Meditation is a practice that has become increasingly popular in mainstream culture due to its extraordinary health benefits. Throughout the middle ages, meditation became popular as a religious tradition. It became popular in western culture in the late 1900s, when medical researchers such as Dr. Hubert Benson, a professor at Harvard Medical School, studied meditation in 1967 and found that while people meditated they used less oxygen, had increased brainwaves and lower heart rates, making it ideal for aiding with sleep. Since then, celebrities have also worked to further meditation’s popularity such as The Beatles famously practicing Transcendental Meditation. Multiple celebrities follow meditation guru Deepak Chopra, who became famous after going on Oprah. There are now multiple apps that offer guided meditation, such as Head Space (which has also partnered with Jetblue to ease travel anxiety for their passengers). Here at Bates we have the Dharma society, which practices meditation and mindfulness daily. Meditation is the practice of training the mind to be more attentive and aware. In some practices this is done by quieting the body, and focusing the mind on one specific thing. Most often, people sit to meditate, either cross-legged on the floor or in a seated position. While meditating, people actively work on focusing on one particular object, activity, or thought or practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a part of meditation as it centers around the idea of focusing on the present moment. There are many benefits of practicing meditation in your day-to-day life. The purpose of this article is to raise awareness for these benefits on a college campus where students are often experience stress and anxiety. There have been multiple studies on how meditation works to reduce stress and combat anxiety. In a psychology study done by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that mindfulness meditation helped to reduce inflammation brought about by stress. Another study by doctors at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester followed up with 18 study volunteers three years after they completed an 8-week outpatient physician-referred stress reduction program based on mindfulness meditation. The study found that many of the volunteers continued to practice meditation after the program due to the health benefits they received. These patients also maintained lower anxiety levels over the three year period in which they practiced mindfulness meditation. This study highlights how meditation is a powerful asset for reducing anxiety and stress as patients continued to practice mindful meditation on their own accord. Along with stress and anxiety relief, other benefits of meditation include lengthening attention span, promoting restful sleep, and strengthening mental and emotional health. In a study published in June 2007, three professors from the University of Pennsylvania researched how mindfulness training could help with focus and attention skills. The results of their findings suggest that mindfulness meditation helps to modify the subsystems of attention by “enhancing functioning of specific subcomponents of attention.” As mentioned previously, Dr. Hubert Benson of Harvard Medical School, found that when people meditate they use less oxygen, had increased brainwaves and lower heart rates, making it ideal for aiding with sleep. Meditation also works to increase melatonin levels in the body, resulting in a deeper sleep post-meditation. In regards to mental and emotional health, multiple studies have shown that those who practice meditation are less likely to experience depression and for those with depression, there was a decrease in their depression. In conclusion, meditation is an extremely beneficial practice, one that students should be more apt to participate in. In the busy life that we lead as students, it is important to take time for yourself to make sure that you are maintaining your health and well-being. Dr. Hubert Benson recommends just twenty minutes a day of meditation in order to reap its benefits. In the age of cell phones and computer screens commanding multiple hours of our day, taking the twenty minutes to yourself can make a world of a difference.
Sources: Martires, Joanne, and Michelle Zeidler. “The value of mindfulness meditation in the treatment of insomnia.” Current opinion in pulmonary medicine 21.6 (2015): 547-552.Jha, A.P., Krompinger, J. & Baime, M.J. Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience 7, 109–119 (2007) doi:10.3758/CABN.7.2.109Thorpe, Matthew “12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation” healthline.com, July 5, 2017. Rosenkranz, Melissa A., et al. “A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation.” Brain, behavior, and immunity 27 (2013): 174-184.Miller, John J., Ken Fletcher, and Jon Kabat-Zinn. “Three-year follow-up and clinical implications of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention in the treatment of anxiety disorders.” General hospital psychiatry 17.3 (1995): 192-200.