Meditation is a practice with a lot of history and centuries of antiquity, its exercises are based on techniques of physical, mental relaxation and paying attention to the stimuli that surround us. Its practice has many benefits for our psychological well-being and helps maintain the balance of many physiological functions.
If you want to discover in detail what the effects of meditation on the body and mind are, keep reading this HealthProTips article.
Physical effects of meditation
Since meditation is a conscious mental process and associated with the Self-conscious Self, the question is to find out how it acts on the other two dimensions of the Self, that is, what are the effects of meditation on our body and mind?
Regarding the physiological dimension, we would all like to be able to eliminate unpleasant bodily sensations that prevent us from enjoying daily life (especially mental embarrassment, stomach pain and insomnia) simply by thinking, by “ordering” the physiological system that is deactivated, but this is impossible, because it depends on the autonomous nervous system that is independent of our will (unfortunately, our mental program does not have that option). The only thing we can hope for is to diminish the intensity of these sensations through one of the various relaxation techniques.
However, meditation can help to reduce the intensity of the discomfort by reflecting and assuming the idea that unpleasant bodily sensations are simply the manifestation of a physiological reaction whose mission is to notice that something harmful has been perceived or detected that breaks the psychological balance that prevails and, therefore, we must accept them with indulgence, because our body “does not know” that it is causing us suffering, it only fulfills its mission. We must be aware that this is the “normal”, the “expected”, is the inevitable response in the human being due to our biological nature and will accompany us while emotional alert is activated.
Relationship between neurotransmitters and meditation
Several studies have proven the following effects attributed to meditation: it produces changes in the secretion and release of several pituitary hormones that mimic the effects of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, cortisol levels are significantly reduced, the level of serum proteins is increased and the systolic and diastolic pressures and the pulse rate decrease, as does the vital respiratory capacity and the maximum voluntary ventilation. It is also associated with an increase in the levels of melatonin and corticotrophin-releasing hormone (HLC).
What happens in our mind when meditating?
Regarding the psychic dimension , the content of the meditation will be, in the first place, to identify the concrete emotions that we are feeling and that lead us to an afflictive mood: fear, sadness, irritation, hatred, frustration, despair, guilt, shame, remorse, etc., and secondly, find out what is the element of the disturbing event through which the emotional system has been activated (a physical fact or phenomenon, a word, a phrase, an attitude, a decision, an important loss, a disease, etc.).
Equally, it is interesting to know what factor of my psychological self has been affected: my self-esteem, dignity, merit, pride, social image, freedom, justice, personal beliefs, and vital links: family, work, social, etc. We must also ask ourselves: is the emotional alteration and my reaction to it justified by the meaning and consequences of the disturbing event? Does it have any advantage or utility for me to be in that martyrizing psychophysical state that absorbs all my attention and prevents me from enjoying the pleasant things that the environment offers me?
It is also interesting to be able to evaluate the intensity, frequency and duration of the physical symptoms detected, which will tell us the importance that the disturbing situation has for us and when it begins to remit or definitively end it. In this sense we must ask ourselves: is there proportionality between the transcendence of the disturbing event and the physiological reaction unchained by it, since sometimes there is a very intense activation before an event of little importance.
Cognitive benefits of meditation
Meditation at this point can produce the following effects:
- A change in the assessment of the situation, from harmful to neutral or positive if when analyzing the situation it is perceived that there have been errors in the interpretation of the event: cognitive distortions, emotional biases, prejudices, unfounded fears, mental ties, inappropriate cognitive schemes, etc. In this way, if we can eliminate the negative evaluation of the disturbing event, the emotional system can be deactivated and, consequently, eliminate the annoying physical sensations or, at least, reduce their intensity, thus restoring balance and emotional stability.
- In those cases in which the disturbing situation is caused by an irremediable event (death, serious illness, etc.), it facilitates the process of acceptance of the disturbing situation and its consequences and adaptation to the new life situation.
- It helps to get emotional control. As J. LeDoux points out: we always have initial reactions and then we go from an emotional reaction to reacting consciously. It is not that we cannot control our emotions, it is that we cannot control them in the initial reaction, although it is the basis of our subsequent control. The effectiveness of this control is debatable, but we always exercise some control. The key question to be answered is: in what way does the activation of a cerebral emotional mechanism give rise to the subjective emotional experience? LeDoux proposes that the ability to have feelings is directly related to the ability to have conscious knowledge of the self and its relationship with the environment.
When are the benefits of meditation noticed?
It must be taken into account that, through meditation, the Self-conscious Self must analyze the situation created by the disturbing fact from an objective perspective, without subjective, emotional or ideological attachments, in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis of it. But this cannot be done while we are in a state of mind altered by the disturbance.
Meditation requires attention and concentration difficult to achieve in that state, because the emotional force generated by the disturbing situation is greater than the cognitive capacity to master it, it is a struggle of reason against emotion, and the latter emerged evolutionarily before (besides , at a biological level it has been observed that the neuronal connections of the amygdala to the prefrontal cortex are more numerous than in the opposite direction and with meditation that differential is reduced), hence the difficulty
To face this battle, the self-conscious Self has certain fundamental weapons:
- The will as an internal driving force of the meditative attitude
- The tenacity to overcome the distractions of attention
- The patience to not give up a long process that takes longer than we would like to make visible the positive results.
Given the above, it is evident that meditation, by itself, does not restore psychological balance and emotional stability (although in some cases it does), it is a help tool that is integrated into a broader process of psychological therapy But it is also evident that the constant and periodic exercise of meditation, by providing us with a deeper knowledge of our psychological self, strengthens us in the face of adversity , helps maintain self-control, serene and firm mood, provides the ability to manage our emotions without letting ourselves be carried away by them and preparing us to exercise dominion over other aspects of our life.
This article is purely informative, in HealthProTips we do not have the faculty to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.