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28.11.2013

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Meditation is an ancient art of controlled thought, practiced throughout the world for centuries. Sometimes in the form of prayer, song or guided imagery, meditation has gained respect as an important medical component in addition to traditional medical procedures.
Simply put, meditation is a form of conscious and focused thinking, often directed with the use of music or spoken word. They suggest that, through meditation, you can clean your mental slate of the have-tos of everyday life, which promotes emotional wellbeing.
In the United States, the practice of meditation grew enormously during the 1960s, perhaps in part because The Beatles studied transcendental meditation in India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Something as simple as ten minutes a day in quiet reflection is now an accepted way to begin a workday; some major corporations use meditation in team building.
Continued research on the benefits of meditation is, “…tipping the balance in favor of implementing these therapies in the medical world to improve the lives of patients, including those who are undergoing cancer treatment. The supporting evidence is coming from such places such as the Fred Hutchinson Center, where scientists are studying measurements and testing the value of meditative therapies. How effectively the vagus nerve is working can be tracked by monitoring someone’s heart rate as he breathes in and out.
Whether, besides improving general health, the mechanism Dr Fredrickson and Dr Kok have discovered helps explain the placebo effect remains to be investigated. While most people associate meditation with religion, this simple and powerful practiced transcends religious beliefs.
In one study published in Health Behavior News Service, scientists found that brain scans and blood tests showed positive effects of meditation. There are several ways to meditate: breathing meditation, walking meditation, sitting meditation, mindfulness meditation, guided meditation, and visualization.
Make time for meditation, even if it is on the bus ride home from work, or while you are sitting in your office, but try to practice it daily. Science and meditation are two things that one might initially regard as having no more in common with each other as Chinese calligraphy and Italian pasta.


The effects of meditation on human cognition and physical health have become the subject of numerous scientific studies in the past decade.
For example, UCLA researchers are exploring the connection between meditation and resistance to age-related brain atrophy. The practice of meditation promotes reduces levels  of anxiety and stress, and can also improve our mood.  All of which reduces the risk of emotional eating as well as promoting weight loss. Practicing meditation at bedtime can be an extremely effective and natural sleeping aid – and the side effects are all positive.  Bedtime mediation not only promotes getting to sleep more quickly as well as staying asleep, but has been shown in medical studies to create improvement of sleep in 100% of those in the study and 91% of those who continued to meditate regularly after the study reported that they were able to significantly reduce or eliminate their reliance on sleeping pills.
The vagus nerve is highly important because inflammation doesn’t only arise in response to injury; it is also a side effect of unhealthy lifestyle factors – like poor diet, drinking, stress, etc.
In a 2009 study, scientists at Emory University School of Medicine, trained 33 people in a compassion meditation, which involved the structured generation of feelings of compassion on a daily basis, and compared them with a group of 28 people who didn’t do the meditation. Newberg found an increase of activity in the meditators' frontal lobe, responsible for focusing attention and concentration, during meditation. Yocum’s patient studies concluded that those of his patients who set aside time for meditating had more productive responses to daily stressors. The onset of the technological revolution was part of this road to acceptance and may have found its way into corporate America after word spread that Steve Jobs was practicing meditation on a daily basis.
But it might, because part of that effect seems to be the good feeling engendered by the fact of being treated. Meditation is like a short vacation away from the stresses of everyday life to allow you to center your mind and create a peaceful feeling. In this study of 48 employees at a biotechnology company, half were trained in meditation and practiced it for one hour a day, six days a week using guided meditations that had been prerecorded. The studies also show a decrease in stress hormones and a reversal in the effects of chronic stress. Results are linking meditative practice to improved memory, concentration and self-control, and the lowering of stress, blood pressure and other psychological conditions. At the same time, meditation significantly reduced brain activity in the primary somatosensory cortex, an area that is crucially involved in creating the feeling of where and how intense a painful stimulus is.


It has been easy for many to imagine that all spiritual practices, meditation included, may eventually go the same way. After 6 weeks those who did the compassion meditation had much lower levels of inflammation in their bodies than those who didn’t. Well, we counter the effects of it with other lifestyle choices we make – the unhealthy foods we eat, the toxins and stimulants we take into our bodies, our unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking (too much), not exercising regularly, and also our mental emotional stresses of life. As part of his research, Newberg studied the brain activity of experienced Tibetan Buddhists before and during meditation.
For centuries, doctors have recognised the placebo effect, in which the illusion of treatment, such as pills without an active ingredient, produces real medical benefits.
A person who exercises regularly might enjoy good muscle tone and similarly a person who exercises or does meditation, yoga or tai chi, might enjoy good vascular tone. You can do a breathing meditation while you are waiting in a doctor’s office, grocery store lineup, or at your desk. When I started meditating, I did not realize it would also make me healthier, happier, and more successful. A simpler procedure than meditation, namely reflecting at night on the day’s social connections, did seem to cause some improvement to their vagal tone.
Having witnessed the benefits, I devoted my PhD research at Stanford to studying the impact of meditation. In addition, half the participants, chosen at random, were invited to a series of workshops run by a licensed therapist, to learn a meditation technique intended to engender in the meditator a feeling of goodwill towards both himself and others. This might allow even those with a negative outlook on life to “bootstrap” their way to a mental state from which they could then advance to the more powerful technique of meditation. Some of the effects of meditation continued for up to four months after the participants discontinued their meditative practice.



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