The response to meditation in medical science is varied. Some believe it has a therapeutic health enhancing benefit, while others feel that there is no scientific basis for recommending meditation as part of a patient’s treatment plan. However, research is showing increasingly that there is some merit in certain types of meditation.
Although initially considered to be a mainly spiritual or religious practice, meditation is becoming an increasingly popular tool to help aid relaxation and healing. Research has shown that meditating on a regular basis can help people with depression, anxiety, cancer and even chronic pain. Far removed from it’s hay-day in the 60s and 70s, it’s no longer just something that is performed by the truly spiritual enlightened or those who choose to be ‘alternative’, but by many people who need positive ways to come to terms and cope with serious illness.
Recent research has shown that meditation can also be helpful to people with cardiovascular problems. The research was conducted in the US with the help of 201 patients who had an average BMI 32, in other words clinically obese, and most using cholesterol-lowering medications. The patients were divided into two groups, one group received daily health educational classes, while the other group was required to perform Transcendental Meditation for 20 minutes twice a day.
The groups were evaluated every few months and the results showed an overall improvement in both groups in alcohol use, activity level and tendency to smoke tobacco. Patients in the meditation group also displayed a decrease in blood pressure and they were also less likely to die, have a heart attack or stroke.
Transcendental Meditation is a form of meditation is a type of mantra meditation that was developed in the 1950s but was also very popular in the 60s and 70s. It’s not considered to be a religious practice and advocates of this form of meditation tend to argue it’s scientific value for it’s practitioners.
However, Transcendental Meditation isn’t the only form of meditation and it’s often wrongly assumed that all forms of meditation require the use of mantra. Mindfulness meditation, which is recommended by Cancer Research UK as a complementary therapy, is used to help patients deal with many of the physical and emotional challenges of cancer by helping you focus on the present moment. Other forms of meditation that can have a health benefit include focused meditation, visualisation, guided meditation, prayerful meditation or movement meditation.
More and more research is showing us the benefits of relaxation to our health, and that there is great benefit in helping your mind move away from unhelpful thinking patterns. Stress and illness can place an enormous amount of strain the body and mind, which is why I believe that even healthy people should incorporate time for relaxation. Meditation is a good excuse to take time out and refocus, but should never be seen as a replacement for medical treatment if it’s required. Hopefully future research will reveal more effective ways to incorporate meditation in the successful treatment for cardiovascular problems and other illnesses.