One of the topics we talk about frequently on this blog is how meditation can reduce stress and anxiety. This claim is backed by numerous studies that have observed these positive effects in patients; however, a new study has come out that is really special. In the past, researchers have relied on less than sophisticated means of observation to measure the effects of meditation on stress — e.g., heart rate monitoring, participant questionnaires, etc… This time scientists were able to use neuroimaging and genomics technology to see “a true biological effect.” In other words, this is the first study that will prove meditation has real effects on the brains and genes of chronically stressed individuals.
John Denninger, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, is the man leading the study. The study is a five-year, government- funded effort that will hopefully get more doctors to take alternative forms of therapy, like mindfulness meditation, more seriously. Chronic stress can induce a slew of unpleasant conditions, such as anxiety, depression, hypertension, and even infertility. In the U.S. alone, stress related conditions account for 60 to 90 percent of all visits to a doctor. Despite all this, it seems there is still very little that can be done to prevent or ameliorate this pressing epidemic that affecting so many people.
Prescription medication is one of the most commonly used methods of treatment for stress and stress related conditions, but their effectiveness is questionable and many of the side effects are less than desirable. Meditation, on the other hand, is capable of reducing a person’s stress and improving their mood without introducing any foreign chemicals into the body, which means the chance of someone getting hurt or having a negative side effect from meditating is irrelevant.
Denninger specializes in depression and he still believes that pharmaceuticals are necessary, but he is attracted to the idea of mind-body medicine, which was first proposed by Harvard professor, Herbert Benson, back in 1960. Like Benson, Denninger believes that meditation can be incorporated with other conventional forms of treatment to produce a more effective, long lasting, and less harmful outcome in patients.
Note: Specifically, with regards to medical issues, always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Web site.