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;
What Is Mindfulness Meditation?
How it Works
Francesca Charlton Photography
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 .
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 .
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 .
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].
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 .
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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