October 31, 2014
   
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Putting Meditation to the Test
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Putting Meditation to the Test

 

If you’ve noticed that more people are toting around yoga mats than they used to, and water-cooler conversation turns to Buddhism instead of the Bear market, it’s not just you. Alternative practices like yoga and meditation seem to be making a come-back – although, admittedly, it’s not so much a come-back as a powerful (and perhaps long overdue) entré into the Western world. Some practices, like certain types of meditation, date back at least 2,500 years, and are just now beginning to creep into our collective Western consciousness – and into modern medicine. Perhaps this is partly because we need help now more than ever in dealing with the stresses of the 24/7 world we live in.

Meditation, acupuncture, yoga, and biofeedback are just some of the methods that have attracted attention in recent years. But what are we to make of them? Are they just hype, or can they actually benefit health and well being without drugs and enormous medical expense?

And who can resist the appeal of better quality relaxation, especially when it is related to techniques that have been around for a few thousand years?

We’ve probably all heard of the health benefits of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) from our family, friends, or the media. Meditation, acupuncture, yoga, and biofeedback are just some of the methods that have attracted attention in recent years. But what are we to make of them? Are they just hype, or can they actually benefit health and well being without drugs and enormous medical expense?

The popularity of alternative medicine and the research technologies available today mean that some of these techniques, which often stem from ancient Eastern medical and spiritual practices, have begun to be tested scientifically by researchers and clinicians in many different areas and specialties.

Meditation has recently gained a lot of popularity, and perhaps for good reason. The public has begun to embrace it as a spiritual path and as a way of dealing with everyday stressors like job and family problems, as well as more serious issues like chronic health problems and psychological disorders like depression and anxiety. Advances in technology have meant that the research community has made some major steps in understanding exactly what meditation does to the body and brain, as well as what types of conditions it may be effective in treating.

One of the more useful and certainly well-researched methods (and, of course, the oldest), is meditation, specifically, mindfulness meditation, which helps people train their minds to be more present and focused. An offshoot of this method is a newer technique called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which, as the name suggests, uses meditation to target stress specifically, and has shown to be very effective in a range of stress-related maladies. We will look at how these techniques help individuals cope with problems in their lives, as well as some of the scientific evidence that backs the methods up.

What Mindfulness Meditation and Mindfulness Training Are

What exactly is mindfulness meditation? Yale researcher and mindfulness expert Judson Brewer, MD, PhD studies mindfulness training (MT) and its ability to help people deal with everyday stresses, as well as how it may help people battling more serious conditions like drug and alcohol addiction and depression.

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