Does meditation really work?


Mediation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. We are not trying to turn off our thoughts or feelings but learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, we may start to better understand them as well. (Headspace, n.d.)





Simply working with the mind leads to an improved sense of presence, calm, attentiveness, and an increase in valued human qualities such as empathy and patience.


A lot of things in life are beyond our control, but it’s quite possible to have greater control over our actions and how we respond to the situations we find ourselves in. And we can do this by cultivating awareness of how the mind works and the ability to maintain focus. There’s no better way to cultivate awareness than with meditation. (Mindworks, n.d.)


There are a few different types of meditation:

  • Mindfulness meditation

  • Spiritual meditation

  • Transcendental meditation

  • Movement meditation

  • Progressive relaxation

  • Metta meditation

But the one scientifically proven that can help with an array of conditions both physical and mental, including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and the one we will be offering here at Nextmove Wellness and Physiotherapy is the Mindfulness Meditation.


In 2012, Gaëlle Desbordes, an instructor in radiology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and a neuroscientist at Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging (MGH’s) conducted a study about the effects of meditation on the brains of clinically depressed patients. She used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), which not only takes pictures of the brain, as a regular MRI does, but also records brain activity occurring during the scan. Desbordes demonstrated that changes in brain activity in subjects who have learned to meditate hold steady, even when they’re not meditating. She took before-and-after scans of subjects who learned to meditate over the course of two months. She scanned them not while they were meditating, but while they were performing everyday tasks. The scans still detected changes in the subjects’ brain activation patterns from the beginning to the end of the study, the first time such a change — in a part of the brain called the amygdala — had been detected. (Powell, 2019)


The amygdala is recognized as a component of the limbic system, and is thought to play an important role in emotion and behaviour. It is best known for its role in the processing of fear. (NEUROSCIENTIFICALLY CHALLENGED, 2014)


During the scans, participants completed two tests, one that encouraged them to become more aware of their bodies by focusing on their heartbeats (an exercise related to mindfulness meditation), and the other required them to reflect on phrases common in the self-chatter of depressed patients, such as “I am such a loser,” or “I can’t go on.” After a series of such comments, the participants were asked to stop ruminating on the phrases and the thoughts they trigger. Researchers then measured how quickly subjects could disengage from negative thoughts, typically a difficult task for the depressed. (Powell, 2019) They found out that the mindfulness meditation training boosted body awareness in the moment, called interoception. By focusing their attention on the here and now, participants were able to break the cycle of self-rumination. (Powell, 2019)


So, if after reading this you feel like you would benefit from meditating or if you are curious about it, just go and do it! There’s lots of free guided meditations online, there’s apps and there’s also in-person or online classes. Personally, I prefer to do it in person in a group, it feels a lot easier to get into a meditative state, but I also do it on my own. Another good thing of doing it in a class is that breaks the pre-conceived idea that we have to sit cross legged and chant 'om', most times we sit comfortably on a chair, with a straight back and grounded feet or we can also lay down.


Let us know if you have any questions about it, by commenting below or sending us an e-mail to: massage@nextmovephysio.com.au

Sara Camarinha Pedras

References

Headspace. (n.d.). What is meditation? Retrieved from Headspace: https://www.headspace.com/meditation-101/what-is-meditation

Mindworks. (n.d.). Meditation Definition: What is Meditation? Take Charge of the Mind. Retrieved from Mindworks: https://mindworks.org/blog/meditation-definition/

NEUROSCIENTIFICALLY CHALLENGED. (2014, June 24). KNOW YOUR BRAIN: AMYGDALA. Retrieved from NEUROSCIENTIFICALLY CHALLENGED: https://www.neuroscientificallychallenged.com/blog/know-your-brain-amygdala

Powell, A. (2019, April 9). When science meets mindfulness. Retrieved from The Harvard Gazette : https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/harvard-researchers-study-how-mindfulness-may-change-the-brain-in-depressed-patients/


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