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12 Scientific Ways to Boost Your Health by Just Thinking About It!

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

thinking

Mindfulness and meditation are two brain exercises you can do anywhere, anytime. But did you know there’s plenty of science showing that practicing either or both can boost your health? Lots of blogs and health newsletters are talking about this lately, but there’s no place better than the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health to get the facts. Courtesy of this center, here’s a list of 12 seriously great benefits that just thinking — i.e., meditation and mindfulness — will give you:

1. Reduce your blood pressure — The fact is meditative practices have been shown to not only reduce your blood pressure, but your risk for heart disease, cortisol and heart rate. It even helps optimize your body’s use of cholesterol.

2. Stem symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome — Research shows that meditation can help you deal with gastrointestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis.

3. Lessen stress, anxiety and depression — Stress is one of the biggest challenges facing U.S. adults, with many reporting the negative impact stress has on their mental and physical health.

By focusing on attention control and emotions and redirecting these feelings through meditation and mindfulness, you can gain greater emotional resilience, which leaves you feeling less stressed.

4. Help address sleep issues — Some studies show that practicing mindfulness meditation can target the mental processes that cause insomnia.

5. Aid in smoking cessation — The NIH reports that 13 separate studies using mindfulness-based interventions showed promising results for addressing nicotine cravings.

6. Help in relieving pain and fibromyalgia — Researchers analyzing data from more than 4,400 people who received eight weeks of intense relaxation response training with techniques like meditation were able to reduce their visits to the doctor by 43 percent. Visits to the emergency room were even reduced.

7. Reduce hot flashes and other common menopausal symptoms — Along the same lines, studies found that practicing meditation-based programs may help reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes and other symptoms.

8. Enjoy a feeling of a better quality of life and mental health — The NIH reports that a study with 279 adults using mindfulness-based stress reduction resulted in reports of better mental health and quality of life.

9. Lift your mood — When you feel better about yourself and your life — two things that can happen when you concentrate on the moment and being grateful for what you have and enjoying your thoughts outside of distractions, you’ll be surprised at how uplifting it is.

10. Reduce inflammation markers in your body —The NIH reports that a 2014 study found that mindfulness can help reduce chemicals in your body that trigger inflammation — which is also a boost to your immune system.

11. Cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is currently conducting studies on using meditation and mindfulness for PTSD.

12. Increase your brain’s ability to process information and slow normal signs of aging — A government-funded study suggested that meditation can positively affect the amygdala in the brain, which helps you with memory and data processing, ultimately slowing the normal signs of brain aging.

All this may leave you wondering how to go about including meditation and mindfulness in your daily routine. Simply reflecting on things for which you can be thankful (versus what is irritating or lacking) can do wonders to energize your mood and ratchet down your stress levels.

One type of meditation easily applied to virtually any activity is called "mindfulness,” which involves paying attention to the moment you're in right now. Rather than letting your mind wander, you actively choose to live in the current moment, while letting distracting thoughts pass through your mind without getting caught up in them.

You can incorporate mindfulness into virtually any aspect of your day — eating, doing household chores, driving or working — simply by reining in your mind and paying attention to the sensations you are experiencing in the present moment.

An interesting note to this is that one of the largest studies to date on this topic shows that different types of meditation produce different changes in the brain. For that reason, you may want to engage the help of someone experienced in the three types (attention; compassion; cognitive skills), especially if you want to address specific issues.