I’m really geeking out about meditation and the effects emotions have on our physical and social well-being. Between just finishing “Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama” and taking a Positive Psychology class on Coursera, my life is being bombarded with research on how the mind and body are connected, and how meditation and our emotional state can affect our health. So, here are some random things on my mind…
- Being stressed out fucks with your immune system which increases the likelihood that you will get sick, and can even prevent vaccines from being as effective
- There is the positive feedback loop between practicing meditation and cardiovascular health. When people practice lovingkindess meditation they improve their interactions with others, which improves their cardiac vagal tone, which increases their ability to connect with other people, which improves their cardiac vagal tone… and vice versa. Meditation helps improve relationships, which improves health.
- Improving the cardiac vagal tone is linked to better regulation of your heart rhythm, glucose, and inflammation, as well as improved attention, emotions, and recognizing social cues
- The mind is part of the body and requires just as much care as our muscles and bones.
But, how does meditation compare to other practices that encourage love and connection? Can we study how secular meditation benefits the body and social relations, and compare that to highly religious people who don’t practice meditation? Or maybe people who volunteer a lot or play team sports?
If practicing lovingkindness benefits cardiovascular health, do negative emotions damage cardiovascular health? Do we see the same benefits in other types of meditation? What would happen if we started implementing mindfulness and lovingkindness meditation as part of our educational system? Or our workplace? Or covered meditation mentorship with health insurance? Could we see a decrease in health issues and social issues?
I don’t think meditation is a panacea to social and individual problems, but it certainly can’t hurt to encourage people to take a few minutes each day to focus on love and live in the moment.