meditation for anxiety

Meditation: A stress reliever, but not a panacea

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Melissa Healy, Los Angles Times: Take a deep breath, meditation enthusiasts: A new study finds that research on mindfulness meditation has yielded moderate evidence that the practice can reduce anxiety, depressive symptoms and pain, but little to no evidence that it can reduce substance abuse or improve mood, sleep or weight control. And no evidence was found that meditation programs were better than drugs, exercise or other behavioral therapies at addressing issues of mental health.
The latest word on meditation’s effects comes from a meta-analysis–essentially a study of existing clinical trials that sifts, consolidates and distills their findings. It’s published in JAMA Internal …

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Meditation as medicine?

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Business2Community.com: For centuries, people have meditated to gain deeper insight and wisdom about themselves and their lives. More recently, researchers have studied meditation to gain insight about its effect on psychological wellbeing. Can it help ease pain, depression, or anxiety? Does it relieve stress, improve mood and concentration, or short-circuit substance abuse? What is its effect on sleep and weight?

To find out exactly what meditation can and cannot do, Madhav Goya, M.D., M.P.H, assistant professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, conducted a review of the study literature to date. Dr. Goyal …

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Does meditation have benefits for mind and body?

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Robert Schneider, MD, Medical News Today: It is hard to believe some still question whether meditation can have a positive effect on mind and body. A very selective research review recently raised the question, leading to headlines such as the one in The Wall Street Journal that said the benefits are limited.

I have been researching effects of meditation on health for 30 years and have found it has compelling benefits.

Over the past year, I have been invited by doctors in medical schools and major health centers on four continents to instruct them on the scientific basis of mind-body medicine and meditation in …

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Should we be mindful of mindfulness?

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David Derbyshire,
The Observer: It has been prescribed by the NHS for depression since 2004 but recently mindfulness has spawned a whole industry of evening classes and smartphone apps. What is the evidence that the practice – part meditation, part CBT – works?

At just after 6.15pm in a brightly lit conference room in Oxford, 22 grown men and women are lying on the floor trying hard to focus on their left knee. From across the room a lilting, calm voice has already invited the group to explore their feet and ankles with “gentle curiosity” and is heading up through the body. “When your mind …

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Could meditation help Long Island students?

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Anne Michaud, Long Island Newsday: A woman I had just met was so upset that she began to confide in me about her high school daughter. The girl had burst into tears when she got a 92 on a test, and she was concerned that if she didn’t attend a summer study program, she wouldn’t be able to compete with her peers for college admission.

“Why are kids so anxious now?” the mom asked. “Was life such a treadmill when we were young?”

This family lives in one of Long Island’s better public school districts — with plenty of academic pressure — but these questions are being raised all around. A poll released in December — conducted by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health — said that 40 percent of parents believe their high school kids are stressed over school.

Admirably, some schools are trying what could be a stress antidote: mindfulness and meditation.

At Centennial High School, south of Baltimore, physics teacher and meditation instructor Stan Eisenstein is offering a 10-week course in mindfulness to 30 teens after school. The nonreligious course is based on Buddhist principles and shows students how to tune in to their bodily sensations and breath, as well as their thoughts and emotions. According to a story in The Baltimore Sun last month, Eisenstein calls these skills “a first-aid kit” for stress.

His course has become so popular that …

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Relax needless fear around others

Young woman with long straight hair and bangs smoking a cigarette and giving the finger.

We all know this fear. You’re walking down a street, someone you don’t know comes toward you, and there’s a second or more of wariness, scanning, apprehension, and tension or bracing in the body: a barely conscious assessment of possible threat.

Or you step into a meeting with people you know and still there could be a watchfulness, a restraint, a certain carefulness in how you speak that comes more from subtle anxiety than reasonable prudence.

Perhaps someone disagrees with you in this meeting – and you feel uneasy, off balance, unprotected; maybe later you worry what others thought about how you responded to the disagreement: Was I too irritated and pushy? Do they think I’m defensive? What should I do next time?

When you get home, let’s say your teenage son is quiet and prickly as usual. You want to tell him that the chilly distance between you feels awful, and you want to open your heart to him . . . but it feels awkward, you’re afraid of making things worse, and when you spoke from the heart while growing up it did not go well and the fears reaching back into your childhood shadow and strengthen your fears today, so you say nothing, again.

And these are just the milder anxieties. Consider stronger ones, such as common fears about others getting angry, public speaking, being vulnerable, talking with authority figures, what others might think about your body, or being around people who aren’t like you.

Sometimes these fears are justified. People at home or work might actually want to hurt you. On a larger scale, think about Europe as it lurched into World War II, a time when many people treated others terribly, and when underestimating this threat had devastating consequences; there are many similar examples.

But often our fears around other people are not justified. They could care less about what we did – we are usually just a bit player in their own personal drama, anyway – or if they do care, it’s a passing feeling. Even if the other person does react, most likely you could handle it fine.

Further, if there truly is something to deal with – a conflict, issue, broken agreement, betrayal – it is possible to be clear-eyed, strong, straightforward, confident, and secure without being anxious about it (see the chapter on kindness and assertiveness in Buddha’s Brain. Anxiety is something added to our response to situations; sometimes it’s helpful, but usually it clouds thinking, adds needless suffering, and fuels conflicts with others.

So there are two kinds of mistakes we can make: having too little or too much anxiety around others. We should do our best to avoid making either kind. But which mistake is more common?

It’s the second one: needless anxiety stirred into the sauce of life, making it bitter.

Be mindful of anxiety around others, especially subtle unease, concern, tension, nervousness, or worry. Tune into your body, that little jump in heartrate or funny feeling in the pit of your stomach. Watch the thoughts passing through, the quiet murmuring in the back of the mind that overestimates threats and underestimates resources, that predicts problems which are actually unlikely.

Be aware of the costs to you of unnecessary – not useful, not valuable – anxiety. Besides feeling bad, it makes a person play smaller with others, hold back his or her truth, and hunker down – or go to war, in ways small or large. Then really decide in your heart if you want to be free of this worthless fear.

With someone who you know cares about you, try saying to yourself (adapt my suggestions to your needs): I know you’re not going to attack me. Find your way to having the statement ring true, and then see how you feel. Do it again with this statement to yourself: Even if you did attack me, I would still be OK in the core of my being. Let the truth of this and related good feelings sink into you. Here’s another one: I can take care of myself around you. Let this, too, sink in.

And: If you hurt me, I’ll still be OK in my core. And: I wish you well. If you have any difficulty with this practice, try other people who love you. The essence here is to feel your way into a place in which you recognize others and situations as they truly are, you take care of your own needs, and no needless anxiety is added.

Then try this practice with one or more friends . . . and then with a neutral person, such as a stranger on the street . . . and then even with someone who is difficult for you. If there is truly something to be anxious about, so be it. Otherwise, keep opening to the experience of being realistic about others and strong on your own behalf – without feeling any pointless fear.

Also try this approach when interacting with others. Can you talk with a family member, a friend, a neutral person, and a difficult person without one bit of unnecessary worry, alarm, sense of threat, or uneasiness? As you deepen your sense of being appropriately fearless with others, keep letting this experience sink in so you become increasingly grounded in this way or being.

Enjoy the sense of freedom this practice brings, the greater ease with others, the confidence. Notice how you can be more relaxed, patient, open, and caring with other people when you are not afraid.

What a comfort, and what a relief.

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Mind Over Matter

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Maggie Flynn. Philly.com: Stressed out? Think it out.

Mind over matter is a difficult state to achieve, but according to a new study, meditation might provide some help in getting there.

Research from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, suggests that 30 minutes of daily meditation may help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, pain and depression.

This six-month study, led by Johns Hopkins assistant professor Dr. Madhav Goyal, found that those suffering symptoms of anxiety and depression saw “a small but consistent benefit” after an eight-week week training program in mindfulness meditation.

The research found that this type of meditation, which focuses precise attention to the present moment, had a tangible effect on symptoms of anxiety and depression, especially those associated with a clinical medical condition.

Dr. Goyal explained that while the study focused on the effect of meditation, it also examined the effectiveness of the meditation on symptoms of anxiety and depression. “We compared it to what other studies have found in similar populations using antidepressants, and the effect is about the same,” he says.

The beneficial results of meditation were consistent even when the study allowed for the placebo effect, wherein patients feel better because they perceive they are getting help. However more studies will be needed to determine just how powerful the effects of meditation are for those suffering from anxiety and depression.

Goyal says that one of the benefits of using meditation for medical therapy is that there are no side effects. For people who are already on a medical regimen, this opens up the possibility of treatment – as long as they have the time to learn and the willingness to practice.

Dr. Goyal stressed the importance of having a good instructor who can teach the appropriate techniques, and cautioned that while “historically in the eastern traditions from which these programs have evolved, meditation was not seen as a therapy for health problems – it was a means to gain an insight into one’s life.”

But patients from the study’s 47 clinical trials showed consistent improvement over the course of six months. From those results, meditation presents an intriguing option for those dealing with anxiety symptoms. And it’s open to almost everyone.

“I think future studies are needed to determine which patients would respond and which might not,” Dr. Goyal says. “But for the time being, I think anyone who is interested can try it out.”

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Mindful meditation is being used to help with a range of problems

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Sarah Matheson, Oxford Mail: Mindfulness meditation has gone viral.

With its adoption by the medical establishment, it is now considered one of the most effective treatments for a whole range of conditions from depression, anxiety and addiction to eating disorders and chronic pain.

Its success is widely documented with intriguing evidence of very particular patterns shown in the brain scans of meditators. But where did this practice originate?

Taught by the Buddha 2,600 years ago, the tradition has been kept alive in Buddhist monasteries throughout Asia. It has now spread amongst lay people throughout the world as its benefits have become increasingly widely recognised.

Mindfulness meditation is a technique for observing the mind in the present moment so that we can wake up to its true nature – this can often be a shocking revelation.

As we practise, we begin to see how we hurtle from one moment to the next in the pursuit of feeling better or seeking a refuge from pain.

We can also see how this …

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We need to take meditation more seriously as medicine

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Jacoba Urist, Time: To be fair, I’m not sure how I would have responded had my surgeon suggested I meditate before or after surgery to ease my anxiety or post-operative pain. My guess is, like many women, I would have been skeptical: what exactly did sitting in half-lotus pose or breathing deeply have to do with the tumor in my right breast? And why was a doctor— whose job and training and every measure of success is rooted in science and clinical outcomes— prescribing a spiritual or religious method of therapy?

But a new review study, published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine, suggests that the ancient Eastern practice of mindful meditation can offer real help for patients with depression, anxiety, and pain. And researchers are increasingly demonstrating the measurable influence of meditation on the brain, proving that mindfulness programs can make us feel happier, have greater emotional resilience and take fewer sick days.

The problem? Many of us conflate meditation with yoga or other types of complementary medicine, overestimate the time it takes to meditate effectively, and discount the neurological evidence that mindful focus improves…

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The benefits of meditation

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Ellie Donahue-Miller, The Brock Press: Meditation is not a new concept. Mindfulness and meditation have been used by some cultures for centuries. The incorporation of these practices into Western culture, though, is relatively new and it offers promising benefits.

Although there are few conclusive studies that document the health benefits of meditation, many therapists and psychologists recognize that it plays an important role in maintaining mental health. It is particularly helpful for treating anxiety and depression.

“The evidence suggests that mindfulness meditation programs could help reduce anxiety, depression and pain in some clinical populations,” said a report published on Jan. 6 by the Journal of American Medical Association.

“Thus, clinicians should be prepared to talk with their patients about the role that a meditation program could have in addressing psychological stress.”

The report’s lead author, Madhav Goyal, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said, “A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing. But that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.”

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