For many, the concept of meditation instantly brings to mind the quintessential image of the Buddha sitting with utter tranquility in the pretzel-like lotus position. The tranquility aspect is certainly accurate: meditation is a technique used to focus thoughts, reflect or relax.
Meditation is a means of developing wellness, an ongoing process of learning how to make choices that support a more successful, healthy life. A new review study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, showed that taking the wellness approach can result in a 17 percent decline in total medical visits and a 35 percent decline in medical visits for minor illnesses.
NAMI has adapted the wellness process into its online Hearts & Minds program, which includes meditation as a promising practice to improve mindfulness.
One model of meditation is the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Usually taught in eight sessions, it is described by its founder, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, as “Buddhist meditation but without the Buddhism. It’s completely secular.” This technique is currently receiving attention from researchers. Meditation has been considered particularly helpful for many living with mental illness, as high levels of anxiety or constantly racing thoughts are common. Last week, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine published a new analysis based on previous research, suggesting that 30 minutes of daily meditation may improve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The researchers looked back at more than 18,000 studiesand ultimately selected 47 previous studies — all randomized trials — that involved 3,515 people. The study found that improvement in individuals experiencing mild symptoms of depression using mindfulness meditation was similar to individuals using antidepressants. They also found that there were no harmful effects of trying meditation.
“A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing,” said Madhav Goyal, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine. “But that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.”
The technique certainly shows promise, although more research has yet to be done. Also, mindfulness meditation takes time and practice, so do not be discouraged if you do not immediately notice the benefits.
More information on this study can be found at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine website.