Scientific Studies on Meditation
There has been a growing interest over the years in the physical and mental benefits of meditation. Many doctors and therapists have taken an interest in adding these practices to their recommendations for recovery from a variety of ailments. It has been often referred to as integrative medicine in the western countries that previously did not incorporate these practices until scientific backing showed the benefits. Many of these scientific findings have come through the technology of MRI brain scans and advancements in neuroscience. Technology and neuroscience has come a long way and times are changing. Now, many physicians and therapists practicing in both physical and mental health, and everyday fitness gurus have added meditation techniques to their practices.
There are many types of meditation. Most consist of a specific posture, a focus of attention on a mantra or breathing pattern, and an open understanding of oneness with mind, body, and nature. Being one within and bringing your body and your mind in synchronistic harmony with its natural surroundings has been proven to have positive results on a person’s health.
Research by Harvard Instructor and Psychiatrist
In a recently published article in The Harvard Gazette online and written by Harvard Staff Writer, Alvin Powell, linked here, there are reports on research conducted by Benjamin Shapero, a practicing psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Depression Clinical and Research Program and an Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Shapero has been working with an Instructor of Radiology at HMS and a neuroscientist at MGH’s Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Gaelle Desbordes to identify the results of meditation on the brain. Their research has identified the benefits of integrative mindfulness-based meditation. “Desbordes said. “If we want that to become a therapy or something offered in the community, we need to demonstrate [its benefits] scientifically.”
In the article, Powell explains how “Desbordes’ research uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which not only takes pictures of the brain, as a regular MRI does, but also records brain activity occurring during the scan.”
This research shows the increase in studies that have continued to be at the forefront of the new integrative medicine approach using mindfulness-based meditation as an alternative approach to remedying depression.
National Program in Research for Integrative Health
The NCCIH, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, provides an in depth analysis to the benefits of meditation. You can find out everything there is to know about research, studies, and their funded research programs on their website at: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm
You will find the details of meditation and its effectiveness in conditioned studies for ailments as extensive as pain, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and more. Whatever your specific purpose or need, this reference can be a valuable resource for further investigation.For example, on the NCCIH meditation overview page, you can find the following “A new report based on data from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found that U.S. adults’ use of meditation in the past 12 months tripled between 2012 and 2017 (from 4.1 percent to 14.2 percent). The use of meditation by U.S. children (aged 4 to 17 years) also increased significantly (from 0.6 percent in 2012 to 5.4 percent in 2017).”
The Bottom Line
In most cases, meditation has been proven to be beneficial for both physical and mental health. Adding a meditation routine to your daily living can reduce the symptoms and improve your health. There have been very rare reports showing that meditation worsened symptoms. Certain meditative practices involving movement may not be as convenient for people with physical limitations. However, there are plenty of meditative practices that are very relaxed and do not involve physical movement. There is a form of meditation for everyone that can be fulfilling and benefit your health. If you have any physical conditions or concerns you, you should ask your health care provider before starting a meditative practice.