Does med­i­ta­tion have ben­e­fits for mind and body?

Pakistan Observer - - TWIN CITIES -

IT IS hard to be­lieve some still ques­tion whether med­i­ta­tion can have a pos­i­tive ef fect on mind and body. A very se­lec­tive re­search re­view re­cently raised the ques­tion, lead­ing to head­lines such as the one in The Wall Street Jour­nal that said the ben­e­fits are limited. I have been re­search­ing ef­fects of med­i­ta­tion on health for 30 years and have found it has com­pelling ben­e­fits.

Over the past year, I have been in­vited by doc­tors in med­i­cal schools and ma­jor health cen­tres on four con­ti­nents to in­struct them on the sci­en­tific ba­sis of mind-body medicine and med­i­ta­tion in preven­tion and treat­ment of dis­ease, es­pe­cially car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. Re­search on Tran­scen­den­tal Med­i­ta­tion (TM), for ex­am­ple, has found re­duced blood pres­sure and in­sulin re­sis­tance (use­ful for pre­vent­ing di­a­betes), slow­ing of biological ag­ing, and even a 48% re­duc­tion in the rates of heart at­tack, stroke and death.

I would con­sider those to be ben­e­fits. And so does the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion, which last year re­leased a state­ment say­ing that decades of re­search in­di­cates TM low­ers blood pres­sure and may be con­sid­ered by clin­i­cians as a treat­ment for high BP. Re­search on med­i­ta­tion has also shown a wide range of psy­cho­log­i­cal ben­e­fits.

For ex­am­ple, a 2012 re­view of 163 stud­ies that was pub­lished by the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion con­cluded that the Tran­scen­den­tal Med­i­ta­tion tech­nique had rel­a­tively strong ef­fects in re­duc­ing anx­i­ety, neg­a­tive emo­tions, trait anx­i­ety and neu­roti­cism, while aid­ing learn­ing, mem­ory and self-re­al­iza­tion. Mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion had rel­a­tively strong ef­fects in re­duc­ing neg­a­tive per­son­al­ity traits and stress, and in im­prov­ing at­ten­tion and mind­ful­ness. “The ef­fects found in the cur­rent analy­ses show that med­i­ta­tion af­fects peo­ple in im­por­tant ways.”

In­te­gra­tive health care has ma­jor ef­fects on mind and body­Man med­i­tat­ing out­side at sun­set. Why, then, did the re­cent re­view pub­lished in a spe­cialty jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (JAMA In­ter­nal Medicine) con­clude there were limited ben­e­fits, with mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion show­ing only mod­er­ate or low ev­i­dence for spe­cific stress-re­lated con­di­tions such as anx­i­ety? That re­view was nar­rowly fo­cused on re­search show­ing that med­i­ta­tion al­le­vi­ates psy­cho­log­i­cal stress, so ob­jec­tive ben­e­fits such as re­duced blood pres­sure were out­side its scope. In ad­di­tion, the re­view only looked at stud­ies in which the sub­jects had been di­ag­nosed with a med­i­cal or psy­chi­atric prob­lem. The au­thors ex­cluded stud­ies of oth­er­wise nor­mal in­di­vid­u­als with anx­i­ety or stress, as well as any study that was not on adults. Th­ese se­lec­tion cri­te­ria re­sulted in the omis­sion of many rig­or­ous stud­ies, which, when taken as a whole, show that there are in­deed ben­e­fits for re­duc­ing stress and anx­i­ety. A 2013 meta-anal­y­sis (a type of rig­or­ous re­view) of 10 con­trolled stud­ies found that at least one med­i­ta­tion, Tran­scen­den­tal Med­i­ta­tion, sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced anx­i­ety.

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