Health and Lifestyle

Meditation Can Be as Effective as Medication, Recent Research Proves

Meditation is an Asian tradition whereby you reach into your own mind to take control. The practice dates back thousands of years ago. The ancient idea behind meditation is that it centers you, calms your nerves and soul, and it helps you find your inner strength. There’s a growing body of data to back that up. More and more studies prove that meditation is very good for you. In fact, recent findings suggest that meditation can be a good alternative to antidepressants and some other drugs.

A recent study published in the JSCAN (Journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience) found that meditating can decrease anxiety by as much as 39%. That’s just as effective as some of the anxiety drugs that are out there. The study was done on ordinary people with no meditation expertise. Scientists also studied a type of meditation called mindfulness meditation. This is one of the oldest and most traditional forms of meditation where you try to focus on the here and now. You try to keep your mind focused for 20 minutes minimum, without thinking about the past, future, or any problems. It helps if you focus on a mantra or on your breathing. Seems simple enough, but people who have tried it found that it’s actually really hard.

Benefits of Meditation

We live in a world where we’re constantly bombarded with new stimulation and things to think about all the time, so breaking out of your daily mindset is actually pretty tough. However, participants in the study meditated four times a week for 20 minutes. Before and after each session, their brains were scanned using specialized arterial spin labeling imaging that captures brain processes. Scientists found that meditation activated the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which controls worrying. It also activated the anterior cingulate cortex, which controls thinking and emotions thereby decreasing anxiety.

Anxiety management isn’t the only benefit of mindfulness meditation. It helps you be focused, can improve your concentration and attention span. Meditation has been tied to reduction in the production of a stress hormone called cortisol. The practice has been also associated with an increase in nitric oxide, which is a natural enzyme that dilates blood vessels and therefore lowers your blood pressure. Additionally, long-term practice of meditation has been correlated with greater levels of empathy for other people, allowing those who practice it to be in better touch with other people and to respond to them in compassionate ways.