MEDITATION RESEARCH

The popularity of meditation is increasing as more people discover its benefits. There is now an increasing body of research that demonstrates its usefulness for a number of conditions. Here are some conditions with links to the research that has found meditation to be of benefit for these cases (the links can be accessed by clicking the blue coloured words).

-Stress, anxiety and panic disorders; Meditation has been found to be helpful in anxiety disorders even in those who have been meditating for a short time. Studies have shown the main biomarkers for anxiety to be significantly reduced for meditators.  Studies have also shown meditation to reduce anxiety symptoms in panic disorder patients.

-cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and benefits at the genetic level; there is some evidence to show that meditation helps lower blood pressure, possibly by helping reduce stress. In another study Harvard scientists have came up with evidence that the mere act of clearing your mind for 15 minutes each day actually alters how your genes operate. They found that ‘people who meditated over an eight-week period had a striking change in the expression of 172 genes that regulate inflammation, circadian rhythms and glucose metabolism. And that, in turn, was linked to a meaningful decrease in their blood pressure’.

-chronic pain; chronic pain can be associated with wide range of conditions, such as fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome. A recent review of many research papers found meditation to be effective in treating pain. Some of the studies used imaging and electroencephalography to look into the brains of experienced meditators. They discovered many beneficial structural brain alterations and changes to way the brain functioned in experienced meditators. One study found meditation practitioners exhibited thicker grey matter in pain-related regions. Others found that experienced meditators had a higher pain threshold, higher pain acceptance, decreased pain sensitivity and an altered interpretation of pain. Moreover, these changes were found to be mostly permanent and were observed in long term meditators even when they were not meditating, indicating how profound the effect of meditation was.

-dermatological disorders and skin conditions; two studies looked at the effect of meditation on psoriasis patients. One concluded that meditating ‘during ultraviolet light therapy can increase the rate of resolution of psoriatic lesions in patients with psoriasis’The second study also found positive results, stating that ‘The practice of mediation may be clinically effective for some patients in reducing their psoriasis symptoms’

-preserving good health, cognitive function and memory; one recent study found that meditation can play a role in the preservation of good ‘physiological function’. Another study found that meditation led to ‘significant improvements at 3 months in memory and cognitive performance’ 

-meditation can reshape and better our brains; This is quite a surprising and remarkable finding from recent research. Neuroscientist Sara Lazar from Harvard Medical School and her team have carried out a number of studies into meditation and its effect on the brain. They discovered that even short periods of regular meditation can beneficially alter the structure of the brain and thicken certain areas, bringing about many positive effects, including countering the age-related shrinkage of the brain seen in old age.

Treatment of trauma; meditation can help overcome some disorders associated with childhood maltreatment and can also help with the therapy of fear-inducing memories

 

ACUPUNCTURE RESEARCH

There is now a great deal of scientific interest and research into acupuncture. This research is increasingly backing up what acupuncturists have known for many centuries: that acupuncture can help with the treatment of many illnesses. The well-known and respected British Medical Journal (BMJ) now publishes a quarterly companion volume called Acupuncture in Medicine (AIM), solely devoted to looking at acupuncture research.

The number of studies exploring the effectiveness of acupuncture is now very vast. By clicking each topic below you can access relevant studies and abstracts on each condition and acupuncture (this list includes only some of the illnesses into which research is taking place.)

COUNSELLING & COACHING RESEARCH

Talking therapies such as counselling and coaching can help with many difficult life problems – from coping with traumatic experiences and events, to dealing with depression and anxiety or managing harmful emotions and behaviours. Below is a list of some conditions that can be helped according to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). By clicking on each one you can go to a link in the BACP website where there is more information about the condition and how counselling can be useful.

Abuse: this can take many forms and anyone can be a victim, it refers to actions – especially repeated or regular – that intentionally cause one harm or distress.  Therapy can help you address how this has made you feel, help you restore your self-esteem and enable you to go forward in life.

Anxiety: This is an experience of intense apprehension or worry, accompanied by acute physical signs such as sleeplessness, rapid heartbeat, palpitations, dizziness and irritability, among others. Therapy can help you with anxiety, panic attacks and phobias by giving you ways of dealing with situations as they arise and exploring intelligent ways of processing the feelings that provoke anxiety.

Bereavement and loss: It is normal to feel many feelings such as anger, sadness or loneliness when a loved one dies or leaves. Even the loss of a pet can have a marked psychological effect. Working through your feelings within therapy can help you come to terms with loss. Loss is not just about death; you could also lose a relationship, a job or your health. Loss can be very painful and you may experience many difficult and surprising emotions, such as anger, grief and guilt. Therapy can support you through this difficult period in your life.

Depression: This is a common mental health problem and affects people in a variety of different ways. Without treatment, depression symptoms can affect people for years. But the good news is that there are a variety of treatments that can help with depression, including counselling.

Emotional distress: emotions such as anger, fear, jealousy and worry can be very powerful and can cause us a great deal of anguish. Our problem is that often we do not know how to handle such emotions and end up suppressing them or acting out, which then causes all manner of problems, both physical and psychological. Therapy can help you get in touch with the felt quality of emotions and thereby assist in processing and resolving them. This can stimulate our emotional intelligence and show us appropriate ways to deal with the situations that trigger emotions.

Relationships: counselling can help improve the way you relate to those around you and can assist you in breaking free from established habitual patterns of behaviour. All manner of relationships can be addressed in this way, including couples, work and families.

Self-esteem is about how we value and relate to ourselves. We may feel positive towards ourselves and confident in our own abilities, or negative and critical. Low self-esteem is when we place little value on ourselves. Counselling can help us explore and understand why this may be so and then begin the process of undoing the framework on which low self-esteem is based. Much of this work depends on awareness of our mind and inner thought processes.

Stress: Sometimes stress can be a positive thing and help us achieve our goals. However, too much stress can put your health at risk and lead to physical, mental and emotional problems. Therapy could help you to manage your life differently or support you in developing strategies to overcome stress.

Therapy and Personal Development: We may want to engage in therapy specifically as a means for self-development. Sometimes we realize that we seek more from life than just engaging in work, family and friends.  We may want some sense of understanding and meaning, even if we cannot fully articulate this. We may be looking for depth and perspective, without which we have a lingering feeling of lack and dissatisfaction. Engaging in the right kind of therapy can help us find wellbeing and contentment. It can enrich our lives, which in turn helps us to feel well in ourselves and find a sense of purpose. As a result of this we can meet the world in a saner way and feel that we are fulfilling our potential; we can relax, feel more at ease and better able to enjoy ourselves.