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Healthy You

Benefits of Meditation

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 7:03 AM

Polly Liontis, AOBTA-CP, HITA, Integrative Medicine Program at NorthShore, explains what meditation is, the benefits and how you can do it at home.

What’s the buzz about meditation? Take a look at some of the many benefits of practicing meditation:


  • Induces relaxation
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces the rate of stroke and heart disease
  • Can reduce pain intensity by 40 – 60%, and in some cases, better than morphine
  • Alleviates depression, insomnia, sleeplessness, anxiety and worry
  • Increases the brain’s neuroplasticity (ability to change in response to environmental influences)
  • Boosts endorphins and serotonin
  • Improves concentration
  • Increases ability to regulate emotions
  • Can increase concentration, productivity, learning, happiness, well-being and inner peace
  • Protects your telomeres – the protective caps at the end of our chromosomes

Meditation induces a relaxation response and takes the body out of the “fight-or-flight” stress response, which causes the body to pump cortisol into the blood stream, increases the heart rate, and over time, contributes to all the major diseases people experience in this country – heart disease, diabetes, cancer and autoimmune disorders.

Stress exacerbates any symptoms you already have and is a major cause of hospital and doctor visits.

All forms of meditation begin with slowing and deepening the breath – practicing good, deep diaphragmatic breathing. And deep breathing is something you can do anytime of the day, anywhere in the world and for free!

Diaphragmatic Breathing Simple Meditation. Keep your attention and focus on your breath, and allow your thoughts to soften and recede. Polly shares a step-by-step guide:

  1. Sit towards the front of your chair, spine straight, feet flat on the floor.
  2. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to the movement of your breath.
  3. Begin to slow your breath down.
  4. Place one hand on your chest, and one hand on your belly, and begin to breathe into your hands.
  5. You should feel the movement of your breath under each hand.
  6. You want to cultivate 5 qualities in your breathing: deep, smooth, even, without sound, and without pause.
  7. Now bring your hands to the outside of your ribcage (literally at the sides of the body), and breathe into your hands again.
  8. You should feel the ribcage literally expand horizontally from side to side with each in-breath.
  9. Finally, allow your hands to rest on your lap, and imagine your entire torso as a balloon which expands from the center out on each in breath.

Continue to breathe deeply for 3 – 5 minutes. When you finish, open your eyes and take a few moments to scan your body and notice how you feel. Do this on your lunch break, or even take a break once every hour to breathe deeply for 3 – 5 minutes!

Where and how often do you practice meditation?