Become a Real Life Superhuman:
The Science Behind Meditation and Your Health
Meditation for the Biohacking Entrepreneur: Part Two
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In this series, we will be examining the purpose of meditation in the biohacking entrepreneur’s life, the scientifically proven benefits of meditation, and the best meditation techniques for beginners.
Meditation has long been perceived as the exclusive domain of spiritualists and religious monks. Those who practiced meditation touted it’s spiritual, mental, and physical benefits, but these were largely ignored or written off as placebo effects. However, scientific interest has grown dramatically over the last few years, with studies being done by Harvard, University of Illinois, and George Mason University, and published by the American Psychological Association, General Hospital Psychiatry, and Psychological Science. The proof of these purported benefits has been astounding and more data is being compiled every day.
As the scientific data supporting the benefits of meditation increases, it is becoming nearly impossible for the biohacking entrepreneur to ignore the place it has in their life. The content of comic books, “superhero” powers observed in meditation experts has long astounded. Check out our overview of just a few of these observed health benefits of meditation, such as the the “Ice Man,” who can withstand life-threatening temperatures with little effect, or the European monk whose ability to physically recover from stress was around 20 times that of the average human being. Today we examine more closely some of the most amazing health superpowers and share how they can be realized by you.
In today’s post, you will find:
- Superhuman health benefits of meditation related to:
- meditation for pain relief
- guided weight loss meditation
- meditation and cancer
- Scientifically proven benefits of meditation on emotions such as:
- guided meditation for relaxation and stress relief
- guided meditation for anxiety and depression
- A free guide on how to meditate for beginners (this is the only quick start guide you will need to start realizing the medical benefits of meditation now)
Develop Your Superhuman Abilities Today Through Meditation
Meditation for Headache Relief (and other pain management)
At first, it sounds like the perfect superpower. Observed in the agents in The Matrix, Ghost Rider from Marvel Comics, or the real life humans with a mutated version of the gene SCN9A, the inability to feel pain is a superpower that the conservatively estimated 15% of Americans suffering from chronic pain would love to have. Although this “superpower” can have a dark side…those in real life who have a congenital insensitivity to pain can often injure themselves without knowing it.
Meditation for pain relief provides a much safer middle ground. The improved ability to manage and reduce pain can be utilized by all, regardless of any pre-existing health conditions.
Meditation is known to improve pain management in two ways.
- Reduction of stress:
According to the National Library of Medicine, stress is known to increase the intensity and frequency of tension headaches.
It is also widely accepted by the medical community that stress also intensifies other pain, whether from tissue damage, or in the absence of tissue damage (e.g. phantom limb pain, atypical facial pain, etc.).
Reducing stress will not eliminate pain, but it can often reduce the intensity of pain.
We discuss the scientific proof behind meditation’s ability to reduce stress later on in this post.
- Improved ability to manage pain:
Susan Bernstein published a great resource on arthritis.org regarding the benefits of meditation for those suffering from chronic pain. She references a study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research in 2010 surveyed and studied more than 100 patients using meditation. They found measurable improvements in:
- quality of life
- psychological distress
- intensity of pain
- functional limitations of pain
Another study Bernstein references was conducted by Alex Zautra, PhD, a professor of clinical psychology at Arizona State University. Zautra studied 144 patients with rheumatoid arthritis split into three groups. The group that received mindfulness meditation training showed greater improvement in their ability to cope with pain than the other two groups (one received standard cognitive behavioral therapy for pain and the other received information on healthy living).
A pilot randomized control trial published in 2007 by the School of Psychology, University of Southampton, UK, investigated the effect of mindfulness practice on pain tolerance. They found that the pain tolerance increased AND blood pressure decreased in the group offered mindfulness training.
The National Library of Medicine has a history of the research regarding mindfulness meditation-related pain relief. The data providing scientific proof of meditation’s ability to provide pain relief has been growing since the 1980s.
Accelerated metabolism, the ability to eat just about whatever you want and have your body turn it into energy, instead of fat, can be seen in Flash from the DC Comics, Quicksilver from Marvel Comics, or to a certain degree in real life superhuman, Dean Karnazes, who ran 50 marathons in 50 days.
While meditation won’t allow you to eat whatever you want, it is another tool in reaching your optimal weight. There are a few reasons you can realize weight loss through meditation.
- Reduction of stress:
Stress reduction to the rescue again! With the number of negative effects high stress levels are known to have on our lives, it is surprising it is not taken more seriously.
Adam Perlman, MD, executive director of Duke Integrative Medicine, states that “People often put on weight from trying to comfort themselves with food.”
While cortisol is a necessary hormone, chronic stress can raise cortisol levels to an unhealthy amount, which is associated with weight gain and cravings of fatty and sugary foods.
Meditation has been shown to improve cortisol regulation and reduce unhealthy physiological responses to stress. We’ll get more into how meditation reduces stress later on.
- Lowers blood pressure:
While high blood pressure doesn’t directly contribute to weight gain, it is one of the negative side effects of obesity. Multiple studies have shown that meditation leads to lower blood pressure.
How can mindfulness lead to weight loss? A short, mindfulness focused breathing exercise before eating can help slow down how quickly you eat your food and increase enjoyment of the food. This leads to eating less according to Alison Gaines, yoga and health expert who organizes Mindfulness Eating retreats.
Practicing mindfulness also helps you be more aware of where your cravings come from and help you evaluate them in an unbiased manner.
Meditation and Cancer
Deadpool, the comic book and recent movie character, undergoes extensive surgery in order to survive an aggressive form of cancer sweeping through his body. Not only does he survive, but he is then granted with incredible superpowers.
Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed cure for cancer right now and I have never heard of a cancer patient waking up with superpowers. However, meditation is being recommended for cancer patients by more and more doctors, in part, because of the “superpowers” it begets.
The Cancer Research UK recommends meditation for its ability to “reduce anxiety, depression, tiredness, stress, chronic pain, and sleep problems.” They reference NINE different research studies as evidence of meditation’s ability to improve energy levels, mood, mental health, and quality of life for cancer patients.
In 2014, the Society for Integrative Oncology produced a science-based guide rating the safety and effectiveness of complementary therapies for breast cancer. Around 80 therapies were evaluated and yoga, meditation, and relaxation with imagery were the only therapies to receive the top “A” rating.
But the benefits aren’t limited to during treatment. Carolyn Gregoire, Senior Writer at The Huffington Post, presents a recent study analyzing the effects of meditation on cancer patients post-treatment. Researchers at the Alberta Health Services and the University of Calgary found a link between meditation or support groups and longer telomeres (DNA sequences). Gregoire writes, “Telomeres are pieces of DNA at the end of every cell’s chromosomes that protect the integrity of its genetic information. As cells divide, telomeres shed some of their length. In other words, telomeres shorten with age and are often associated with diseases such as cancer. Telomere length is also associated with breast cancer outcomes, reported the researchers, and longer telomeres are generally considered a sign of good health.”
Scientifically Proven Benefits of Meditation Regarding Emotional Health
The positive effects of meditation aren’t limited to the physical benefits. Meditation also has wide-reaching effects on our emotional health (perhaps, even more than the physical). We will focus the two that have the most scientific proof behind them, stress reduction and anxiety reduction.
Guided Meditation for Relaxation and Stress Relief
One of the most beneficial health benefits of meditation, we have already touched on how stress reduction plays a factor into many other aspects of our life. Stress is known to affect our ability to lose or maintain weight, manage pain, and learn new things.
Unfortunately, stress is so rampant in most professional and personal lives, that it has become accepted as a norm and is treated, if at all, with pharmaceuticals. The source root of stress is often ignored and natural mechanisms to improve our ability to monitor, respond, and regulate stress, such as meditation, are not often shared as viable solutions.
According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, 20% of adults reported that their stress was consistently at a 8, 9, or 10 on a 10 point scale. Only 37% of adults felt they were doing a good job of managing their stress.
A study from 1974 found that regular meditation prompted the “relaxation response” in the brain, very similar to the state the brain is in when sleeping.
Meditation also contributes to stress reduction by reducing the reactivity of the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for triggering fear and “fight or flight” reactions. A Stanford study followed participants over the course of an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course (MBSR) and not only noticed a decrease of activity in the amygdala, but an increase of activity in the areas of the brain that help regulate emotions.
The Application of Guided Meditation for Anxiety and Depression
Most of the studies that found a relationship between meditation and stress relief also found a relation to decreases in anxiety levels. This is not surprising since anxiety and stress are so similar. Yet, where stress relief focuses on improving your body and mind’s “fight or flight” reaction to outside elements, reducing anxiety focuses on differentiating between problem-solving thoughts and pointless nagging worries.
In 1993, a three-year study published in the Journal of General Hospital Psychiatry found that meditation had “long-term beneficial effects in the treatment of people diagnosed with anxiety disorders.”
However, the ability of meditation to reduce anxiety is not limited to those who have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Researchers from John Hopkins University evaluated nearly 19,000 studies regarding meditation. They found that those which used a true scientific method and appropriate control groups showed evidence of an improvement in anxiety levels and depression.
What we found particularly interesting is that the research showed that meditation was often as effective at treating depression as antidepressants. This is a huge discovery, as antidepressants often carry negative side effects.
Another study from the University of Exeter reported similar findings. They found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) was more effective at treating depression than antidepressants and counseling, with most patients feeling well enough to stop taking antidepressants after just four months of practicing MBCT.
Mindfulness meditation was also shown to reduce the risk of relapsing for those who have suffered from depression in the past. While 78% of those who have suffered depression in the past will relapse, a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that only 34% of those practicing mindfulness meditation would relapse.
Meditation is not a one-stop solution for all disease and problems. However, meditation is a powerful tool in the biohacking entrepreneur’s arsenal. The data behind it is growing and the proof is impossible to ignore. You should still consult your doctor before you stop taking medication, or start a complementary therapy such as mindfulness meditation.
Wondering how to get into meditation?
✓ Learn The Benefits Of De-Cluttering Your Mind
✓ Learn Technique That Provides The Proven Benefits Of Meditation
✓ Learn To Increase Self And Situational Awareness
You can download your guide by clicking here
Our beginner’s guide to meditation is meant to help you start realizing some of the benefits as quickly as possible. However, if you are looking for a more in-depth guide, we recommend starting with some of the free guided meditations from Dr. Ronald Siegel, or starting the free 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course provided by fully certified MBSR instructor Dave Potter, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
- Meditation has proven beneficial impacts on our health, both mental and physical, including, but not limited to:
- immune system
- The evidence can not be ignored. The costs of our modern lifestyles are too high to go unchecked and meditation is one of the safest ways to combat the negative effects we deal with every day.
In the next part of our Meditation for Entrepreneurs series, we will be discussing the brain boosting effects of meditation, including its ability to increase creativity. Subscribe below to receive the latest mind hacks and optimization tips for entrepreneurs.
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