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Posts Tagged ‘health’

28 September 2013 20 Scientific Reasons to Start Meditating Today

September 11, 2013
by Emma M. Seppala, Ph.D.
Psychology Today

New research shows meditation boosts your health, happiness, and success!

I started meditating soon after 9/11. I was living in Manhattan, an already chaotic place, at an extremely chaotic time. I realized I had no control over my external environment. But the one place I did have a say over was my mind, through meditation. When I started meditating, I did not realize it would also make me healthier, happier, and more successful. Having witnessed the benefits, I devoted my PhD research at Stanford to studying the impact of meditation. I saw people from diverse backgrounds from college students to combat veterans benefit. In the last 10 years, hundreds of studies have been released. Here are 20 scientifically-validated reasons you might want to get on the bandwagon today:

It Boosts Your HEALTH

1 – Increases immune function (See here and here)

2 – Decreases Pain (see here)

3 – Decreases Inflammation at the Cellular Level (See here and here and here)

It Boosts Your HAPPINESS

4 – Increases Positive Emotion (here and here)

5 – Decreases Depression (see here)

6 – Decreases Anxiety (see here and here and here)

7 – Decreases Stress (see here and  here)

It Boosts Your SOCIAL LIFE

Think meditation is a solitary activity? It may be (unless you meditate in a group which many do!) but it actually increases your sense of connection to others:

8 – Increases social connection & emotional intelligence (see here and – by yours truly – here)

9 – Makes you more compassionate (see here and here and here)

10 – Makes you feel less lonely (see here)

It Boosts Your Self-Control

11 – Improves your ability to regulate your emotions (see here) (Ever flown off the handle or not been able to quiet your mind? Here’s the key)

12 – Improves your ability to introspect (see here & for why this is crucial see this post)

It Changes Your BRAIN (for the better)

13 – Increases grey matter (see here)

14 – Increases volume in areas related to emotion regulation, positive emotions & self-control (see here and here)

15 – Increases cortical thickness in areas related to paying attention (see here)

It Improves Your Productivity (yup, by doing nothing)

16 – Increases your focus & attention (see here and here and here and here)

17 – Improves your ability to multitask (see here and here)

18 – Improves your memory (see here)

19 – Improves your ability to be creative & think outside the box (see research by J. Schooler)

20. It Makes You WISE(R)

It gives you perspective: By observing your mind, you realize you don’t have to be slave to it. You realize it throws tantrums, gets grumpy,jealous, happy and sad but that it doesn’t have to run you. Meditation is quite simply mental hygiene: clear out the junk, tune your talents, and get in touch with yourself. Think about it, you shower every day and clean your body, but have you ever showered your mind? As a consequence, you’ll feel more clear and see thing with greater perspective. “The quality of our life depends on the quality of our mind,” writes Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. We can’t control what happens on the outside but we do have a say over the quality of our mind. No matter what’s going on, if your mind is ok, everything is ok. Right now.

It Keeps You Real

Once you get to know your mind, you start to own your stuff and become more authentic, maybe even humble. You realize the stories and soap operas your mind puts you through and you gain some perspective on them. You realize most of us are caught up in a mind-drama and become more compassionate towards others.

 

6 June 2013 Meditation as a medical key for success

By Holly Glen Gearhart
June 4, 2013
The Monroe Monitor
Meditation is an ancient art of controlled thought, practiced throughout the world for centuries.

Sometimes in the form of prayer, song or guided imagery, meditation has gained respect as an important medical component in addition to traditional medical procedures. From cancer treatment to addressing PTSD, medical studies reveal that slowing the mind during treatment can and does enhance traditional medicine methodologies.

Dr Yocum’s patient studies concluded that those of his patients who set aside time for meditating had more productive responses to daily stressors. In addition, he found that this method proved to lower heart rates, “… better hormonal changes and improved immune function; and that meditation, in combination with traditional medicines, appears to help arthritis patients” adding that, “People who meditate tolerate pain better.”

Simply put, meditation is a form of conscious and focused thinking, often directed with the use of music or spoken word.

Using controlled tests, Western medical doctors have found that the use of focused thought during treatments, “…can help with a host of health problems. Relaxing and quieting your mind by focusing on your breathing can reduce stress – even the stress that comes with arthritic flares,” according to David E. Yocum, MD, director of the Arizona Arthritis Center in Tucson.

Studies at the Mayo Clinic using biofeedback have proved that there is a tangible medical benefit for patients. They studied patients who needed to focus on making physical changes to achieve results such as reducing pain.

Stopping short of calling meditation a cure for illness, the Mayo Clinic states, “Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both your emotional wellbeing and your overall health,” adding, “ Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and can even improve certain medical conditions.”

They suggest that, through meditation, you can clean your mental slate of the have-tos of everyday life, which promotes emotional wellbeing. As a result you gain perspective and build skills to manage stress by focusing on the present which, in turn, reduces negative emotions. The Mayo Clinic suggests meditation as a complementary tool for traditional medical care.

Relaxation and bodily responses are not the soul benefit of taking time to “smell the roses;” there can be a spiritual function, as well. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Care Clinic of Seattle utilizes the services of reverend Stephen King, PhD, among others, in their chaplaincy services.

Using the findings from Making Health Care Whole, 2010, defined spirituality as, “the aspect of humanity that expresses and seeks meaning and purpose and the way (to feel) connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature and to the significant or sacred.”

One of the positive outcomes from spiritual connectedness is a stronger relationship with God (or the God of your choice), seeking love and care from the same and working with God to seek healing.

In the United States, the practice of meditation grew enormously during the 1960s, perhaps in part because The Beatles studied transcendental meditation in India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Something as simple as ten minutes a day in quiet reflection is now an accepted way to begin a workday; some major corporations use meditation in team building. The onset of the technological revolution was part of this road to acceptance and may have found its way into corporate America after word spread that Steve Jobs was practicing meditation on a daily basis.

Some forms of meditation involve deep thought, breathing exercises and chanting. You don’t have to spend a lot of time on the practice in order to see results. Your day maybe filled to overflowing with little time for reflection. However, spending as little as five or 10 minutes sitting quietly, paying attention to your breathing and embracing positive feelings can be a successful tool in your survival box.

Continued research on the benefits of meditation is, “…tipping the balance in favor of implementing these therapies in the medical world to improve the lives of patients, including those who are undergoing cancer treatment. Physicians and academic researchers finally have the science to understand the connection between the brain and the immune system, emotions and disease,” said Dr. Esther Sternberg, a National Institutes of Health senior scientist and author of  The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions.

The supporting evidence is coming from such places such as the Fred Hutchinson Center, where scientists are studying measurements and testing the value of meditative therapies.

These measurements are an important component, according to Dr. Karen Syrjala, head of Biobehavioral Sciences at the Hutchinson Center. “If we expect that psychological or behavioral strategies will have health outcomes, we must be able to show the pathway or mechanism through which that occurs,” she said.

 

7 December 2012 Think yourself well

Dec 8th 2012
The Economist
 
 You can. But it helps to think well of yourself in the first place
 
 

The Vagus Nerve

The link between mind and body is terrain into which many medical researchers, fearing ridicule, dare not tread. But perhaps more should do so. For centuries, doctors have recognised the placebo effect, in which the illusion of treatment, such as pills without an active ingredient, produces real medical benefits. More recently, respectable research has demonstrated that those who frequently experience positive emotions live longer and healthier lives. They have fewer heart attacks, for example, and fewer colds too.

Why this happens, though, is only slowly becoming understood. What is needed is an experiment that points out specific and measurable ways in which such emotions alter an individual’s biology. And a study published in Psychological Science, by Barbara Fredrickson and Bethany Kok at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, does precisely that.

Dr Fredrickson and Dr Kok concentrated their attentions on the vagus nerve. This nerve (illustrated right, in an early anatomical drawing) starts in the brain and runs, via numerous branches, to several thoracic and abdominal organs including the heart. Among its jobs is to send signals telling that organ to slow down during moments of calm and safety.

How effectively the vagus nerve is working can be tracked by monitoring someone’s heart rate as he breathes in and out. Healthy vagal function is reflected in a subtle increase in heart rate while breathing in and a subtle decrease while breathing out. The difference yields an index of vagal tone, and the value of this index is known to be connected with health. Low values are, for example, linked to inflammation and heart attacks.

What particularly interested Dr Fredrickson and Dr Kok was recent work that showed something else about the vagal-tone index: people with high tone are better than those with low at stopping bad feelings getting overblown. They also show more positive emotions in general. This may provide the missing link between emotional well-being and physical health. In particular, the two researchers found, during a preliminary study they carried out in 2010, that the vagal-tone values of those who experience positive emotions over a period of time go up. This left them wondering whether positive emotions and vagal tone drive one another in a virtuous spiral. They therefore conducted an experiment on 65 of the university’s staff, to try to find out.

They measured all of their volunteers’ vagal tones at the beginning of the experiment and at its conclusion nine weeks later. In between, the volunteers were asked to go each evening to a website especially designed for the purpose, and rate their most powerful emotional experiences that day. Dr Fredrickson and Dr Kok asked their volunteers to consider nine positive emotions, such as hope, joy and love, and 11 negative ones, including anger, boredom and disgust. They were asked to rate, on a five-point scale, whether—and how strongly—they had felt each emotion. One point meant “not at all”; five meant “extremely”. In addition, half the participants, chosen at random, were invited to a series of workshops run by a licensed therapist, to learn a meditation technique intended to engender in the meditator a feeling of goodwill towards both himself and others. This group was encouraged to meditate daily, and to report the time they spent doing so.

Dr Fredrickson and Dr Kok discovered that vagal tone increased significantly in people who meditated, and hardly at all in those who did not. Among meditators, those who started the experiment with the highest vagal-tone scores reported the biggest increases in positive emotions. Meditators who started with particularly low scores showed virtually no such boost.

Taken as a whole, these findings suggest high vagal tone makes it easier to generate positive emotions and that this, in turn, drives vagal tone still higher. That is both literally and metaphorically a positive feedback loop. Which is good news for the emotionally positive, but bad for the emotionally negative, for it implies that those who most need a psychosomatic boost are incapable of generating one. A further (as yet unpublished) experiment by Dr Kok suggests, however, that the grumpy need not give up all hope. A simpler procedure than meditation, namely reflecting at night on the day’s social connections, did seem to cause some improvement to their vagal tone. This might allow even those with a negative outlook on life to “bootstrap” their way to a mental state from which they could then advance to the more powerful technique of meditation.

Whether, besides improving general health, the mechanism Dr Fredrickson and Dr Kok have discovered helps explain the placebo effect remains to be investigated. But it might, because part of that effect seems to be the good feeling engendered by the fact of being treated. More generally, doctors in the ancient world had a saying: “a healthy mind in a healthy body”. This sort of work suggests that though this proverb is true, a better one might be, “a healthy mind for a healthy body”.

12 November 2012 Meditation Boosts Mood, Eases Pain & Stress

by Michelle Schoffro Cook
November 2, 201
Care2.com

While most people associate meditation with religion, this simple and powerful practiced transcends religious beliefs. Meditation is like a short vacation away from the stresses of everyday life to allow you to center your mind and create a peaceful feeling. And, the research is showing that meditation is great for your health.

In one study published in Health Behavior News Service, scientists found that brain scans and blood tests showed positive effects of meditation. In this study of 48 employees at a biotechnology company, half were trained in meditation and practiced it for one hour a day, six days a week using guided meditations that had been prerecorded. The other half of the participants did not meditate. Dr. Richard J. Davidson at the University of Wisconsin found that the meditators had greater electrical activity in their brains than the non-meditators. Some of the effects of meditation continued for up to four months after the participants discontinued their meditative practice.

Other research shows improvements in mood, pain threshold, immune system activity, and bronchial and arterial smooth muscle tone. The studies also show a decrease in stress hormones and a reversal in the effects of chronic stress.

Daily practice offers the greatest benefits. Over time it becomes easier. By meditating on a regular basis you can train your mind to relax and release stress.

There are several ways to meditate: breathing meditation, walking meditation, sitting meditation, mindfulness meditation, guided meditation, and visualization. Choose the type that has the most appeal for you and best fits with your lifestyle and health goals.

Breathing meditation is one of the easiest and most convenient forms of meditation. It can be done anywhere at almost any time, even if you only have several minutes. It requires no special equipment other than your lungs. You can do a breathing meditation while you are waiting in a doctor’s office, grocery store lineup, or at your desk. You can use a regular reminder throughout the day to help you remember to breathe deeply. You could choose to take deep breaths on commercial breaks while watching television or at red lights while you are traveling.

Make time for meditation, even if it is on the bus ride home from work, or while you are sitting in your office, but try to practice it daily. The rewards are far greater than the time and effort it takes to meditate. Soon you will discover that meditation requires little or no effort at all.

Adapted from The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan by Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD. Subscribe to my free e-mag World’s Healthiest News to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more. Follow me on Twitter @mschoffrocook and Facebook. Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD.

 

 

 

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26 February 2012 Meditation Boosts the Brain

Owen Nicholas
IEET
Posted: Feb 24, 2012

Science and meditation are two things that one might initially regard as having no more in common with each other as Chinese calligraphy and Italian pasta. Science, however, has recently examined the eastern tradition to answer the longstanding question: how does meditation work?  Is anything actually happening or is it “all in the head?”

The effects of meditation on human cognition and physical health have become the subject of numerous scientific studies in the past decade. Results are linking meditative practice to improved memory, concentration and self-control, and the lowering of stress, blood pressure and other psychological conditions.

For example, UCLA researchers are exploring the connection between meditation and resistance to age-related brain atrophy. Assistant professor Eileen Luders states that: “Meditation appears to be a powerful mental exercise with the potential to change the physical structure of the brain…. it might not only cause changes in brain anatomy by inducing growth but also by preventing reduction. That is, if practiced regularly and over years, meditation may slow down aging-related brain atrophy, perhaps by positively affecting the immune system.”
Here’s a listing of additional study results:

* M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after participants’ meditation found increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. The images also showed a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress.

* High-risk patients who meditated cut their risk of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from all causes roughly in half compared with a group of similar patients who were given more conventional education about healthy diet and lifestyle. The meditators remained disease-free longer and reduced their systolic blood pressure.

* Meditation reduces stress, due to brain changes that cut stress hormones like cortisol and dampen the inflammatory processes associated with atherosclerosis.

* Students at risk of hypertension that practiced meditation reduced their systolic blood pressure by 6.3 millimeters of mercury and their diastolic pressure by 4 millimeters of mercury on average.

* Meditators have demonstrated superior ability at detecting fast-changing stimuli, like emotional facial expressions. Mediation may also increase concentration levels by helping to control brain phenomenon such as the attentional blink.

* Researchers found that when meditators heard the sounds of people suffering, they had stronger activation levels in their temporal parietal junctures, a part of the brain tied to empathy, than people who did not meditate. Distressed sounds elicited stronger empathetic responses than the positive and neutral noises, and the brain activity in these regions was much stronger in the seasoned meditators.

* Meditation increases the thickness of the cortex in areas involved in attention and sensory processing, such as the prefrontal cortex and the right anterior insula. The finding is in line with studies showing that accomplished musicians, athletes and linguists all have thickening in relevant areas of the cortex.

* Mindfulness meditation holds promise for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which provokes intrusive thoughts, emotional numbness and hypervigilance. It could also lead to decreased activity in an area of the brain implicated in a range of neurological disorders, potentially even slowing down the onset of dementia.

* Scans taken after meditation training showed that every participant’s pain ratings were reduced, with decreases ranging from 11 to 93 percent. At the same time, meditation significantly reduced brain activity in the primary somatosensory cortex, an area that is crucially involved in creating the feeling of where and how intense a painful stimulus is.

An interesting debate ignited by the studies has been the suggestion that the personal beliefs of the researchers are directly influencing results by distorting scientific objectivity. These arguments were played out in a similar context during the early 20th century when psychoanalysis was causing a stir.

As science pushes forward, age-old beliefs have become increasingly threatened, marginalised and retired. It has been easy for many to imagine that all spiritual practices, meditation included, may eventually go the same way. Yet here is one example where science – far from dismantling a social practice – may, in fact, give it new life by informing and invigorating it’s processes.

8 February 2012 Benefits of Meditation: Some May Surprise You

Most physicians within the field of traditional medicine not only cite the health benefits of meditation, they actually prescribe it for many of their patients.  Most of us are aware that practicing medication can improve our health by doing things like lower our blood pressure.  Meditation can even strengthen our immune system and help the body fight off infection and disease.  However, there are many other, often overlooked benefits of practicing meditation that you may not be aware of – or need to be reminded of.

Meditation can help you lose weight

At the time this was written one out of every three adults in the United States is obese.  Most people don’t understand the difference between being overweight and being obese.  If you are overweight, it means you weigh more than an average range relative to your height.  If you are obese, it means that you have excessive body fat.  More important is the fact that obesity is significantly more dangerous to your health then being overweight.

benefits of meditation

It comes as no surprise that the cause of obesity – eating more than we should – but the reason why many of us eat more than we should is where meditation comes into play.  A large majority of obesity is caused by something called “emotional eating.”  Emotional eating is a response to high levels of anxiety, stress, or other mood related states such as sadness, even boredom.

The practice of meditation promotes reduces levels  of anxiety and stress, and can also improve our mood.  All of which reduces the risk of emotional eating as well as promoting weight loss.

Mediation can make you younger

While this may sound like some crazy claim you’d hear on a late night informercial, there is scientific evidence that meditation can reverse biological age.  Biological age is the term used to describe how old someone is physiologically.  It is based on how well major body systems are working.  Research studies on those who have been practicing meditation regularly for more than 5 years indicates that, on average, these meditators are 12 years younger physiologically than their actual chronological age.

Meditation can relieve insomnia

Research estimates that there are 70 million Americans who suffer from insomnia.  Add to that number those who have occasional difficulty getting and staying asleep, and we can see why the pharmaceutical companies are making billions off of sleeping pills both by prescription and over the counter.  However, sleeping pills can have detrimental side effects, some of which represent serious risks to your health and well-being.

Practicing meditation at bedtime can be an extremely effective and natural sleeping aid – and the side effects are all positive.  Bedtime mediation not only promotes getting to sleep more quickly as well as staying asleep, but has been shown in medical studies to create improvement of sleep in 100% of those in the study and 91% of those who continued to meditate regularly after the study reported that they were able to significantly reduce or eliminate their reliance on sleeping pills. benefits of meditation

Meditation helps you remember things

There are many ways to improve your memory and scientists have now included meditation among them.  One study involved having people meditate for 40 days.  The results were astounding.  After the study the people who participated in the study were tested along with a group who had not participated.  Researchers were impressed by statistics that showed those who had participated by meditating for 40 days did four times better on memory tests than those who did not.

Meditation frees the creative mind

Creativity is one of the most profound characteristics of being human.  Unfortunately, in a world filled with distractions and almost constant stressors, for many of us creativity is stymied.  Those who practice meditation benefit by quieting their agitated and anxious mind.  Additionally, science suggests that mediation assists in the promotion of what you might call a “free exchange of ideas” between our “creative” right brain and our “rational” left brain.  Furthermore, the practice of meditation improves our ability to focus.  All of these things encourage creative thinking and new ideas.

Meditation can increase your intelligence

At one time it was felt that a person’s level of intelligence was fixed at birth.  In other words, you were stuck with whatever amount of intelligence you happened to be born with.  Research now indicates that our brains our much more “plastic” than previously thought, meaning that it is possible to improve IQs.  There are various methods shown to improve IQ, and researchers include meditation into this mix.  Evidence for this includes measuring muscle mass.  Meditation has been shown to increase the muscle mass of the cortex of the brain, what is commonly referred to as “grey matter.”  It has been shown that practicing meditation can contribute as much as 20 points to an individuals IQ.

For more, read the original at Quantum Jumping.

11 January 2012 Compassion, the vagus nerve and how to live longer

by David R. Hamilton PHD
Patterns of Experience:Body Therapies and Healing Trauma
September 23, 2010

The Philosopher’s Stone Has Been Found…It’s Inside You

For centuries learned people have searched for the mystical philosopher’s stone, believed to be the elixir of life and give immortality to he or she who owns it.

But could it be that the philosopher’s stone is not so much a stone but an attitude?

A groundbreaking piece of research by Kevin Tracey, director of the Feinstein Institute and Professor and President of the Elmezzi graduate school of molecular medicine in Manhasset, New York, has revealed how the nervous system (the vagus nerve) controls inflammation in the body, now known as ‘The Inflammatory Reflex’. Inflammation is one of the major contributors to aging of the body and plays a key role in illness and disease.

Most people think of inflammation as the swelling and redness after a cut. This inflammation is a vital part of healing and helps to ensure that nutrient-rich blood is drawn to the site of injury to help facilitate healing. But it turns out that if it wasn’t for the vagus nerve  – the longest nerve in the body that runs from the top of the brainstream, through the face, throat, chest, heart, the GI tract, all major organs, and even over certain immune cells – inflammation from a small cut would typically spill out into the bloodstream and lead to septic shock and multiple organ failure.

The vagus nerve is the brake on inflammation throughout the body. Once the vagus nerve senses that there are enough inflammatory substances (the chemicals of inflammation) following an injury it sends a signal to the immune cells that make those chemicals and tells them to turn off production.

The vagus nerve puts the brakes on inflammation in much the same way that you might apply the brake in your car when you’re travelling a little over the speed limit.

The vagus nerve is highly important because inflammation doesn’t only arise in response to injury; it is also a side effect of unhealthy lifestyle factors – like poor diet, drinking, stress, etc. It plays a key role in heart disease, some cancers, and in fact it is involved in just about every serious disease we know of in western medicine.

Indeed, it is one the ‘Major Agers’, which are phenomena that most cause aging. So much so, in fact, that many gerontologists believe that if science could develop a powerful body-wide anti-inflammatory drug then the average person would live until they were around 150 years old.

But we now know that the vagus nerve is our natural anti-inflammatory nerve. Maybe the wonder drug that pharmaceutical companies are currently searching for isn’t necessary. Maybe all we need to do is train our vagus nerves in much the same way that we train at a gym. Is this possible?

It seems that people have different vagus nerve activity, or what is sometimes called, ‘vagal tone’. Think of it like muscle tone. A person who exercises regularly might enjoy good muscle tone and similarly a person who exercises or does meditation, yoga or tai chi, might enjoy good vascular tone. Vagal tone is used in a similar capacity to indicate power, activity, health etc of the vagus nerve.

Some people’s nervous systems, then, are more efficient at keeping inflammation at bay, just as different people have different immune system robustness. Some are good at keeping them free of illness and some aren’t quite so good.

Recently, a link has been identified between the vagus nerve and compassion. In some studies people who are most compassionate were found to have the highest vagal tone, and similarly the reverse is also true. People who have the highest vagal tone tend to be the most compassionate. In some of this research Dacher Keltner, psychology professor at Berkley, calls these people ‘vagal superstars’. According to much of his research, the association between the vagus nerve and compassion is very strong.

So could training ourselves to be more compassionate actually train the vagus nerve and reduce inflammation in the body? Scientists have indeed recently studied the link between compassion and inflammation.

In a 2009 study, scientists at Emory University School of Medicine, trained 33 people in a compassion meditation, which involved the structured generation of feelings of compassion on a daily basis, and compared them with a group of 28 people who didn’t do the meditation. After 6 weeks those who did the compassion meditation had much lower levels of inflammation in their bodies than those who didn’t.

Since the vagus nerve is the primary brake on inflammation and compassion is correlated with the vagus nerve, it makes sense that compassion actually reduces inflammation in the body.

Could it be that the philosopher’s stone that many have searched long and hard for has always been right in front of our eyes? In fact, it is not so much in front of our eyes but in our hearts? Could it be that simple? History has taught us that things usually are that simple. Maybe it’s called the philosopher’s stone because it takes a philosopher to consider compassion to be the elixir of life. Perhaps humanity has only just reached a point of spiritual maturity to even contemplate such a thing.

So why is it that compassionate people everywhere aren’t living until they’re over a hundred? Well, we counter the effects of it with other lifestyle choices we make – the unhealthy foods we eat, the toxins and stimulants we take into our bodies, our unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking (too much), not exercising regularly, and also our mental emotional stresses of life. Many of us are so stressed that we neutralise the effects of most of our healthy habits. Perhaps, the journey now is to learn to treat our bodies and minds well.

The new healthy formula:

Eat well, sleep well, exercise well, think well, and show people that you care!

Perhaps this formula is the mystical philosopher’s stone. Maybe the stone is not a stone, but a Way, the philosopher’s Way.

And that way is compassion.

References:

For Kevin Tracey’s discovery of the inflammatory reflex, see K. J. Tracey, ‘The inflammatory reflex’, Nature 420, 2002, 853–9; also H. Wang, et al., ‘Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor alpha7 subunit is an essential regulator of inflammation’, Nature 421, 2003, 384–8

For the link between the vagus nerve and compassion, see Dacher Keltner, Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, Norton, New York, 2009

For the study of compassion meditation and inflammation, see: T. W. W. Pace, L. T. Negi, D. D. Adame, S. P. Cole, T. I. Sivillia, T. D. Brown, M. J. Issa and C. L. Raison, ‘Effect of compassion meditation on neuroendocrine, innate immune and behavioural responses to psychosocial stress’, Psychoneuroendocrinology 34, 2009, 87–98

For a good summary of the compassion-vagus nerve-inflammation link, see David R Hamilton PhD, Why Kindness is Good for You, Hay House, London, 2010.

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