of Autumn (here in the southern hemisphere), I am cognisant of adjusting my meditation practice and overall wellness strategy to best support my immunity.
So. In recent weeks I have brought my morning meditation practice to the warm cozy
Studies have shown that regular meditation may offer some protection from cold and flu
The American Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that influenza is most common during the fall and winter seasons, and annually approximately 35.5 million Americans will get a cold and 13 million will get the flu, with thousands of people dying from complications. Not only do these illnesses make us feel horrid, it is reported that they also account for $10 billion in medical expenses and $16 billion in lost earnings, annually.
One highly shared but small study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, published in the journal PLOS One (June 2018) found that meditation might ward off colds or the flu. With a sample of around 400 adults, all of whom had gotten their flu shot, the study found that a group that practiced meditation got slightly fewer respiratory illnesses, and took fewer days off work, compared with a group that exercised and a control group. But while research has linked meditation to lower concentrations of a C-reactive protein that triggers inflammation and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol – researcher Dr. Bruce Barrett, Ph.D., professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison admits how it works is unclear.
“Meditation doesn’t seem to reduce the production of antibodies [that cause the flu] but it might change the stress-based inflammatory response,” Barrett says. “Reducing your stress levels enhances your general health and increases your ability to not get sick if you are exposed to viruses.”
Meditation may be more effective than the flu shot!
During the (US) 2018-19 flu season, vaccine effectiveness was estimated to be 46% according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Barrett notes that the vaccine has no impact on other illnesses, including the common cold, making meditation an even more appealing option to ward off sickness.
“Meditation might be more effective than the flu shot but it’s also a lot more work,” he says. “You don’t just roll up your sleeve and get a shot, you have to make time to practice [meditation].”
In a 2003 study conducted by Richard Davidson, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Madison, subjects were injected with a flu vaccine. Half of the subjects then received meditation and mindfulness training over the next eight weeks. At the end of the study, the meditation group showed higher levels of antibodies that could respond to the illness.
There was also a small study (2014) on the levels of immune cells in transcendental meditation practitioners which found that compared to non-meditators those with an established meditation practice had higher levels of B lymphocytes and natural killer cells, cells the body uses to protect itself from foreign invaders.
And a 2018 study suggested that yoga and meditation help decrease levels of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), a hormone that helps enhance the immune system; additional research found mindfulness meditation reduced the production of cytokines, molecules that regulate the immune system, which helped the body cope with stressors, including viruses.
Of course, meditation won’t cure disease on its own, but if you do become sick with the winter cold or flu, meditation is thought to strengthen your immune system’s response in four key ways:
1. Increased B Cell Antibody Production (Humoral Immunity) and T Cell Protection
Meditation has been seen to have an impact on some of the wide variety of cells that keep our immune system on track and work to fight off infection.
2. Improved Sleep Quality
We looked at Meditation for Sleep in my last post, but poor sleep significantly lowers the body’s ability to fight off infection and a regular meditation practice is one of the best ways to help us sleep better and keep our immune system working at full function.
3. Reduced Inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to heal wounds and fight infections – which means it is somewhat a good thing, but too much inflammation can cause significant illness and damage in the body, hindering it’s ability to mount a proper defense against colds and flu. Meditation has been shown to reduce inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis patients.
4. Lower Stress Levels
Stress releases cortisol into the blood, which over the long term can cause unnecessary inflammation, and even reduces the number of lymphocytes — white blood cells that fight off viruses like colds, the flu, and coronavirus — in your body. Reducing stress is the most highly valued and universally acknowledged benefit of meditation.
From my experience .. from my very first experience of meditation, it was all about my breath! Over the years of practice, I have built a very beautiful and endearing friendship with my breath, which allows me to tune in to my breath in times of meditation and in times of challenge, and adjust accordingly. I have some amazing tools in my life-toolbox that I can rely on to support and nourish my breath .. from flowing Qigong movements that will loosen and activate my breath, and ancient Pranayama (yogic breath mastery) to awaken and empower my breath, and varied other Breathwork exercises to expand or calm my breath. Some breathwork will quickly release pressure in the nostrils – so it feels like I can breathe again!.
THREE STAGES BREATH EXERCISE
* Find a comfortable seated position, sitting upright with shoulders relaxed and the front of your body open and soft, so you can feel the expansion of your lungs and body with each inhalation.
* Allow as much time as you need to settle and relax, building an intimate awareness of your breath and how your breath is traveling
* In this exercise we break up our inhalation into three stages, and at each stage pause our breath (gently hold for just a moment) before moving to the next stage. So…
* Imagine you are inhaling one-third of your breath into the lowest part of your belly – and pause a moment.
* Then, the final third of your breath filling the chest right up to the clavicle, feeling the shoulders move to your breath – and pause just a moment.
* Finally releasing all of your breathe, through your mouth, with a long audible sigh.
* You can repeat this exercise three times, then return to your very natural rhythm of breath; which should now feel a little more free-flowing and expansive. Be sure to give heartfelt thanks for your breath and this moment that you have given to tend to your breath. Smile and return to your day.
“My secret? I meditate!”
Sarah, Quiet Mind Meditation
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Past posts for #Meditation52ReasonsWhy