If you’d written off the practice of mindfulness as hippy-dippy nonsense, it might be time to reconsider. According to NPR, a new meta-analysis of studies published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that the practice of meditation can be seriously beneficial in managing common physical and mental issues. Throughout the meta-analysis, 47 studies involving meditation as a form of treatment were analyzed, and the findings are pretty interesting: While the practice of mindfulness, or meditation, doesn’t seem to affect areas of substance abuse, sleep or weight, it does have a positive effect on problems like anxiety, depression and pain.
So what exactly is mindfulness meditation? Surprise! It really doesn’t have all that much to do with “ommm-ing.” The practice of mindfulness focuses on training the brain to stay in the moment by using techniques like visualization, body scanning and more. In order for the practice of meditation to be successful, you’ve got to let go of past regrets (goodbye, high-heeled sneaker phase) as well as anxieties concerning the future (yikes, zombie apocalypse!).
In one study, 163 women with stage 1 or stage 2 breast cancer were placed into one of three groups: a mindfulness-based stress reduction class or two other types of more standard supportive care. The women in the meditation class were taught to use tools, like visualization, to manage their stress by shifting attention away from thoughts that cause anxiety. After four months of treatment, the women in the meditation class experienced significantly greater improvements in their quality of life and coping outcomes, compared to the women in the more standard treatment groups. Pretty cool, huh?
And, in more good news, you can experience the positive effects of meditation without investing a whole lot of time. According to NPR, the author of the review, Dr. Madhav Goyal of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said, "It was surprising to see that with so little training [about 2.5 hours of meditation practice per week] we were still seeing consistent effects."
Looking for a local spot to harness your meditation skills? Head over to our 2012 Best of Be Well winner, Penn Program for Mindfulness, and learn how to get your zen on in their eight-week mindfulness meditation course.