“The term meditation refers to a family of practices that train attention in order to heighten awareness and bring mental processes under greater voluntary control. The ultimate aim of these practices is the development of deep insight into the nature of mental processes, consciousness, identity, and reality, and the development of optimal states of psychological well-being and consciousness. However, they can also be used for a variety of intermediate aims, such as psychotherapeutic and psychophysiological benefits.”
—Roger Walsh, Meditation Practice and Research, Journal of Humanistic Psychology (1983)
In first looking at some of the ‘intermediate aims’ of psychotherapeutic and psychophysiological benefits, research on meditation has shown that the practice of meditation has various benefits:*
* Heart rate for meditators show greater recovery from anxiety when put under stress
* Decreases in heart rate for regular practioners of meditation
* Decreases in blood pressure for persons with high blood pressure as a result of meditation practice
* Meditators have a more stable nervous system
* During meditation practice, meditators exhibit a quieting of mental activity (as shown by brain wave activity) indicating a state of relaxation
* Positive gains in meditators regarding: self-concept (including self-esteem); self-awareness; self-actualization; positive moods; and acceptance
* Mindfulness meditation fosters the ability to inhibit very quick emotional impulses
* Mindfulness meditation cultivates the ability to become less reactive to situations allowing one to act more so with conscious, mindful choice
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The research on the benefits of meditation has been going on for decades now in the West. As indicated above, it has many benefits for mind and body. Modern day clinical biofeedback, which is widely used in the West, is partially an offspring from the early research done on meditation for improving pychophysiological functioning.
More recently, research has also included the specific therapeutic uses and psychological benefits of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. The University of Massachusetts School of Medicine’s Center for Mindfulness provides this definition for mindfulness:
“Mindfulness is a way of learning to relate directly to whatever is happening in your life, a way of taking charge of your life, a way of doing something for yourself that no one else can do for you — consciously and systematically working with your own stress, pain, illness, and the challenges and demands of everyday life.”
Mindfulness-Based Interventions, such as:
* Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
* Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy
* Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention
have been utilized in many clinics, hospitals, Employee Assistance Programs, and in private provider offices all over the world. And, various universities now have a Center for Mindfulness, e.g., the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine and the University of California-San Diego.
*Note: Some research has shown that meditation is contraindicated for those with severe depression or other serious mental disorders, e.g., psychosis.