Research on the Health Benefits of Meditation
Research on the benefits of meditation have definitely shown that taking up a regular practice will improve your health, physically and psychologically. It facilitates changes in how the body works at the level of gene expression. It also improves mental performance and appears to have anti-aging effects on brain structure.
Two leaders in this research area are Dr. Herbert Benson and Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. Dr. Benson first described the relaxation response that results from meditation in 1976. His work involves the neurological and physiological responses of meditation practice. More recent research by Benson and colleagues has reported that people who have a regular meditation routine acquire the ability to turn on and off genes that regulate healthy responses of the body to inflammation, free radicals and the death of cells.
One of the leaders in this research area is Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D, from the University of Massachusetts. The method of meditation used in his research is called mindfulness, and it is derived from the Buddhist tradition. His research has indicated that meditation results in reduction of feelings of anxiety, medical symptoms and mood disturbances. It also reduces the degree of pain and psychological symptoms. In the video below, he is seen discussing the benefits of meditation.
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn on the Health Benefits of Meditation
A Meditation Map
Meditation Improves Brain Function
The improvement of brain function is associated with physical changes that occur as a result of meditation. Scientists have observed a decrease of gray matter in the amygdala region which is triggered during fear and stress, whereas the opposite occurred in other regions of the brain that are responsible for conscious awareness, caring for others and memory.
References on Meditation Health Benefits Research
Kabat-Zinn, Jon, et al. 1992. Effectiveness of Meditation-based Stress Reduction Program in the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders. Amer. J. Psychiatry 149:936-943.
Lazar, Sara, et al. 2006. Growing the Brain Through Meditation. Pages 1 and 7 in: The Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute Letter, Vol. 12, No. 3.
Schatz, Carolyn. 2011. Mindfulness Meditation Improves Connections in the Brain. Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Medical School.
Zgierska A, Rabago D, Chawla N, Kushner K, Kohler R, Marlatt A. Mindfulness Meditation for Substance Use Disorders: A Systematic Review. Substance Abuse; 2009;30:266-294.