The Meditation technique has proven to be a successful coping strategy in helping to deal with drug addiction," a useful tool in psycho-neuro-immunology (PNI) by helping to control the immune system, and an effective manager of stress and pain.
A strong link has also been established between the practice of Meditation and longevity. Only two factors have been scientifically determined to actually extend life: caloric restriction and lowering of the body's core temperature. Meditation has been shown to lower core body temperature.
Most of the people who get on meditation do so because of its beneficial effects on stress. Stress refers to any or all the various pressures experienced in life. These can stem from work, family, illness, or environment and can contribute to such conditions as anxiety, hypertension, and heart disease. How an individual sees things and how he or she handles them makes a big difference in terms of how much stress he or she experiences.
Research has shown that hormones and other biochemical compounds in the blood indicative of stress tend to decrease during Meditation practice. These changes also stabilize over time, so that a person is actually less stressed biochemically during daily activity.
This reduction of stress translates directly into a reduction of anxiety and tension. Literally dozens of studies have shown this.
Chronic pain can systematically erode the quality of life. Although great strides are being made in traditional medicine to treat recurring pain, treatment is rarely as simple as prescribing medication or surgery.
Anxiety decreases the threshold for pain and pain causes anxiety. The result is a vicious cycle. Compared with people who feel relaxed, those under stress experience pain more intensely and become even more stressed, which aggravates their pain. Meditation breaks this cycle.
Childbirth preparation classes routinely teach pregnant women deep breathing exercises to minimize the pain and anxiety of labor. Few call it breath meditation, but that's what it is.
Meditative techniques are also a key element in the Arthritis self-help Course at Stanford University. More than 100,000 people with arthritis have taken the 12-hour course and learned meditation-style relaxation exercises as part of a comprehensive self-care program. Graduates report a 15 to 20 percent reduction in pain.
In one study overseen by 72 percent of the patients with chronic pain conditions achieved at least a 33 percent reduction after participating in an eight-week period of mindful meditation, while 61 -percent of the pain patients achieved at least a 50 percent reduction. Additionally, these people perceived their bodies as being 30 percent less problematic, suggesting an overall improvement in self-esteem and positive views regarding their bodies.
Meditation may not eliminate pain, but it helps people cope more effectively.
Meditation and other approaches to deep relaxation help center people so they can figure out how they'd like to handle the illness and proceed with life. Dr. Ainslie Meares, an Australian psychiatrist who uses meditation with cancer patients, studied seventy-three patients who had attended at least twenty -sessions of intensive meditation, and wrote: "Nearly all such patients can expect significant reduction of anxiety and depression, together with much less discomfort and pain. There is reason to expect a 10 percent chance of quite remarkable slowing of the rate of growth of the tumor, and a 50 percent chance of greatly improved quality of life."
Meditation is a key component of Ornish therapy, the only treatment scientifically proven to reverse heart disease.
As soon as Dr. Benson learned that Meditation reliably reduced blood pressure in meditators, he taught the relaxation response to 36 people with moderately elevated blood pressure. After several weeks of practice, their average blood pressure declined significantly, reducing their risk of stroke and heart attack.
Couples dealing with infertility may become depressed, anxious and angry. To help them cope, Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., a psychologist at the Mind/Body Medical Institute, taught the relaxation response to one group of infertile couples. Compared with a similar group of infertile couples who did not learn deep relaxation, the meditators experienced less distress-and were more likely to get pregnant.
This disease causes scaly red patches on the skin. A pilot study at Dr. Kabat-Zinn's clinic suggests that compared with the skin patches of people with psoriasis who receive only standard medical therapy, the skin patches of those who also meditate clear up more quickly.
Asthma, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) all restrict breathing and raise fears of suffocation, which in turn makes breathing even more difficult. Studies at clinic show that when people with these respiratory conditions learn breath meditation, they have fewer respiratory crises.
Meditation can ease physical complaints such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), tension headaches and other common health problems.
Meditation gives people a psychological buffer so that life's hectic pace doesn't knock them out. Practicing meditation is like taking a vacation once or twice a day. When you nurture yourself, you accrue tremendous spin-off benefits.
For example, when you are under high stress, it can worsen symptoms of PMS because stress can cause the muscle tension associated with PMS complaints such as fatigue, soreness and aching. On the other hand, when you meditate regularly, you dramatically reduce your body's response to stress, and that can ease the discomfort associated with PMS. The results may not be apparent for several months. You will probably need to meditate regularly for several months before your body responds positively.
Meditation can also improve irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and insomnia, among other stress-related conditions. Eighty percent of the people who use meditation to relieve insomnia are successful.
Meditation can help prevent or treat stress-related complaints such as anxiety, headaches and bone, muscle and joint problems. Meditation also provides an inner sense of clarity and calm, and that, in itself, may help ward off certain illnesses.
According to one study, meditation may relieve the discomfort of fibromyalgia, a condition that causes fatigue and intensely painful "trigger points." When 77 men and women with fibromyalgia followed a ten-week stress-reduction program using meditation, all reported that their symptoms improved. And half described their improvements as "moderate to marked."