Not Just for Monks!


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The transition from high school to college wasn't exactly an easy one for me.  There were a lot of things going on in my life, my anxiety levels were high, and literally anything and everything stressed me out.  This made my back hurt constantly, it was challenging for me to sleep at night, and it made it very difficult for me to concentrate on my homework or in my classes.  My boyfriend suggested I try meditation.  He had been doing it for a while, but I was very skeptical about it.  How could sitting up straight and breathing decrease my stress?  I finally decided to give it a try, and it helped considerably. 

In meditation you are conscious (obviously), but you are supposed to drain all thoughts from your mind and body and just breathe.  The first time I did it, I focused on one word: calm.  No matter how hard I tried to just focus on that one word, my mind drifted from thought to thought.  I would catch myself in the middle and get frustrated, but I would just bring myself back to that one word.  After about twenty minutes of fighting internally with myself, my mind finally calmed.  I got into this trance like mode, I was awake, but all my mind was aware of was my breathing.  The noises around me went away, my thoughts went away, and I was just breathing.  When I finally 'came out' of my first meditation the feeling was incredible.  I didn't feel tired, but I felt relaxed, calm, and clear minded.  I felt like I could tackle anything, which was a rare feeling at the time.  Since then, I have meditated almost every day.  Whenever I feel like my work is piling up or I just can't get an idea for a paper, I put everything aside for 20-30 minutes and meditate.  Sometimes I listen to meditation tones or listen to guided meditations on YouTube.  However, I feel as though my mind is most clear and I feel the most rejuvenated after doing a silent meditation.


So what does this have to do with Science?


While meditating, the brainwaves actually move from the right frontal cortex, where stress is housed, to the left frontal cortex, where happiness is housed.  Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D conducted a study with 41 employees that worked for the same firm.  All of these employees felt comparable high stress.  25 of these employees practiced meditation over 8 weeks, while the others did not.  The brainwaves of the participants in both groups were measured and it was found that the group that practiced meditation was calmer and happier than the group that did not.

Meditation is also proven to help with countless health problems, such as "high blood pressure, chronic pain, psoriasis, sleep trouble, anxiety, depression, and eating disorders."  A study done at the University of California Medical School found that meditation increases the connection between the auditory and visual functions of the brain and increases the connection between the auditory and the attention functions of the brain.  

So basically, meditation increased the ability of the subjects to pay attention and be alert because their senses were more acute. The complete abstract can be found here

If you feel like the workload of college is too much or if you just want to feel better overall, I highly recommend meditation!  You may feel silly at first, but I promise it is worth it.

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4 Comments

Hey Quinn,
thanks for the insight about the meditation. To be honest I have a very overactive mind and it mostly sets in when I am trying to fall asleep at night. I have never seriously considered meditation but the technique I use seems to be similar. I generally try to picture a white wall in my mind and I concentrate on the wall so that my brain cannot go other places when I do it effectively.

Interesting article. I've always been interested in meditation but I always thought it was a scam. I've meditated before (half-seriously) and although I felt slightly more calm, I figured it was just in my head. It's amazing what science can prove. Moving brainwaves from the right frontal cortex to the left to achieve "happiness" is amazing. Maybe in the future there will be something that can alter those waves in the same fashion but in a way less time consuming then meditation.

I really like this post. I have chronic back pain from doing cheerleading and I've been to a chiropractor and physical therapy and mostly all they can say is "just wait it out". My chiropractor, having a very holistic approach recommended acupuncture (eek! needles! -but probably my next blog topic), but never meditation. I never thought that meditation had roots in science. I always believed it was more of a placebo effect, where if you think it'll happen, it does. Brain scans are always interesting because they provide empirical evidence that something is effective.

The only thing that piqued my curiosity was the wide range of things that meditation can cure. With the support of the brain scans, I can understand how it would relieve stress by actually altering the location of brain waves, but it seems to be a cure-all for a lot of other problems and i'd love to see the data about the other disorders because it's just difficult for me to find the link between meditation and psoriasis.

Interestingly enough, I did find a webpage here about the connection between meditation and eating disorders and I am amazed by the connection that mediation has with a known psychological and physiological disorder.

Thanks for an interesting post!!

This blog spiked my curiosity for what stress actually is, and how it effects your brain.
Our brain has to be kept in balance through homeostases just like our cells. We feel stress when it is out of balance, or scientifically speaking when either the tranquilizing or tranquilizing chemical force over powers the other. If this continues and doesn't go away after a specific stressful moment (like being shocked/scared or something like that), then our brains suffer an imbalance. We all know this effects our mood negatively, but it also effects our actual brain cells. It can injure or even kill them. So, reducing stress is important- and meditation is clearly a great way to do so!

source:
http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/stress.html

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