Meditation

Introduction

The World Health Organisation estimates stress may cost western companies an average of £2.073 million pounds per year through absenteeism, turn-over and low productivity. It is suggested that one in ten westerners may suffer from depression. According to the United States Centres for Disease Control approximately 40 million Americans have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Meditating for 30-40 minutes has been suggested to be an effective alternative treatment for reducing symptoms of depression anxiety and chronic pain according to new research [1-2].  

In this health news article I will briefly overview the following;

 

  1. What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

  2. How it Works

  3. Final Thoughts

1. What is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness meditation has become very popular in recent years as a way of helping to calm the mind and to reduce health related problems. Meditating involves sitting comfortably, where a person will focus on their breathing to draw their mind attention to the present moment without thinking about past or future concerns. Today there are many different types of meditative training programs available to help promote awareness to meet the person’s needs. Mindfulness meditation is no magic cure but it may help people manage such symptoms of stress, depression, anxiety and chronic pain [2,7-8].    

 

2. How it works

Research suggests that mindfulness meditation may work on many different levels. For example;

 

Influences change in key regions of the brain

It may influence changes in the gray matter density volume to help reduce activity in the “me” centres of the brain. This may encourage the connectivity between key regions of the brain which may influence the structure of the brain [3].

 

Promotes mood and well-being

Following an eight week mindfulness meditation study, scientists found an increase in cortical thickness in the hippocampus which governs learning and memory in certain regions of the brain that play key roles in regulating emotions and self-referential processing. The study suggests that there were decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala which is responsible for fear, anxiety and stress. This would suggest that mindfulness meditation may not only influence the brain but may also influence changes in subjective perception and feelings of mood and well-being [4].

 

Promotes concentration and attention levels

Another study found mindfulness meditation promotes people’s concentration levels by helping people to focus better on their memory during the verbal reasoning section of GRE. This suggests that it may promote peoples cognitive skills [5].        

 

Reduces anxiety

Studies have demonstrated that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) meditation programs may help reduce people’s anxiety levels both physically and mentally. It is thought that these changes occur through the self-referential brain regions involved in attention (me centred thoughts) that helps relieve symptoms such as social anxiety disorders [6-8].

 

Helps with addiction

A number of studies suggests meditation effects self-control regions of the brain which may help people recover from various types of addiction such as smoking. Research suggests that mindfulness meditation helps people quit smoking by decoupling the active state of craving until it passes. Other studies suggest mindfulness-based training combined with cognitive therapy (MBCT) and mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) can also be beneficial for treating various types of addictions [9-11].  

 

Helps school children

Scientists suggest that mindfulness meditation shows promising signs for developing minds. Although more research is needed, studies suggest that it may have cognitive and emotional benefits on school aged children. This may help school children deal with stress and additional day to day trauma of stressors inside and outside school thereby reducing school absences [12-15].

 

Influences genes 

Scientists suggest that mind body techniques may even influence genes that are associated to stress and immune function. Through neuro-imaging and genomics technology scientists were able to measure physiological changes in finer detail to help substantiate these findings [16].

 

3. Final thoughts

Studies in mindfulness meditation may encourage doctors to try alternative routes combined with conventional medicine to help tackle a myriad of health related problems such as stress and anxiety etc. The studies did not find that meditation was more effective than other treatments such as prescription drugs. However the studies did demonstrate that mind body techniques can influence a person’s focused thoughts, breathing and emotions. This may moderate the need for such medications to treat anxiety and depression however further research is still required. The studies also suggest that mindfulness techniques may help improve symptoms for those patients that suffer with chronic pain.  Finally mindfulness meditation techniques may help us become more aware of our thoughts, emotions and breathing that can promote positive effects so why not give it a try today.

 

As always thanks for reading this article, enjoy your sport. If you enjoyed reading this article you may enjoy reading my other article on Benefits and Effects of Massage or our extensive range of Holistic Therapies.

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References

  1. Prof Brun, P. Work related stress: scientific evidence-base of risk factors, prevention and costs: Occupational Health and Safety Management  Accessed March 2016 http://www.cgsst.com/stock/fra/doc263-854.pdf

  2. Goyal, M (2014) Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis JAMA Intern Med 2014;174(3):357-368. Accessed March 2016 http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1809754     

  3. Holzel, K,B. (2011) Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter Accessed March 2016  US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health Psychiatry Res 2011 191(1): 36-43 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/       

  4. Lazer S,W. (2014) Changes in Brainstem Gray Matter Concentration Following a Mindfulness-Based Intervention is Correlated with improvement in Psychological-Well-Being: Front Hum Neurosci, 2014; 8:33 Accessed PMC March 2016 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3927233/

  5. Michael, D. (2013) Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering: Psychological Science May (2013) vol.24 no.5 776-781 Accessed Sage Journals March 2016 http://pss.sagepub.com/content/24/5/776  

  6. Miller J,J. (1995) Three year follow-up and clinical implications of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention in the treatment of anxiety disorders: Psychiatry Medicine and Primary Care May (1995) Vol 17 Issue 3, Pages 192-200. Accessed March 2016 General Hospital Psychiatry http://www.ghpjournal.com/article/0163-8343(95)00025-M/abstract  

  7. Zeidan, F. (2014) Neural correlates of mindfulness meditation related anxiety relief: Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci (2014) 9 (6): 751-759. Accessed March 2016 Neuroscience from Oxford http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/9/6/751.short

  8. Goldin, P. (2013) MBSR vs aerobic exercise in social anxiety: FMRI of emotions regulation of negative self-beliefs: Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci (2013) 8 (1): 65-72. Accessed March 2016 Oxford Journals http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/8/1/65.short

  9. Tang, Y. (2013) Brief meditation training induces smoking reduction;: PNAS (2013) 13971-13975 110  no. 34, doi: 10. 1073/pnas.1311887110 Accessed March 2016 http://www.pnas.org/content/110/34/13971.short

  10. Brewer, JA. (2011) Mindfulness training for smoking cessation: results from a randomised controlled trial 1;119(1-2):72-80. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2011.05.027. Epub 2011 Jul 1 Accessed March 2016 Pub Med http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21723049

  11. Bowen, S. (2014) Relative Efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention, Standard Relapse Prevention, and Treatment as Usual for Substance Use Disorders. A randomised Clinical Trial: JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(5):547-556  http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1839290

  12. Bostic J,K (2015) Being Present at School: Implementing Mindfulness in Schools: Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America Vol 24 Issue 2, April 2015, Pages 245-259 School Mental Health http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1056499314001229

  13. Mark, T. (2011) Nurturing Mindfulness in Children and Youth: Current State of Research: Child Development Perspectives Vol 2 Issue 6 pages 161-166 June 2012. doi:10.1111/j.1750-8606.2011.00215. Accessed March 2016 Wiley Online Library http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1750-8606.2011.00215.x/full

  14. San Francisco Schools Transformed by the Power of Meditation: NBC News Jan 2015. Accessed March 2016 nbcnews.com http://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/san-francisco-schools-transformed-power-meditation-n276301    

  15. Black D,S. Fernando, R. (2014) Mindfulness Training and Classroom Behaviour Among Lower-Income and Ethnic Minority Elementary School Children: Journal of Child and Family Studies (2014), Vol 23, Issue 7, pp 1242-1246 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10826-013-9784-4

  16. Denninger J,W. (2013) Relaxation Response Induces Temporal Transcriptome Changes in Energy Metabolism Insulin Secretion and Inflammatory Pathways. Accessed March 2016 PLOS One journals http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0062817

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