meditation and mental health

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meditation and mental health

Post by cymbalta on Wed Dec 01, 2010 8:23 pm

Meditation is a synchronized mind body technique. It is a technique, defined as, ‘the maintained focus of attention on a single object, through which the mind is calmed and distracting influences of other internal and external events are reduced.

Meditation enhances cognitive functions strengthening attention span. It helps to achieve an optimal growth towards a state of total brain functioning. Mediation augments psycho physiological functioning of the body and helps to achieve full mental potential.

Meditation and Combating Anxiety
Anxiety is viewed as a diffuse and vague feeling of apprehension. Anxiety disorders involve symptoms of anxiety and avoidance behavior that cause clinically significant distress or impairment of functioning in social and work situations. Anxiety was first recognized as a medical diagnostic entity in the late 1800s.

In 1871 Dr Mendez Da Costa described a chronic cardiac syndrome with no apparent organic cause. In the early 1900, Sigmund Freud recognized anxiety as a central component of mental disorders.

Relaxation training is one of the major techniques proposed by the Psychotherapists to combat anxiety. Simple relaxation or mindfulness breathing helps to reduce anxiolytic feelings. Physiologically, breathing is important to the human body. Breathing nourishes the body and its various organs with the supply of oxygen, which is vital for survival. Oxygen is essential for the integrity of the brain, nerves, glands, internal organs and healthy skin.

Breathing plays an important role in cleansing the body of toxins and waste products. Hence systematic and mindfulness breathing helps to gather more oxygen concentration to the system and reduce anxiety.
Meditation helps to have an exceptional control over the thoughts and facilitate to reduce dysfunctional patterns of thought and perceptions that generate anxiety. In addition, it gives a greater ability to manage negative emotions and helps to gain a greater sense of stability.

Anxiety often activates the sympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that activates the body for emergencies and activities) via meditation, a person would gain more control over nervous system.

The researcher Alex Hankey studied the advanced stages of meditation and found numerous physiological changes in the human body. Alex Hankey states that most of these somatic changes act positively to gain better mental and physical equilibrium. Another study which was done by David Orme-Johnson, the MERU laboratory director, and K.G. Walton after comparing 10 meta-analyses comprising many hundred studies of different meditation techniques pronounced meditation can produce very different magnitudes of effect in anxiety reduction.

Meditation as a Stress Breaker
Sometimes severe anxiety is caused by dysfunctional brain chemistry and genetic factors. Therefore, meditation alone may not help to reduce the anxiety. In such patients, medication is required. But as a supportive therapy meditation act positively in these patients.

Medically stress is defined as a perturbation of the body’s homeostasis. It is a state of affair involving demand on physical or mental energy. Stress is a condition that sometimes adversely can affect normal physiological and psychological functioning of an individual. Stress is both additive and cumulative.

Some Medical Experts view stress as a silent killer. From common cold to hypertension, diabetes and genesis of cancer, stress plays a key role. Stress can trigger various anxiety disorders, depression, psychosomatic ailments and sometimes-psychotic illnesses like ATPD (Acute Transient Psychotic Disorder) or Schizophrenia.

Recent Studies have found positive correlations between stress reduction and meditation. Meditation is a unique stress breaker. It helps achieve personal growth opens a system of values and philosophy of life. It is a systematic tuning of mental chatter. Researchers say that meditation works at least in part by lowering the body’s responsiveness to the stress hormone norepinephrine.

Meditation as a Combined Therapy in Depression
Depression is an affective disorder that can cause physical and psychological distress in an individual. It gives a series of persistent feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, guilt, agitation and indecisiveness.
Depression can dramatically impair person’s ability to function in social situations and at work. Depression is estimated to contribute to 50 % of all suicides.

Psychiatrist Aaron T Beck of University of Pennsylvania pioneered the psychological mode of management of depression in 1979. He developed a cognitive therapy as a treatment of depression, which is called today as Beck’s therapy. He identified negative thought patterns as the hallmark of clinical depression.
Beck’s therapy helps organize cognitive restructuring in patients. As Beck hypothesized that depression prone individuals process negative self schemata.

Meditation helps place worries, fears, and disappointments in a more rational perspective way giving a true picture. It helps the depressed person to analyze his negative thinking pattern more logically.
The person comprehends that the negativism is rather in his own thoughts not in the real event. He can experience power and peace. Reduction of frustration and overwhelming feelings leads him toward a more rational path. Meditation helps change negative self-schemata.

A Study by a Harvard Physician
Herbert Benson a Harvard Physician and a scientist undertook a research on the effect of meditation to physiology. He characterized meditation as a uniquely relaxing physiological state _ distinct both from everyday wakefulness and from sleep.

He emphasized that during meditation oxygen consumption stabilizes, heart rate decreases, hormonal balance returns and alpha brain waves associated with relaxation increases. Alpha brain wave state is characterized by high frequency and low amplitude. It is a state of passive awareness, composure of physical and mental relaxation. Emotional sensation in the alpha state includes a sense of well being pleasure and tranquility.

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