Meditation improves the immune system, research shows
- Meditation improves the immune system, reduces
blood pressure and even sharpens the mind,
according to research.
The practice - an essential part of Buddhist and
Indian Yoga traditions - has entered the mainstream
as people try to find ways to combat stress and
improve their quality of life.
Now new research suggests that mindfulness meditation
can have benefits for health and performance,
including improved immune function, reduced blood
pressure and enhanced cognitive function.
The study, published in the latest issue of the
journal Perspectives on Psychological Science,
draws on existing scientific literature to attempt
to explain the positive effects.
The goal of this work, according to author
Britta Hazel, of Justus Liebig University and
Harvard Medical School, is to "unveil the conceptual
and mechanistic complexity of mindfulness, providing
the big picture by arranging many findings like
the pieces of a mosaic."
The authors specifically identify four key
components of "mindfulness" - the state of
meditation - that may account for its effects:
attention regulation, body awareness, emotion
regulation, and sense of self. Together, these
help us deal with the effects of stress.
Dr Hazel said the components are closely intertwined
so an improvement in attention regulation, for example,
may improve our awareness of our physiological state.
Body awareness, in turn, helps us to recognise the
emotions we are experiencing.
She said: "Understanding the relationships between
these components, and the brain mechanisms that
underlie them, will allow clinicians to better
tailor mindfulness interventions for their patients."
However, the framework underscores the point that
mindfulness is not a vague cure-all. Effective
mindfulness meditation requires training and practice
and it has distinct measurable effects on our
subjective experiences, our behaviour, and our
Dr Hazel said: "We hope that further research on
this topic will enable a much broader spectrum of
individuals to utilise mindfulness meditation as
a versatile tool to facilitate change both in
psychotherapy and in everyday life."
This article is from the Telegraph in the UK 7:12AM GMT 01 Nov 2011
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