Meditation & Health

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Doctor’s Order: Meditation is Therapeutic

Meditation is a popular topic right now, but not many people know about its innumerable benefits outside of just relaxing and relieving stress. Meditation is certainly the key to happiness and peaceful life, more so though, studies have established that practicing mindful meditation on a regular basis yields lifelong benefits such as reduced stress levels, reduced physical pain, improved sleep quality, lower blood pressure, a healthy heart, and decreased cellular inflammation. Moreover, mindfulness practice has been linked to increased serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, helping to battle against depression & anxiety. Clinical trials have proven that systematic mindfulness meditation results in greater activation in a part of the brain called the left prefrontal cortex which is associated with emotions, wellbeing, and acceptance of experience.

Dr Peter Malinowski, suggests that “Since the beginning of the new millenium the interest in the scientific exploration of meditation practices – in particular those of buddhist descent – has been increasing dramatically. New studies appear continuously, contributing to the ever-growing scientific descriptions of the processes involved in regular meditation practices and their enduring effects, physiologically as well as psychologically.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn created his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) in 1979, making this type of meditation one of the most widespread options available. The methods of this program are implemented on a secular basis by therapists and medical professionals, worldwide. By focusing on the present, instead of wandering into thoughts about the past or future, people who use this technique can manage anxiety and concentration virtually anywhere, anytime.

Through mindfulness practice individuals strive to maintain attention to internal and external experiences, as they occur in the present moment, in a non-judgemental way, manifesting acceptance, curiosity and openness. It is the exact opposite of “ruminative thinking” (the tendency to dwell on the same thought or theme) which creates low moods that persist and return. Mindful meditation teaches individuals to attach “labels” to thoughts and to detach from emotions so as to acquire the space and time needed for an informed response and avoid impulsive reactions. It teaches that thoughts are thoughts, not facts. It promotes self compassion, as well as, compassion to experience and others.

Mindfulness heightens body awareness. When an external stimulus triggers an emotional reaction, the attention system detects a conflict. Heightened body awareness helps to detect physiological aspects of the feelings present (e.g., body tension, rapid heartbeat, short shallow breath). This triggers the emotion regulation process to react to the stimulus differently than usual (i.e. just noticing it as opposed to reacting to it) and thus breaks harmful thinking patterns and habits, which lead to several mental & physical illnesses.

Resources

Links

  1. Center for Mindfulness – UMass Medical School
  2. MBSR as an Adjunct to Outpatient Psychotherapy
  3. Oxford Mindfulness Center
  4. https://meditation-research.org.uk/
  5. Mindfulness-based stress reduction for low back pain. A systematic review
  6. MBSR and health-related quality of life in a heterogeneous patient population
  7. Efficacy of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) : A Brief Overview
  8. Psychology Today
  9. Prevention of relapse/recurrence in major depression by MBCT
  10. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for generalized anxiety disorder
  11. Mindfulness Meditation Training Changes Brain Structure in 8 weeks – Science Daily (article) Amiishi Jha & James Carmody
  12. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

Books

  1. Full Catastrophe Living – Jon Kabat-Zinn
  2. Wherever You Go, There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn
  3. Coming to Our Senses – Jon Kabat Zinn
  4. A Gradual Awakening – Stephen Levine
  5. Mindfulness for Dummies – Ahamash Alidina
  6. 10% Happier. How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story – Dan Harris
  7. The Mindful Way Through Depression – Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn
  8. Mindfulness and Psychotherapy – Christopher Germer, Ronald Siegel and Paul Fulton (eds)
  9. Buddha’s Brain: the practical neuroscience of happiness, love & wisdom by Rick Handon, Richard Mendius
  10. Thoughts Without a Thinker – Mark Epstein
  11. Power over Panic – Brownwyn Fox
  12. Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation – Sharon Salzberg
  13. Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happines – Sharon Salzberg
  14. Mindfulness – Ronald D. Siegel, Christopher K Germer, and Andrew Olendzki
  15. The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions – Christopher Germer

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