Several studies designed specifically to understand the beneficial effects of meditation have shown that meditation helps to prevent heart disease, reduce pain, reduce blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, decrease anxiety and help manage asthma2.
Meditation has been shown to increase alpha waves (relaxed brain waves) and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol. It appears that some of the positive physical changes associated with meditation have their roots in stress management.
Conditions benefitted by meditation
* Pain: There is a body of research work indicating that meditation can reduce chronic pain3. One notable study conducted at the Texas Tech University found that meditation in conjunction with traditional medicine enhances the effectiveness of western medical treatment. In another study published in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine, patients suffering from backache, chronic migraine and tension headaches were able to significantly reduce pain medication4. Another study found that people who meditate regularly find pain less unpleasant.5
* HIV: There is emerging evidence from other studies that shows that meditation and behavioral stress-management programs can buffer HIV declines in HIV-positive people6
* High Cholesterol: In two prospective, random assignment studies, meditation reduced total cholesterol over a relatively short period (three months)7 as well as a long period (11 months)8.
* Anxiety and Depression: Since the early sixties, scientists have speculated that meditation improves mental functioning. 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 the stress response.
* Diabetes: Meditation also aids in controlling blood sugar levels. Researchers at the University of Virginia have shown that following meditation, reduced stress levels correlate with a decrease in blood glucose levels.9
* Hypertension: Besides its role as a stress buster, meditation also reduces blood pressure10 and contributes to the overall reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease.
Meditation is more that just a way for us to get in touch with ourselves and calm a busy mind. It appears that meditation has a direct effect on the physical body, brain activity and underlying brain structure.