Here’s How Meditation Reduces Inflammation And Prevents Disease

Science has shown that mindfulness meditation can have a positive impact on a huge range of health conditions, including cancer, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The practice has even been found to slow HIV progression and protect the brain from aging.

Mindfulness seems to improve nearly every aspect of health — but how? While mounting research has revealed many of the numerous physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness, little is known of the mechanisms underlying these positive changes.

Now, a new study from Carnegie Mellon University, published on Jan. 29 in the journal Biological Psychiatry, demystifies the neurobiological effects of cultivating a focused awareness on the present moment.

“Many people are skeptical about whether there are helpful aspects of mindfulness meditation practices,” Dr. David Creswell, a professor of psychology at the university and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post. “We show that mindfulness meditation impacts measurable brain circuits more so than helpful relaxation practices, and that these brain circuit changes help us understand how mindfulness meditation improves health.”

The researchers found that inflammation seems to be the key factor, as mindfulness reduces it by way of impacting changes in the brain’s functional connectivity.

“[T]his new work sheds light into what mindfulness training is doing to the brain to produce these inflammatory health benefits,” Creswell said in a statement.

Chronic inflammation — the long-term, runaway activation of the immune system’s defense response, even in the absence of infection or injury — is at the core of a host of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

This new work sheds light into what mindfulness training is doing to the brain to produce these inflammatory health benefits.”
Dr. David Creswell of Carnegie Mellon University

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