3 Proven Health Benefits of Meditation

by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

Meditation is kind of trendy (again) these days. Of course, the 21st century spin emphasizes not spiritual enlightenment but meditation's tangible health benefits. How much is true and how much is hype? Here's some evidence from a review of 47 previous studies (with over 3,500 participants). The researchers found support for using mindfulness meditation to combat three common conditions.

Mindfulness meditation involves allowing the mind to pay attention to whatever thoughts enter it, without judgement or focus (as opposed to mantra meditation, which involves focusing concentration on a particular word or sound), according to Reuters . Lead researcher Madhav Goyal described it as "an active training of the mind to increase awareness."

The study found mindfulness meditation has little affect on sleep, substance abuse, attention, eating, or mood disorders. But it did lead to moderate improvements in symptoms of:

1. Anxiety

Researchers found mindfulness meditation led to a 5 to 10 percent improvement in anxiety symptoms.

2. Depression

For people with depression, mindfulness meditation was linked to a 10 to 20 percent improvement in symptoms. "This is similar to the effects that other studies have found for the use of antidepressants in similar populations," Goyal told Reuters.

3. Chronic Pain

Mindfulness meditation was also associated with moderate success at pain reduction, researches say.

The study, from Johns Hopkins University, was published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Kevin Barrows, the director of mindfulness programs at the University of California’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, told Healthline the study’s findings were “not surprising, but affirming.” He said that meditation is criticized as untested, but "this a refutation of that. This is a scientifically rigorous study. It does corroborate the efficacy of mindfulness.”

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