Daily Meditation, Keeping The Doc Away!
Historically, in the Buddhist culture, the primary goal of meditation has been to alleviate human sufferings, promote mindfulness, and augment relaxation. Decades later, this concept of meditation was transferred from the East to the West in hopes to mitigating physical and mental health issues. In recent years, the term meditation has been on the tip of the tongue of various physiologists, psychologists, academics, policy makers, and educationists. Subsequently, since 2012, the number of people practicing meditation has tripled making meditation the second most popular mind and body practice in the United States. Meditation, a holistic approach, is defined as “a state or skill which promotes well-being of the body, mind, and spirit through triggering measurable physiological responses” (Chan, 2014). According to the recent statistics, 200-500 million people across the world meditate (Rakicevic, 2021). The United States department of health and human services provided the data on the percentages of the meditation practitioners in different age groups. The data depicts that the popularity of meditation varies across different age groups with more individuals practicing meditation in age bracket of 45 to 64 years old.
Moreover, the report published by National Health Interview Survey from 2012 to 2017 concluded that women are more prone to meditate than men with “16% of women have tried out meditation, whereas only 12% of men have done this practice” (Zuckerman, 2020). While some feminist scholars argue that the practice of meditation has been gendered in a way that doesn’t allow men to truly seize the benefits, others contest this claim postulating that woman, compared to men, benefit more from meditation by portraying “decreased negative affect and improved mindfulness and self-compassion skills” (Rojiani et al., 2017). To dissect the reason for different effects of meditation across gender, a research carried out on seventy-seven university students concluded that men and women have dissimilar behavioral responses to negative stimuli and emotions (ibid). This is to say that women tend to “internalize” by deliberating in self-effacing behavior, while men are more apt to “externalize” by distracting themselves or involving in the environment (Johnson and Whisman, 2013). Moreover, in regards to religion, it is well-documented that the practice of meditation has emerged from India which is why “unsurprisingly Buddhists and Hindus meditate the most” ("Meditation Statistics, 2021"). The results of a research carried out in the US to explain the trends of meditation by various religious groups concluded that although people are motivated by religion to practice meditation, “not all people who meditate do so for religious reasons” (Masci & Hackett, 2018).
As meditation prompts humans to go beyond the “thinking” state into a profound state of “awareness”, there are thousands of studies that have been backed up with scientific evidence proving the positive effects of meditation on human health and mind. Thus, to understand the reason for why individuals practice meditation, a research titled as ‘prevalence, patters, and predictors of meditation’ was conducted in 2016. The results of the research are presented below which portrays that people gravitate towards meditation to improve their wellness and boosts their energy levels (Cramer et al., 2016).
76% - General Wellness, 60% - Improve Energy
50% - Aid Memory & Focus, 29% - Anxiety Relief
22% - Stress Relief, 18% - Depression Relief
(courtesy of the goodbody, 2021)
Building on the benefits of meditation, one study concluded that “this mind and body practice may reduce blood pressure, relieve pain, lower the risk of depression, and enhance overall well-being” (Rakicevic, 2021). Moreover, mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorders are treatable through the practice of meditation. It is postulated that “meditation improves anxiety levels 60% of the time” (Rakicevic, 2021), “reduces depression relapses by 12%” ("Meditation Statistics, 2021"), and “reduces symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder 73%” (Rakicevic, 2021). In addition, a study conducted by various researchers at the National University of Natural Sciences in Seoul, South Korea, delved into the practice of meditation and its impact on stress resilience. The researchers concluded that “meditation causes an immediate enhancement in resilience” (Kwak et al., 2019). Also, the study found that meditation actually “increased the resting-state functional connectivity between parts of our brains” resulting in decrease cortisol levels. Moreover, the researchers were dumbfounded when they observed that the benefits from meditation remained even three months after the meditation course ended (Kwak et al., 2019).
Meditation is found effective in controlling addiction, inhibiting aggression, controlling suicide and depression, plummeting stress and enhancing well-being and other mental health issues (Iqbal, Singh, and Aleem, 2016). Meditation can be categorized into the two broad types: Open monitoring (OM) and Focused attention (FA).
Open monitoring (OM) meditation also referred to as mindfulness meditation “involves a non-reactive, non-judgmental monitoring of ongoing experiences that includes thoughts, internal sensations, and external stimuli” (Fissler et al., 2016). This is the adrift form of unconsciousness without particular focus on any object. To do this sort of meditation, one needs to simply start observing and being mindful of every emotion, thought, feeling, memory, sound, taste, scent and sight. The benefits of open monitoring meditation include: mind freedom, relaxes body, increase creativity, reduces stress, and releases tension (Harrison, 2017).
On the contrary, focused attention meditation prompts individual to voluntarily focus on a specific thought, mantra, item, and object thereby blocking out all the external distractions. A specific type of focused meditation is Transcendental meditation (TM) which “gives its students a mantra and teaches how to use it without mentally without effort” (Bilican, 2016). As the focus of this practice is to let the mind wander into the realm of pure consciousness, transcendental meditation reduces carotid atherosclerosis which reduce blood pressure resulting in 30% decrease in cardiovascular mortality (ibid, 2016). Researcher elucidate that a “15-min TM practice twice daily for 2 months” results in “greater decreases in resting systolic blood pressure” (Barnes et al., 2001). Moreover, focused meditation results in the following: lower levels of anxiety, insomnia and exhaustion, job stress, substance abuse, ameliorate health and increased job satisfaction, employee productivity, better work ethics, and healthier idiosyncratic relationships (Alexander et al., 1993)
Recently, scientific research found that meditation increases attention span resulting in increased productivity. Subsequently, schools and workplaces are employing techniques of meditation to help individuals reach their maximum potential. H.A. Montgomery company, a chemical plant in Detroit, carried out an experiment by mandating its employees to practice transcendental meditation twice a day for six months. The results surprised everyone as “absenteeism was reduced by 85%, injuries dropped 70% and profits rose a massive 520%!” ("Meditation Statistics", 2021). Accordingly, meditation programs in the workplace are increasing dramatically.
Owing to the innumerable benefits of meditation, children should also start meditating as early as age 7. This is primarily because the initial years of child’s life “are crucial to setting up a strong foundation for relationships, learning, and mental health” (Deshpande, 2016). Evidence suggests that children (both boys and girls) meditated 10 times more in 2017 as compared to 2012 (Rakicevic, 2021). Moreover, in Easter countries like China, children are introduced to the practice of meditation at 4.5-year-olds where they are “trained in integrative body-mind therapy (IBMT) sessions adapted from the original Zen training program for adults” (ibid). Consequently, schools across the world are implementing practice of meditation to increase students’ well-being and productivity. A systematic research study aimed to review effects of meditation in schools reported that across all different countries (Canada, India, the UK, the US, Taiwan, and Canada), meditated resulted in “higher well-being, better social skills and greater academic skills” (Waters, 2015). Subsequently, 91 schools in the US introduced meditation as part of their curriculum. This resulted in a rapid decline in the school suspension rates (45% percent) (Rakicevic, 2021) due to an increase in pro-social behavior (Waters, 2015), promoting an inclusive, learning environment.
Contrary to the popular belief that technology is deteriorating mental health, research elucidates that the popularity of meditation has seen an influx through technology as it allows and teaches people to engage in methods of meditation. The apps like Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer allow users, especially the younger population, to fit art of meditation in their busy schedules with just one click. Therefore, meditation apps are viewed as “convenient, accessible and cost-effective way” to practice meditation (Rose, 2020). Subsequently, the market for meditation especially in the US is soaring with “generating over $100 million in revenue per year” (Zukerman, 2020).
All in all, meditation bridges the gap between mind and body making both the human body and mind resilient, flexible, and adaptive. A recent study comparing meditators (trained in mindfulness-based stress-reduction) to non-meditators found that “meditators show evidence of more accurate and efficient visual attention” (Hodgins and Adair, 2010). Thus, on an individual level, to build physical and mental resilience, individuals must meditate every day to capitalize on its profound benefits. On the large societal level, “Cleanse the mind, cleanse the world” echoed around as the Buddhist monks commemorated Earth Day by lighting 330,000 candles to bring together people from all race, religion, and nationality to meditate, practice empathy, and save the planet for the future generation. It is only through meditation that one becomes consciousness of “self” and the “others”.
Mahnoor Zakir is a contributor and research assistant at dR CLB Lab
She is a senior undergrad student majoring in economics & political science from Lahore University of Management Sciences. She is a talented and versatile writer, proficient in all aspects, with a primary interest in succinctly analyzing political developments and international affairs. With versatile courses at hand, Mahnoor is a performance-driven individual with an exceptional ability to develop essential and valuable ideas necessary to thrive in the world. Although Mahnoor is in the developing stage of her career, she has high aims and objectives in fulfilling her academic aspirations while parallel working in a practical research field.
Mahnoor is also a reserach assistant at the Global Foundation of Cyber Studies and Research Think Tank Washington DC
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