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Research on Meditation and Stress

Research on meditation and stress has scientifically proven to be beneficial psychologically and spiritually. Research on meditation and stress has proven to be beneficial spiritually. Research on meditation and stress has shown that meditation can definitely counter the effects of stress. Stress is not only a frequently unpleasant experience, but also has been shown to wear the body down, leading to increased biological age and likely to lead to long-term illness. Perhaps you've seen the chart by the late stress researcher, Hans Selye that shows the probability of major illness when exposed to a variety of stressful events such as divorce, loss of job, death of spouse and the like. That chart shows that the effects of stress have both short and long term effects. So why do people not pay more attention to the research on meditation and stress? Especially when all the research on meditation and stress shows nothing but positive healthy benefits for the practitioner.

If you've been tempted to go to your doctor to get medication for the unpleasantness of stress -- you may want to meditate rather than medicate! You can easily and quickly learn to meditate; you can do it almost anywhere, and, with the exception of possible minor cost of a training course or a book, free. In fact, simple meditation techniques can be found for free on the web.

The research on meditation and stress has shown that nearly all the varieties of meditation styles combat stress. Physiologist Robert Keith Wallace broke the ground in the 1970s with research on meditation that made the pages of prestigious science journals. Wallace studied the effects of the meditation technique known as transcendental medication (TM). Dr. Howard Benson followed up with research that showed the beneficial effects of meditation in eliminating stress were possible with other meditation techniques as well. His book, "The Relaxation Response", published in 1976, chronicled the research he and others did at well-regarded universities like Benson's own Harvard University. Another meditation style, called mindfulness, has been widely taught, practiced and studied by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. These are just the most well-known meditation styles that have been researched, and that have been shown to be beneficial in removing stress from your life.

Just as Selye showed that stress has both short and long term effects, the scientific research has shown that meditation also has short and long term benefits. Not only does meditation aid the user in achieving a more profound, restful state during the meditation, it also has benefits that enter into the meditator's day even when not meditating.

Wallace's research showed that meditation fights such stress-related conditions as high blood pressure, and later, physician Dean Ornish used meditation as part of a program to reverse heart disease. Up until Ornish's research, heart disease was not considered to be reversible.

Such well-known medical clinics such as the Menninger Clinic and the Mayo Clinic have been sufficiently impressed with the results of meditation, that they run clinics specializing in meditation and other mind-body techniques.

These healthcare organizations use the results of research on meditation and stress on the effectiveness to ameliorate not only stress, but to treat a variety of medical conditions. But they do not use meditation to treat only to combat the more well-known psychological effects of stress, such as anxiety and depression. They also use meditation for pain reduction, to improve immune function among patients with AIDS, and with cancer patients. In one study, by an Australian psychiatrist, 10% of the cancer patients using meditation experienced significant reduction in the size of their tumors.

While you should always consult with your healthcare provider for any illness, research has shown that meditators actually had fewer doctor visits -- and those were patients who were being treated for illness to begin with. In fact, Patricia Norris, Ph.D., Director of the Menninger Biofeedback and Psychophysiology Clinic recommends meditation not just for people already suffering from medical problems, but for anyone who wishes to achieve high-level wellness.

For a virtually free technique virtually free of side effects, perhaps we could prevent the rapidly spiraling healthcare costs by teaching everyone to meditate! Research on meditation and stress should certainly be considered for teaching in schools.

By Carolyn Marsh

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