Meditation and Health in the Media

How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body
Time Magazine 2003

At Cambridge University, John Teasdale found that mindfulness helped chronically depressed patients, reducing their relapse rate by half.

At the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Richard Davidson has used brain imaging to show that meditation shifts activity in the prefrontal cortex (right behind our foreheads) from the right hemisphere to the left. Davidson’s research suggests that by meditating regularly, the brain is reoriented from a stressful fight-or-flight mode to one of acceptance, a shift that increases contentment. People who have a negative disposition tend to be right-prefrontal oriented; left-prefrontals have more enthusiasm, more interests, relax more and tend to be happier.

In another study, conducted with Wisconsin’s Richard Davidson, Kabat-Zinn gave a group of newly taught meditators and nonmeditators flu shots and measured the antibody levels in their blood. Researchers also measured their brain activity to see how much the meditators’ mental activity shifted from the right brain to the left. Not only did the meditators have more antibodies at both four weeks and eight weeks after the shots, but the people whose activity shifted the most had even more antibodies. The better your meditation technique, Kabat-Zinn suggests, the healthier your immune system.

Meanwhile the evidence from meditation researchers continues to mount. One study, for example, shows that women who meditate and use guided imagery have higher levels of the immune cells known to combat tumours in the breast. This comes after many studies have established that meditation can significantly reduce blood pressure… Meditation can sometimes be used to replace Viagra.

“In essence, meditation is nothing other than concentrated awareness. Although it can be used as a relaxation technique, I find it most valuable as a method of restructuring the mind, breaking habitual patterns of thought and creating seeds of balance to oppose erratic mood swings.
“Over time it can provide great mental health benefits: relief from ordinary anxiety and depression, better rest and sleep, and increased resistance to disturbing influences on emotional equilibrium. Meditation has also proved quite valuable in preparing patients for surgery.” – Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D., University of Arizona

Meditation is being recommended by more and more physicians as a way to prevent, slow or at least control the pain of chronic diseases like heart conditions, AIDS, cancer and infertility. It is also being used to restore balance in the face of such psychiatric disturbances as depression, hyperactivity and attention-deficit disorder (ADD).
Doctors are embracing meditation because scientific studies are beginning to show that it works, particularly for stress-related conditions.
“For 30 years meditation research has told us that it works beautifully as an antidote to stress,” says Daniel Goleman, author of Destructive Emotions, a conversation among the Dalai Lama and a group of neuroscientists. “But what’s exciting about the new research is how meditation can train the mind and reshape the brain.”

Tests using the most sophisticated imaging techniques suggest that meditation can actually reset the brain, changing the point at which a traffic jam, for instance, sets the blood boiling.


Meditation Improves Immune-System Function: Study
Sydney Morning Herald, February 5, 2003

For the first time, meditation has been shown to produce lasting beneficial changes in immune system function as well as brain electrical activity.

A US study which looked at a group of 25 people who underwent an eight-week meditation training program is the latest is a growing body of research into the so-called mind-body connection. As part of the study, flu shots were given to the employees and a group of 16 other employees who didn’t receive meditation training.

When researchers checked for antibodies to the vaccine at one month and two months later, the meditators had significantly higher levels than the non-meditators. Professor Richard Davidson, the study’s lead author, says some of the changes persisted for four months after the formal eight-week course.

Researchers also found about 50% more electrical activity in the left frontal regions of the brains of the meditators. Other research has showed that part of the brain is associated with positive emotions and anxiety reduction.

The study’s findings will be published in the upcoming issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.