What are the benefits of mindfulness meditation?

Ronald Siegel
Psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness meditation as an important element in the treatment of a number of problems, including depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, couples' conflicts, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some experts believe that it works, in part, by helping people to accept their experiences—including painful emotions—rather than react to them with aversion and avoidance. It's become increasingly common for mindfulness meditation to be combined with psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy. This development makes good sense, since both meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy share the common goal of helping people gain perspective on irrational, maladaptive, and self-defeating thoughts.
People suffering from conditions in which chronic stress appears to play a major role may benefit from mindfulness meditation. Rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and asthma all may have a chronic inflammatory component directly related to psychological stress. Mindfulness-based stress reduction was originally developed to help patients suffering with chronic, unrelenting pain, and involved focusing on breathing, body sensations and mental state when engaged in sitting, walking or yoga. Until recently, there was little science to support the specific benefits of mindfulness meditation.
A recent study looked at mindfulness meditation versus another stress-reduction approach that was designed to enhance health without mindfulness as a component, using techniques like nutrition, physical activity, and music therapy. So for example mindfulness meditation while walking was compared to “just walking.” The researchers induced inflammatory reactions in participants by using capsaicin cream, and other techniques to induce psychological stress. Then the two treatment methods were compared.
The results showed that using mindfulness meditation appeared to have an enhanced therapeutic effect on inflammatory conditions, compared to the other therapies used in the study. Researchers caution that it’s not a cure-all but mindfulness meditation can help as part of a therapeutic formulary for certain diseases and conditions.
UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center
Alternative & Complementary Medicine
In the last ten years, significant research has shown mindfulness to address health issues such as lower blood pressure and boost the immune system; increase attention and focus, including aid those suffering from ADHD; help with difficult mental states such as anxiety and depression, fostering well-being and less emotional reactivity; and thicken the brain in areas in charge of decision making, emotional flexibility, and empathy.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.