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Meditation Doesn't Help Just the Mind, But the Body Too
Long considered "soft" science, practices like meditation are now being shown by "hard" science to produce measurable improvements in biological function.
By: Energy Psychology Group, Inc
A large-scale randomized controlled trial published in the world's top psychology journal measured improvements in both subjective psychological states and objective biological markers. It identified substantial changes in the biological function of participants at a 4-day guided meditation workshop.
Subjects attended a workshop offered by Joseph Dispenza, a best-selling author and educator. The research team was led by investigator Dawson Church, head of the National Institute for Integrative Healthcare (NIIH). The researchers randomized the 513 participants into two groups, and found no significant difference in psychological symptoms — like anxiety, depression, and PTSD — between them at the outset of the study.
In addition to psychological conditions, the NIIH research team gathered data on the stress hormone cortisol and the immunity marker Salivary Immunoglobulin-
Significant improvements were found, including a 49.5% median increase in SIgA, which is a primary measure of the functioning of the immunization system. Analysis of brain function showed increased amounts of a slow brain wave called delta, which is linked to relaxation, as well as reduced amounts of beta, a fast wave associated with anxiety and stress. Cortisol remained unchanged, though other studies have found that it often declines as people become more relaxed.
Over the four days of the workshop, the time it took participants to enter a meditative state declined significantly. Six months later, a follow-up showed that most of the improvements were maintained over time.
Church observed that, "This study is innovative in that it didn't simply focus on subjective measures reported by participants. It measured changes on an objective biological level. When we feel better, in the form of reduced symptoms like anxiety and depression, our mood improves, and our quality of life gets better. But studies like this show that these subjective improvements correlate with changes in brain function and immune markers. Changing the mind changes the body."
This clinical trial is one of several key studies conducted by NIIH over the past few years showing that meditation and other stress reduction techniques are more than mood-enhancing methods. They produce measurable biological effects. Among these are the reduction of inflammation, upgrades to immune function, enhanced gene expression, and reduced symptoms of autoimmune disease. Practice guidelines published by NIIH recommend that they be used by doctors and nurses in the frontline of primary care.
Full study: https://www.frontiersin.org/
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