Meditation Research

During the last few decades numerous scientific and clinical studies have begun to demonstrate the benefits of meditation that have been know within many cultures where meditation has been practiced for thousands of years.

Meditation & Stress Reduction

  • Meditation decreases oxygen consumption, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, and increases the intensity of alpha, theta, and delta brain waves—the opposite of the physiological changes that occur during [stress].  (Herbert Benson, M.D. Harvard Medical School, author of The Relaxation Response)
  • Soothing the Nervous System  –  Resting the mind has a dramatic effect on brain activity. When the brain moves into an alpha wave state, many physiological changes occur, starting with the autonomic nervous system. One of the main roles of the autonomic nervous system is to regulate glands and organs without any effort from our conscious minds. The autonomic nervous system is made up of two parts, called the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. These systems act in opposite yet complementary ways; the sympathetic nervous system ‘revs’ the body, while the parasympathetic calms it down. Chronic stress or burnout can occur when the sympathetic nervous system dominates for too long. During an alpha wave state, the parasympathetic half of the autonomic nervous system comes to the fore. This results in lowered blood pressure and heart rate, a reduction in stress hormones, and slowed metabolism. If meditation is practised regularly, these beneficial changes become relatively permanent. (Better Health Channel, Victoria)
  • “John Kabat-Zinn, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester has made meditation the centerpiece of the center’s Stress Reduction Clinic. “It doesn’t seem to matter what type of medical condition brings people to the Stress Reduction Clinic,” says Kabat-Zinn. “Over the eight-week program, they usually report a reduction in symptoms.”  (IDEA Health & Fitness Source, September 2000)
  • Meditators were less anxious and neurotic, more spontaneous, independent, self-confident, empathetic, and less fearful of death.Atlantic Monthly, May, 1991
  • Twenty out of twenty-two anxiety-prone people showed a 60% improvement in anxiety levels following an eight week course in meditation. (University of Massachusetts)
  • During mantra meditation, the amount of adrenaline in being released into your blood goes down. While meditating, your cortisol level drops and stays low for hours afterward. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone although there are several stress hormones, including adrenaline. But cortisol is one of the most important. It is present in your blood in small amounts all the time, but when you experience stress, your body produces quite a bit of it, and in high amounts, it has unhealthy and unpleasant effects. Getting it out of your blood stream, in contrast, has healthy and pleasant effects. An interesting side note: A high level of cortisol makes your body store extra fat in your abdomen and makes you crave fattening foods with extra intensity. The Journal of the American Dietetic Association reported that stress in general is a “primary predictor of relapse and overeating.” And they concluded that meditation is an effective method for managing the kind of stress that causes weight gain. (Adam Khan, YouMe Works Publications)
  • For William W. George, retiring chairman and CEO, Medtronic Inc., Minneapolis, meditation fits the bill. He meditates at home for 20 minutes twice a day, typically before and after work. “It helps sort things out, gets me prepared, and relieves a lot of the stress….Quite frankly, many of my most creative thoughts have come out of meditation.”Tim Steven, Industry Week, November 2000

Meditation & Heart Conditions, Blood Pressure & Strokes

  • Meditators over 6-9 months showed a marked decrease in the thickness of their artery walls, while non-meditators actually showed an increase.  This change translates to about an 11% decrease in the risk of heart attack and an 8% to 15% decrease in the risk of stroke. (Stroke Journal, reported in Psychology Today, 2001)
  • Meditation significantly controls high blood pressure at levels comparable to widely used prescription drugs, and without the side effects of drugs.
    (Hypertension, AMA Medical Journal)
  • Reducing stress can dramatically reduce heart disease. In a five-year study of heart disease patients, those who learned to manage stress reduced their risk of having another heart attack by 74%, compared with patients receiving medication only. Reducing mental stress also proved more beneficial than getting exercise. (Dr. James Blumenthal, Duke University, 1997)
  • Twenty-eight people with high levels of blocked arteries and high risk of heart attack were placed a program with regular practice of meditation, yoga, a low-fat vegetarian diet, and exercise. Twenty people in the control group received conventional medical care endorsed by the AMA. At the end of a year, most of the experimental group reported that their chest pains had virtually disappeared; for 82% of the patients, arterial clogging had reversed. Those who were sickest at the start showed the most improvement. The control group had an increase in chest pain and arterial blockage worsened. (Follow-up studies suggest that the stress-reduction element may be the most significant factor in achieving these results.)
    (Dr. Dean Ornish, San Francisco Medical School, University of California, Lancet Journal)

Meditation & Chronic Pain

  • Meditators are able to reduce chronic pain by more than 50%, while increasing daily function and markedly improving their moods, even 4 years after the completion of an 8-week training course. (Jon Kabat-Zinn, M.D. Stress Reduction Clinic, University of Massachusetts)
  • Relaxation therapies are effective in treating chronic pain, and can markedly ease the pain of low back problems, arthritis, and headaches. (National Institutes of Health, 1996)

Meditation and Arthritis/Fibromyalgia

  • There are several studies that show meditation can be effective for fibromyalgia. In a 1993 study of 77 patients with fibromyalgia who participated in a 10-week meditation-based relaxation program, all showed some improvement in global well-being, pain, fatigue and sleep disturbances, and 51 percent had moderate to marked improvement. … There’s also evidence that meditation moderates the immune response, says Richard Kradin, MD, an immunologist and psychiatrist at Harvard University. Meditation may affect the nervous and vascular systems, as well as the immune system, which in turn would affect joint function and inflammation. (Arthritis Foundation)
  • Research shows meditation can help relieve many arthritis symptoms, such as pain, anxiety, stress and depression, as well as ease the fatigue and insomnia associated with fibromyalgia. It affects many body processes connected with well being and relaxation. Recent studies suggest meditation may balance the immune system to help the body resist disease, and even heal. (Arthritis Foundation)

Meditation & Insomnia

  • 75% of long-term insomniacs who have been trained in relaxation and meditation can fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed. (Dr. Gregg Jacobs, Psychologist, Harvard)

Meditation and PMS

  • Women with severe PMS showed a 58% improvement in their symptoms after five months of daily meditation. (Health, September, 1995)

Meditation and Reduction in Doctor & Hospital Visits

  • A study of health insurance statistics on over 2,000 people practicing meditation over a five-year period found that meditators consistently had less than half the hospitalization than did other groups with comparable age, gender, profession, and insurance terms. The difference between the meditation and non-meditation groups increased in older-age brackets. In addition, the meditators had fewer incidents of illness in seventeen medical treatment categories, including 87% less hospitalization for heart disease and 55% less for cancer. The meditators consistently had more than 50% fewer doctor visits than did other groups. (Psychosomatic Medicine, 49: 493-507, 1987)

Meditation & General Wellbeing

  • In two companies that introduced meditation, managers and employees who regularly practiced meditation improved significantly in overall physical health, mental well-being, and vitality when compared to control subjects with similar jobs in the same companies. Meditation practitioners also reported significant reductions in health problems such as headaches and backaches, improved quality of sleep, and a significant reduction in the use of hard liquor and cigarettes, compared to personnel in the control groups. (Anxiety, Stress and Coping International Journal, 6: 245-262, 1993.)
  • “What we found is that the longtime [meditation] practitioners showed brain activation on a scale we have never seen before,” said Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the university’s new $10 million W.M. Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior. “Their mental practice is having an effect on the brain in the same way golf or tennis practice will enhance performance.” It demonstrates, he said, that the brain is capable of being trained and physically modified in ways few people can imagine. Davidson concludes from the research that meditation not only changes the workings of the brain in the short term, but also quite possibly produces permanent changes (Washington Post, 3/1/2005)

Meditation & Aging

  • Meditation may slow aging. A study found that people who had been meditating for more than five years were biologically 12 to 15 years younger than non-meditators. (International Journal of Neuroscience, 1992. [From Health News & Review, 1993, Vol. 3 Issue 2])

Meditation & the Workplace

  • “Companies including Nortel Networks Corp. have recognized the benefits of meditation by building nondenominational meditation rooms for employees.  CEOs such as Bill George of Medtronic Inc. have practiced daily meditation for many years…When practiced regularly, meditation can help to lower stress and blood pressure and enhance our state of awareness. [Meditation helps] release stress and fatigue, rest the body, and thus allow it to heal naturally by reducing the toxic chemistries of stress.”Lance Secretan, Industry Week, March 2001
  • “The three-month study of managers and employees who regularly practiced meditation in [Puritan-Bennett Corporation] showed that meditation practitioners displayed more relaxed physiological functioning, greater reduction in anxiety, and reduced tension on the job, when compared to control subjects with similar job positions in the same companies.”Anxiety, Stress & Coping International Journal, 1993
  • The owner of a Detroit manufacturing company started a meditation experiment at his firm, and enrolled fifty-two out of his one hundred employees to meditate twenty minutes before work and twenty minutes at work on company time. The owner, R.W. Montgomery, says, “Over the next three years, absenteeism fell by 85%, productivity rose 120%, quality control rose 240%, injuries dropped 70%, sick days fell by 16%, and profit soared 520%.” (Adam Khan, YouMe Works Publications)

Reference: Clarity Seminars