As you learn about new techniques for managing mental health and emotional issues, meditation might be one mentioned most frequently. But what purpose does it serve, and can it really help you? Let’s look at the science behind it and how it enhances well-being.
Yes, Researchers Study Meditation
Kind of surprising, isn’t it? Meditation, long associated with spiritual centering, continues to surprise the scientific community with how it impacts stress levels, clarity of thought, better sleep, and other aspects of life. While millions of people still use meditation in their religious observances, just as many rely on some form of practice as part of their overall wellness efforts. Here are some of the reasons why:
- A series of sample studies revealed that mindfulness and meditation improved participants’ attention span and self-regulation in times of stress.
- Meditation affects your brain in many positive ways. This comprehensive article cites research results in areas such as:
- Relief from anxiety
- Improving and eliminating waves of low mood
- A reduction in the nervous system’s “fight or flight” response
- Stronger release of natural mood-enhancing neurotransmitters, such as endorphins, GABA, serotonin, and melatonin.
- Reduced mental stress
- The Harvard Gazette points to the specific effects of mindfulness and meditation when included in the treatment plans of people with depression.
- Continued research in chronic pain management shows promise in how regular meditation can reduce the perception of pain or, at the very least, help people learn to manage it more effectively.
Meditate & Reap the Benefits
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health details these and other benefits of meditation.
Although the practice is generally considered to be safe for healthy people, the organization also outlines key health factors, listed verbatim, to consider before adding forms of meditation to your wellness care:
- Don’t use meditation to replace conventional care or as a reason to postpone seeing a health care provider about a medical problem.
- Ask about the training and experience of the meditation instructor you are considering.
- Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
- People with physical limitations may not be able to participate in certain meditative practices involving movement. People with physical health conditions should speak with their health care providers before starting a meditative practice, and make their meditation instructor aware of their condition.
Additionally, individuals with trauma histories or more complicated psychiatric issues should consult their therapists regarding the types of meditation and mindfulness practices that are best suited to their recovery.
Stories of Hope
Respecting the fact that each of us walks a different path, it’s still often helpful to learn about how other people use certain techniques to achieve better health. This might not always work to adjust to a taste for kale, but could have better results regarding meditation! Consider:
- Ed Halliwell learned how to meditate after recovering from a 2-½ year depressive episode as part of a treatment plan that included intensive psychotherapy and lifestyle behavioral changes. He’s now the author of three books on meditation and mindfulness.
- The personal training site Aaptiv shares stories about why people choose to meditate. One woman said meditation helped her resolve issues with binge eating, while another said regular practice enabled her to break a cycle of chronic insomnia—so much so, she was able to stop taking prescription sleep medication.
- International superstar Lady Gaga has been quite vocal about how she uses meditation to manage her mental health issues, and often holds public guided meditation sessions on her social media channels.
- Meditation leader Wendy Miller points to numerous success stories regarding meditation and mental health, including a woman who struggled with both anxiety and depression for 20 years before relief from symptoms; a life coach who relied on extensive meditation practices to overcome complicated grief; and a woman who, when faced with the challenges of her mother’s alcohol use disorder, turned to meditation to help her cope.
Holistic Care from Cottonwood Tucson
Caring for a whole person—and not just seeing an individual with symptoms of a condition—is how we help people create lasting, positive change in their lives. Meditation is one possible method to create balance in mental and emotional health. If you’re curious to learn more, including what styles might appeal to you, review these articles on our blog, and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions about our board-certified approach to care can make a difference for you.
For further reading:
Mindworks: “What Does Science Tell Us About Meditation”
Greater Good Magazine: “Can Meditation Help You With Depression?”