The Benefits of Meditation
When we meditate our mind and body calm down enough so that we experience:
- Reduced oxygen consumption; decreased heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure (Dr. Herbert Benson’s “relaxation response”)
- A change in brain-wave patterns from aroused, conscious thought to the theta waves that dominate the brain during periods of deep relaxation (after eight weeks training)
Clinical research shows that the benefits of meditation include:
- Increased positive emotions; defused negative emotions
- Improved coping ability
- Reduced reliance on drugs and alcohol
- Increased creativity, perception, and memory
- Reduced need for medical care
- Broader comprehension and improved ability to focus
- Reduced stress
- Improved immune function
At a chronic pain clinic in Massachusetts that teaches people a mindfulness based meditation practice, results have been quite dramatic (these people have had chronic and serious medical problems for an average of eight years):
After participating in an eight week course:
- Pain symptoms were reduced by 25%
- Anger, anxiety and depression dropped 32%
- Significant changes were seen in their stress hardiness – comprised of three things:
a sense of control;
a commitment to the vividness of daily life experience; and
the ability to deal with change as a challenge.
In follow-up studies on patients who went through the course these improvements remain over time, especially with those who continue doing what they learned.
In one study in a high-pressure biotech business, workers were taught mindfulness meditation for roughly three hours a week over two months. Before the training they complained of feeling highly stressed. After the training their emotions ratio shifted toward the positive zone. Their moods improved; they reported feeling engaged again in their work, more energized and less anxious. The training also seemed to improve the robustness of their immune systems, as gauged by the amount of flu antibodies in their blood after receiving a flu shot.
“In mindfulness, people learn to monitor their moods and thoughts and drop those that might spin them toward distress.” (The New York Times)
In other clinical, on-the-job studies it has been shown that meditation:
- Lessens job worry, tension, and the desire to change jobs
- Increases efficiency, concentration, productivity, and job satisfaction
- Decreases absentee rates
- Improves interpersonal skills
- Lowers blood pressure and improves overall health
- Reduces anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue
One study determined that mindfulness meditation reduces:
- psychological distress 64%
- depression and anxiety 60%
- interpersonal sensitivity 59%
- items such as poor appetite, overeating, sleep disturbances and feelings of guilt 73%.
In addition to keeping you physically healthy and mentally balanced, meditation can contribute to your success. This is clearly demonstrated by Phil Jackson whose winning strategy, as he coached the Chicago Bulls to six world championships, and the LA Lakers to three, includes a strong emphasis on meditation.