Meditation Is The Gateway To A Healthier, Happier And Thinner You

I know what you probably think of when you hear “meditation.”

You probably visualize the age-old “half lotus” meditative posture or you might hear the ever-so classic “ommmmmm” mantra.

I'm sure you visualize people walking around Central Park with foam mats hanging out of their hiking backpacks, chewing on a handful of raw almonds, reading some Deepak Chopra under the shade of a tree (did I miss anything?).

What you probably don't think about when you hear meditation are all the positive ways it can affect your life.

Yeah, you heard me. Meditation is more than just something for hippies to do in between hacky sack practice and Jefferson Airplane listening sessions. In fact, for many, it's a way of life.

Meditating can benefit your life in a plethora of ways. I'm sure you knew about some of the more obvious ones, such as its ability to combat anxiety and relieve stress.

Sure, those kind of go hand in hand with the whole “meditator” persona stereotype.

At the same time, there are a bunch more you probably didn't know about as well.

According to Art of Living, a health blog, “meditation brings the brainwave pattern into an Alpha state that promotes healing.”

And with this state of healing comes a wide array of different health benefits.

Naturally, these benefits are tough to verify scientifically, as a lot of the driving force behind meditation revolves around "spiritual energy.”

With that said, it's been pretty widely accepted that meditation will increase your awareness.

It has been known to “sharpen” the mind and lead to an inner sense of harmony, so – if all else fails – rest assured that you'll be helping yourself out from a rejuvenation standpoint.

After doing some more research, however, I was able to find a few health benefits of meditation that were, in fact, scientifically verifiable – and I think they'll provide enough reason for you to get out there and meditate, yourself.

It speeds up your metabolism.

Trying to get right for the summer? If your new kale and chia-seed diet ain't producing any drastic results -- and you start schvitzing at the thought of cardio -- consider adding meditation to your weight loss regimen.

According to Lisa Johnson, a personal trainer and founder of Lisa Johnson Fitness, “scientists from the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine unveiled a new study on meditation and revealed what looks like permanent increases in your metabolism from having a regular meditation practice.”

In the experiment, test subjects -- half of whom had no meditative experience, while the other half had a minimum four years experience -- were required to complete an eight-week meditation program.

After the program's completion, the subjects were tested at a genetic level.

Results showed that, in addition to an amalgamation of other health benefits, meditation elicited a positive response for insulin production and an increase in mitochondria.

“In layman's terms,” as Johnson continues to explain, “metabolism increased for people who meditated regularly, and it was more pronounced in the more experienced group.”

It can make your heart healthier.

According to Laura Blue of Time.com, it appears that meditation can lower risk of heart attack and stroke. For years, the link between meditation and better heart health has been “vague,” to say the least (in other words, far from definitive).

But according to one recent study on African Americans -- conducted by Robert Schneider, a professor at the Maharishi University of Management, and his colleagues -- Blue explains how we might have arrived at the strongest conclusive study yet.

Schneider and his colleagues followed “201 African American men and women, who are at higher risk of heart disease than whites,” and found, five years after their initial experimentation, “a 48-percent reduction in the overall risk of heart attack, stroke and death” in members of the experiment who began actively meditating.

The American Heart Association supports the work of Schneider but urges that you don't use meditation as a replacement for other forms of heart medication.

On its website, it writes, “While meditation can offer a technique for lowering stress and your risk for heart disease, it can't replace other important lifestyle changes like eating healthier, losing or managing weight, reducing salt or getting regular physical activity.”

But it certainly can help.

It can elevate your mood.

As reported by Stephanie Pappas on Live Science, meditation may also boost mood and mental toughness. If you've been feeling a little bit under the weather lately -- whether it's due to stress or a bad day -- your yoga mat might be your key to happiness.

A new study has found that “mindfulness training,” such as meditation, teaches people to “stay alert and in the moment without becoming emotional.” This is what Pappas describes as a “mental armor” of sorts.

Pappas continues to explain how mindfulness training “improved the moods” of US Marines prior to deployment. Pappas notes, however, that – like all other types of training – practice is key.

According to Study Co-author and University of Pennsylvania Cognitive Neuroscientist Amishi Jha, who is quoted in Pappas' article, “The key is practicing these mindfulness exercises daily, just as you would any other exercise.”