Research shows that meditation for as little as ten minutes a day can make a dramatic difference to one’s physical and mental health.[i] Benefits from meditation come after just a few weeks of practice.
In The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation (1997), Michael Murphy and Steven Donovan consolidated numerous studies from the past few decades of works carried out by researchers on the effects of meditation, they include:[ii]
- Lower heart rate
- Change in blood flow (for example, empathy, is related to the flushing of particular body parts, such as the face and chest)
- Lower blood pressure
- Help with cardiovascular diseases, such as angina and hypercholesterolemia
- Lessen stress
- Heightened perceptual awareness
- Improved reaction time and motor skill (due to increased alertness)
- Improved concentration and attention (less likely to be distracted)
- Improved memory
- Increased empathy (becomes kinder)
- More developed equanimity & detachment
- Increase experience of rapture and bliss
- More vivid and more archetypal dreams, higher dream recall rate
- Experiences bordering on extrasensory or parapsychological perception
- Altered body image and ego boundaries
- Increased energy and excitement after meditation and clearer visual perception and greater awareness of bodily processes.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Massachusetts, conducted a successful eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, using meditation to treat stress in patients suffering from a wide range of conditions. The program enjoyed success to the extent that it was later offered to medical students and hospital staffs.[iii]
In 1982, Kabat-Zinn showed mindfulness meditation was an effective way to control pain (Silva, 1990), because meditators were able to ‘decouple’ the physical sensation from the psychological elaboration. For most people physical pain is usually accompanied by psychological pain in the form of grief, restlessness, and worry. The Buddha said it was like being shot with two arrows. The first arrow is the physical pain, and the psychological pain is like the second arrow. A wise person, however, by remaining equanimous, only suffers the pain of the first arrow – the physical pain, and not psychological pain of grief or worry—the second arrow.
Considering the above benefits, it is no wonder that meditation
has been used in psychotherapy to help patients develop self-esteem, enhance
relationships, and in treating conditions such as depression, anxiety, chronic
pain, and childhood distress.