Meditation to Help with Anxiety
Approximately 9 percent of people in the U.S. reported meditating in 2007 according to the National Institutes of Health, and about 1 percent said they use meditation as some sort of treatment or medicine. "Many people have the idea that meditation means just sitting quietly and doing nothing," wrote Dr. Madhav Goyal in an email to Reuters Health. "That is not true. It is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways."
Mindfulness Meditation is a form of meditation that focuses on training the brain to stay in the moment. The goal is to learn to be mindful, or aware of the moment and not stay stuck in thoughts of the past that may have regrets, shame, remorse or thoughts of the future that make provoke anxiety. Mindfulness meditation is about learning how to focus. “It’s not necessarily about quieting the mind, because the nature of the mind is to think, analyze and compartmentalize,” states Ashley Turner, a California-based yoga and meditation teacher. “It’s normal for our minds to be overactive, so because you’re thinking and taking in the sounds around you doesn't mean that you’re doing meditation wrong. It actually means you’re doing it right! The goal is to create more focus.”
The author sites a recent study on the positive effects of meditation: The researchers found 47 studies with over 3,500 participants that met their criteria. After combining the data, Goyal said his team found between a 5 and 10 percent improvement in anxiety symptoms among people who took part in mindfulness meditation compared to those who did another activity. There was also about a 10 to 20 percent improvement in symptoms of depression among those who practiced mindfulness meditation compared to the other group. "This is similar to the effects that other studies have found for the use of antidepressants in similar populations," Goyal said.
There was some suggestion that meditation may help improve stress and overall mental health, but the evidence supporting those findings was of low quality, and more rigorous studies are still required. More research is needed in order to demonstrate that meditation could influence positive mood, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep or weight. "Clinicians should be prepared to talk with their patients about the role that meditation programs could have in addressing psychological stress, particularly when symptoms are mild," Goyal said.
There may be some evidence that indicates that there may be some benefit to use of mindfulness meditation to decrease anxiety and depressive symptoms. The studies indicate it may be as effective as antidepressant. However, there are some mixed studies that indicate that the evidence is not at a significant level and that further research is needed.
Andrew Seaman reported on this research and indicates that “Goroll is professor at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Goyal said people should remember that meditation was not conceived to treat any particular health problem. "Rather, it is a path we travel on to increase our awareness and gain insight into our lives," he wrote. "The best reason to meditate is to gain this insight. Improvements in health conditions are really a side benefit, and it's best to think of them that way." SOURCE: bit.ly/WiwDtv JAMA Internal Medicine, online January 6, 2014.
The studies suggest that there may be benefit in using mindfulness meditation to decrease anxiety and depressive symptoms. There are some mixed study results, however, and current some research indicates that while not yet statistically significant, the results are similar to the effectiveness of antidepressants. Further research is needed to determine the effectiveness mindfulness meditation.
Further research could include identifying if more intensive training or alternative training methods on this type of meditation would produce more significant results. With the increase in anxiety and depressive symptoms, looking for alternative approaches will be beneficial to the field. Mindfulness meditation is a cost effective approach that can be done in a person’s home or work, and it may also be an effective approach to those who are opposed to medication as a form of treatment.
- Kim B.
I often find myself feeling anxious for no apparent reason. I have trouble focusing on…what as it I was writing about? You understand what I’m talking about. I cannot just live in the moment, so I have to be prepared for the next 10 moments or the next 50 moments, and so on.
I have always been a planner, but I had a difficulty working a plan to fruition before planning the next move. Sometimes I move faster on to planning the next day, week, month, year, meeting, conference, or event as quickly as possible and sometimes more quickly than was possible. However, life often has a way of slowing us down. Life often comes to a grinding halt, in different ways for different people, and sometimes a loss causes us to stop and look around. The loss of a job, the loss of a friend or relative, the loss of a relationship, the loss of our freedom, or even the loss of our health. All of these losses are great anxiety creators and/or builders. As I review the losses I have listed, I realize that it is a very personal list. I have either personally suffered the loss or a close family member has as well. The stress and anxiety that comes with facing the battle challenges everyone. However if we can only stay in the moment and ride it through it will make us stronger.
For me, when I intentionally focus or even meditate, it helps me to stay in the moment. It helps me not miss out on something that I need to experience or learn, and it helps me to realize that even the worst of times can have some pleasant moments along the way.
Seaman, Andrew M (January 6, 2014) Meditation may help with anxiety, depression and pain How to calm your brain and find peace during a busy day. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/06/us-meditation-anxiety-depression-idUSBREA0511320140106
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