One health reason to meditate is to reduce stress. Stress is unpleasant, of course, but it goes further than that: it can have a bad effect on your health. It can increase your risk for strokes, heart disease, and heart attacks, and can worsen existing heart disease. Stress can also affect your immune system, meaning you're more likely, for instance, to catch a cold – and you may feel sicker when you have an infection. Of course, stress can lead to ulcers and other digestive problems, headaches (including migraines), and anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. Stress can also lead a person to develop bad habits like smoking and alcohol or drug dependencies.
It's not surprising, then, that meditation has been found not only to reduce stress but to help stress-related conditions. For instance, mindfulness meditation has been found to increase healing rates for people being treated for psoriasis and may also improve immune function. A group training program in mindfulness meditation has been found to help people with anxiety disorder or panic disorder. And transcendental meditation has been found to reduce heart disease risk factors, including coronary artery disease (clogged arteries) and high blood pressure, in elderly people of African descent.
But, even leaving all that, a good reason to meditate is simply that it's relaxing, and it's more effective than just sitting with your eyes closed. It gives you a break from the rush-rush-rush of daily life and allows you a chance to focus your mind – and perhaps gain a bit more control over where your thoughts take you. And remember: mental health is health, too.
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