How does meditation affect the mind and body?… The benefits of meditation or mindfulness that have become increasingly popular in recent years are supposed to be many, such as reducing stress, reducing various diseases, and improving mental well-being.
How does meditation affect the mind and body?
The empirical basis to support these claims was few. Proponents of mindfulness practice relied on very small samples of non-representative cases, such as Buddhist monks who spend hours in solitude meditating each day, or they relied on studies that were not generally randomized and did not include placebo control groups (known as placebos). However, a study published in Biological Psychiatry this month describes mindfulness as scientifically accurate, that it can affect the minds of ordinary people and potentially improve their health, unlike a placebo.
Study shows how beneficial mindfulness is
It requires meditation or mindfulness, says J. David Cresswell, associate professor of psychology and director of the Health and Human Performance Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University, who led the study: “An open mind, receptiveness, and no rush to judgment.” One of the difficulties in verifying the object of meditation is placement. Careful studies were conducted in which some participants received the real treatment while others received a placebo, and the last part of the participants believed that they had received the same treatment when the truth was not. Although people can usually tell you if they’re really meditating or not, the doctor has been able to work with scientists from several other universities by faking mindfulness.
First, they called 35 unemployed women and men who were looking for work and facing pressure for this reason. Then blood samples were drawn and brain scans were taken. Half of the participants were taught traditional mindfulness in retreat centers (spiritual healing), and the rest completed some form of feigned mindfulness that focused on relaxation and distraction.
What is the result of meditation?
“Every one of us did stretching exercises, for example,” Dr. Cresswell says. Members of the mindfulness group paid close attention to bodily sensations, including unpleasant sensations. The relaxation group members were encouraged to chatter and ignore their bodies while their leader exchanged funny jokes.
After three days, the participants told all of the researchers that they felt refreshed and better able to withstand the stress of unemployment. But the brain scans showed differences for those who were given only mental stimulation. There was more activity or better communication between the parts of the brain where stress-related reactions and other areas associated with focus and calmness are processed. After four months, blood analyzes of those who practiced mindfulness showed lower levels of unhealthy inflammation than those in the relaxation group, although few were still meditating.
Dr. Cresswell and his colleagues believe that changes in the mind contributed to a subsequent decrease in inflammation, although the exact method is still unknown. Nor is it clear whether you need to spend three straight days of meditation to reap the benefits or more. When it comes to the amount of mental stimulation required to improve health, Dr. Cresswell says, “We still have no idea what the ideal dose is.”