You Should Meditate If…The Latest Meditation Research
Over the last three decades, meditation has been proven to help with everything from high blood pressure to pain management to immune function and more. Meditation is now taught in hospitals, at company retreats, in churches, at school, and of course in yoga and martial arts studios everywhere.
Just in case you haven’t yet been convinced to give it a try, below I’ve compiled some info on the latest meditation research. All of the studies below have been published within just the last year. The links are to study abstracts on PubMed, the online research database of the National Institutes of Health. In most cases, you will need to pay a fee to access the full article. In many of these abstracts, meditation is referred to as MBSR – Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Although this term covers a variety of meditation techniques, the most common are deep breathing and the repetition of a soothing word or phrase.
So, without further ado, you should meditate, IF:
You Need Help Managing Your Stress – Meditation has repeatedly been proven to elicit the ‘relaxation response‘ – the physiological opposite of the ‘stress response’. In a recent research review conducted by John Hopkins Medical Center to develop a guide for Nurse Practitioners, meditation was found to be effective for reducing stress in virtually every patient population. Futhermore, another study by the University of New Mexico suggestes that meditation is better than other cognitive-based approaches to stress management on several counts.
You Suffer From Chronic Lower Back Pain – Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh conducted a study on older adults suffering from chronic lower back pain and found that meditation helped reduce their pain, improve their sleep, and increase their quality of life.
You’d Like Your Mind to Be More Controlled and Efficient – If you suffer from excessive ‘spontaneous mentation’ (medical-speak for ‘a busy mind’), meditation is for you. Researchers at Emory University found that practitioners of Zen meditation were able to perform certain tasks with less neural activity, and better able to regulate their mental response to stimuli.
You’d Like to Improve Your Immune Function – Researchers at Loyola University taught meditation to women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer – obviously a source of great stress. They found that compared to a control group, the meditator’s immune functions stabilized and rebounded much faster after surgery.
You Suffer From Headaches, Particularly Migraines – In a study conducted at the University of Massachusetts, researchers taught four different types of meditation to migraine sufferers. As has been demonstrated in prior studies, all four groups experienced a decrease in their headache frequency and severity. An interesting aspect of this study is that it was designed to compare spiritual vs. secular meditation, and the spiritual meditation was more effective – a finding I will probably cover in more detail in a future post.
You Are HIV Positive – A study conducted on HIV+ patients at UCLA suggests that meditation helps buffer the decline of the lymphocytes most associated with HIV progression.
You’d Like to Feel a Greater Sense of Well-Being – Separate studies at Santa Clara University and the University of Massachusetts found that meditation cultivates mindfulness, which in turn produces a greater overall self-reported sense of well-being.
You Suffer From Anxiety – A research review conducted at the Psychology Research Laboratory in Verbania, Italy looked at 10 years worth of research on the effectiveness of meditation for dealing with chronic anxiety, and found that it was statistically effective.
You Have Trouble Sleeping – A study at Stanford University combined meditation with cognitive approaches for the treatment of insomnia, and found the overall program effective.
You Are ADHD – A feasability study at UCLA on adults and adolescents with ADHD found that meditation increased their attention and cognitive abilities, and decreased feelings of anxiety and depression.
You Suffer From Bipolar Disorder – A preliminary study at the University of Oxford found that meditation helped reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms in bipolar patients.
You’d Like to Increase Your Compassion For Others – A study at the University of Wisconsin found that individuals engaged in regular ‘compassion meditation’ experienced long-term changes in their neural functions making them more responsive to others emotions, and more empathetic overall.
You Have High Blood Pressure – Many studies have linked meditation to reduced blood pressure. One of the latest at the University of Kentucky found that one type of meditation, Transcendental Meditation, helps reduce both systolic and diabolic pressure. Another study using other meditation and relaxation techniques produced similar results.
You Have Diabetes – A study in Thailand suggests meditation helps manage both glycemic levels and blood pressure in Type-2 Diabetes patients.
And finally, you should meditate if:
You Enjoy It! I don’t have a study for this, but many people experience profound peace and great joy when meditating. Not all the time, perhaps, but enough to make it a regular part of their lives. And of course, meditation has been and is part of virtually every spiritual tradition humankind has ever concocted. What you experience when you quiet your mind can’t always be measured or explained, even by the best team of researchers.
To find a meditation style that is right for you, go to the Types of Meditation post. If you are interested in how meditation is practiced within different world religions, try Meditation within ALL the World’s Religions. Or, try the meditation page for more posts on this topic.