Breathe in. Breathe out. Focus on my breath. Focus on the sensation. Ahh...I gotta do my laundry...
Oops! For most of us, that’s the way that meditation goes; it’s a bumpy and challenging affair, yet so many of us are drawn to it. While a lot of our enticement may be because it resonates with our spiritual core or simply a strong sense of relaxation, there is also a growing body of research that shows meditation’s medical benefits.
Meditation has positive effects on our gene expression and on disease outcomes–in other words, it has neurobiological effects far beyond feeling more relaxed.
For example, a recent study (published in the journal Biological Psychiatry) at Carnegie Mellon University took a small sample of self-identified “stressed” individuals who were in the midst of a job search and treated half with a three-day mindfulness meditation program and half with a three-day non-meditation-based relaxation program. Those who were in the mindfulness program had reduced levels of IL-6 as expected, and they also showed higher connectivity between the resting state of the brain and the brain’s top-down executive control function. In other words, the brains of these people were more relaxed when they were consciously making decisions.
And a recent study out of the Duke Cancer Institute found that guided meditations during breast cancer diagnosis biopsies relieved stress, pain, anxiety and fatigue in patients. It is highly likely that we’ll continue to see more guided meditation used during stressful medical procedures as we continue to learn more about its benefits. Science Daily quotes Dr. David Creswell, the study’s lead author, on the findings:
We've now seen that mindfulness meditation training can reduce inflammatory biomarkers in several initial studies, and this new work sheds light into what mindfulness training is doing to the brain to produce these inflammatory health benefits.”
Through meditation, it seems, we are bringing two parts of our brain closer together—and it all helps the body. Something nice to think about on this day that celebrates love.
PHOTO: by Rachel Titriga via flickr
- Meditation eases pain, anxiety and fatigue during breast cancer biopsy via Duke Medical Center
- Alterations in resting state functional connectivity link mindfulness meditation with reduced interleukin-6: a randomized controlled trial via Biological Psychiatry
- Neurobiological changes explain how mindfulness meditation improves health via Science Daily