GUEST POST BY IAN GAWLER. Ian Gawler is a long-term cancer survivor and one of Australia’s most experienced and respected authorities on Mind-Body Medicine and meditation.
Want to be really well? Meditation may be the best individual thing you can do. Why? Well, we know that over 6000 research studies now tell us this is true. But who do you know that meditates? What are they like? Most I know are pretty cool. They seem happy most of the time. Bright, interested, engaged. Good people to hang out with and usually they look really vibrant, really well.
How about this? If the government wanted to save significantly on the health budget; if the health funds wanted to be more profitable or be able to afford better services, paying you to meditate would be one of the most cost-effective things they could do!
Results of a recent, large five-year study found that after one year, meditators’ expenditure on doctors had decreased by 11%. After five years, the regular meditators had reduced their cumulative health costs by nearly 30%. That is quite a reduction. Over the five years the non-meditating group’s expenditure rose, as you might expect for people getting older.
This study’s findings were similar to earlier ones. In a previous Canadian study, the meditation group exhibited reduced medical expenses between 5% and 13% relative to comparison subjects each year for six consecutive years. In a subsequent Canadian study of senior citizens, the meditators’ five-year cumulative reduction for people aged 65 years and older relative to comparison subjects was 70%.
In yet another study, people aged 45 and over who practised meditation had 88% fewer hospital days compared with controls. Their medical expenditures were 60% below the norm.
Is there evidence that meditation leads to physically detectable changes? Well yes, there is that too. Another recent break-through study has indicated that an eight-week meditation program can change brain structure!
Participating in just an eight-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in areas of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. This study is the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain’s grey matter.
The analysis of MRI images, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection.
Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress.
None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.
So I wonder how long it will be before government and/or the health funds begin to provide incentives for people to meditate? Being paid to develop a calm and clear mind sounds pretty good to me!
Meditation is easy to do and costs nothing. If you have a pillow and a butt 🙂 you are on your way to meditating. Try it for only 5 minutes a day and see how good you feel.
Choosing healthy living over dying 🙂