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Meditation Psychology

What is meditation psychology? Is it merely the western worlds attempt to try to understand what meditation is and how it works like it does or is it something more than that?

People in the Far East in places like Tibet have been using meditation techniques for thousands of years so that now contemplation comes like second nature to them, they can live a life that westerners may think of as less than ideal, with a smile on their face and an inner calm that we have yet to fully understand. Maybe this is why psychology is taking such an interest in meditation these days?

This is not to say that everyone should up sticks and run to Tibet and join monks atop the nearest mountain practicing rumination with them, as there have been many studies now that can show that even entering a state of reflection for as little as ten minutes can have dramatic physiological and psychological effects.

So then, just how do we know that entering these meditative states can have beneficial psychological effects? Well, mainly through research and the use of equipment like MRI scans on brain activity on people who are practicing meditation on a daily basis. These tests are then compared against tests on people who do not practice any form of contemplation at any time. So what do these results show? They show that rumination activates areas of the brain that look after functions of our bodies that we have no control over such as blood pressure and digestion, it is also worthy of note that these two bodily functions are also highly susceptible to stress. So if sessions of deliberation have positive effects on these areas of the brain then it would help to fend off stress related conditions like heart disease, infertility and digestive problems.

Many psychologists are now active meditators themselves and actively refer clients to meditation as a way of reducing the internal chatter and reducing stress. It is also a way for psychology and meditation to work together in ways to help clients who are struggling with feelings of anxiety as he/she may benefit the calming aspects of meditation.

Some experts suggest marrying meditation to psychotherapy as both allow the person to be present for the moment, open and none defensive. In meditation and psychotherapy people are trying not to get caught up in internal chatter, but to be present with what is happening here and now.
 
Certainly anything that helps us fight stress is a welcome tool. But what else might meditation be doing for us? Since researchers began amassing data, numerous studies have shown that certainly meditation has not only a mental but a profound physiological effect on the body. Studies have shown that meditation can reduce pain and improve the body's immune system, enabling it to better fight disease.

Psychologists have seen first hand how meditation with psychology can help clients. There have been interviews with psychologists where they have stated that they have referred patients to meditation to try offering extra help. Clients who may have been constantly arguing have returned to their psychologist’s office after having sessions of deliberation and are not arguing like they were before.

It seems that many psychologists believe that meditations effectiveness has to do with putting aside attachment to our egos. Upon deliberation you zero in on a sense of self, the self-important ego becomes elusive. You become more aware that you are interconnected with other beings and you can better put your own worries into their proper perspective."

While western scientists and psychologists are still exploring exactly how and why meditation works, we already know that there are physiological and psychological benefits. And many therapists consider it a valid complement to more traditional therapies. So perhaps we should simply do what makes us feel better in the end.

By Claire Faregreen

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