Building the evidence for meditation

For centuries, cultures and religions across the globe have practiced meditation as a form of worship.  In more recent times, researchers have hypothesized that the practice brings health benefits along with it – reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, even alleviating the symptoms of epilepsy.

While more than 1,000 studies have been conducted on the benefits of meditation, several systematic reviews in recent years have all drawn the same conclusion: Scientific research on meditation practices lacks a common theoretical perspective and tends to suffer from poor research methods. 

While there doesn’t seem to be any adverse effects to practicing meditation, more vigorous studies are needed to prove that it can actually improve health.

Across the globe, many researchers are doing just that – conducting new, methodically-sound studies on the benefits of meditation.

One new paper published in the Journal of Neuroscience this spring used magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to demonstrate the meditation can reduce the experience of pain, as well as pain-related brain activation.

“This is the first study to show that only a little over an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and pain-related brain activation,” Fadel Zeidan, lead author of the study and post-doctoral research fellow at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, explained in an article published in ScienceDaily.

The study was small, with only 15 healthy volunteers participating. But they saw about a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness. (In contrast, pain-relieving drugs typically reduce pain levels by about 25 percent.)

More work is still needed. But these initial results are promising – not only for the health benefits they document, but also because they’re paving the way toward a higher-quality body of evidence on the benefits of meditation.

Comments

  1. I am so glad I found this site. I am just starting to learn about the health benefits of meditation so I find this topic and the subject of evidence base living very inspiring. I definitely want to learn more.

  2. Julia r Jair says:

    I have practiced Chakra Meditation wherein you focus on your chakra and Mantra Meditation wherein it’s more devotional. thanks for the article.

  3. Krishna says:

    That article on effect of meditation on pain is really good. Meditation really help in many ways. I have seen people getting benefits from meditation. Techniques like focusing on breath movement help you to calm down.

  4. It is no doubt that meditation has numerous health benefits and so does yoga. I’m very interested in learning how to meditate as a form of bringing mind, body and soul into harmony.

  5. Mark Lozada says:

    It is quite difficult to tell the mind to not move. Meditation teaches us how to relax and let the mind sit still. I have practiced Chakra Meditation wherein you focus on your chakra and Mantra Meditation wherein it’s more devotional.

    Just for me, what I think about meditation is letting go of external stimuli and make the body and mind act as one.

  6. Christopher says:

    Meditation certainly helps me to cope with migraine headaches – prescription free pain relief!

    As noted by another commenter, it would be good to know the type of meditation used during the trials.

    Thanks

    Chris

  7. ayesha sadaf says:

    What kind of meditation training did they do? It seems like there are a lot of different types available and I’m curious what they used in the study. i am a house wife and i was just randomly surfing the web and came across ur site.

  8. Ernie says:

    Hello! I hope you don’t mind but I decided to publish your site: http://evidencebasedliving.human.cornell.edu/2011/07/building-the-evidence-for-meditation/ to my on-line directory website. I used, “Building the evidence for meditation — Evidence Based Living” as your weblog headline. I hope this is acceptable with you. If perhaps you’d like me to change the title or remove it entirely, contact
    me at ernie_elder@inbox.com. Many thanks.

  9. All Ranch says:

    Our mind is a wonderful storehouse of thoughts.Thoughts always keep flowing into the mind just like a river dose.
    Read more at http://allranch.blogspot.com/2012/09/meditation-vital-for-mind.html#WGwQCI5FFUQ9rR8v.99

  10. Sheri says:

    Thanks for your question! The participants took a 20-minute class in focused attention, a form of mindfulness meditation that involves maintaining moment-to-moment focus on your breath, a sound, or an object. You can read more about it here: http://cms.carepages.com/CarePages/en/ArticlesTips/FeatureArticles/Contributors/transform-your-life-with-meditation.html

  11. HennaHonu says:

    What kind of meditation training did they do? It seems like there are a lot of different types available and I’m curious what they used in the study.

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