After thousands of years Western medicine is finally recognising the benefits of meditation to treat diseases including mental illness. Under the disguise of MBCT, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, meditation is being accepted as a way to treat various conditions in the field of mental illnesses.
Meditation has long been used in Eastern philosophy andthose who practice it report feeling calmer andhappier. Now modern scanning technology has started to reveal why. Meditation helps to reduce activity in the amygdala region of the brain which is responsible for governing feelings of stress. Itis alsoinvolved in the insula, the part of the brain allows us to feel deep emotions, which is why those who meditate are more likely to be less aggressive. This part of the brain also regulates how we view arguments with loved ones and gives us our sense of regret when we emotionally harm someone, triggering an emotional need to put things right.
In mental illnesses which involve high levels of anxiety, this mechanism becomes overactive and gives feelings that feel out of control. Meditation calms these areas and reduces the links between the emotional and analytical parts of our brain. The MBCT can help people suffering emotional stress or depression either on its own or with the help ofdrugs.
There have been various types of conditions treated with meditation, such as depression, anxiety, forms of schizophrenia, addictions, bipolar disorder, aggressive behaviour, and of course stress. There are also studies that are currently researching into the physical healing properties of meditation.
Meditation versus Medication
Over the last 200 years, Western medical therapies for depression and mental illness have included leeches, bleeding, drilling holes in the head to let out 'demons', imprisonment, ECT (Electro-Convulsive Therapy) and dangerous psychotropic drugs. On the other hand, some Eastern cultures have simplyused herbal remedies and meditation for hundreds of years.
Meditation therapies are a safe, drug free way to resolve issues by returning control to the patient when they feel that they can't control thoughts or emotions. Unlike drugs, it is not a fast-acting therapy, but it doesprovide long-term reliefwithout side effects. The side effects of some psychotropic drugs include the very symptoms they claim to treat, such as suicidal feelings, depression, sexual health problems, constipation, rapid heartbeat, menstrual problems, restlessness, drowsiness, blurred vision, hallucination, tremors and tardive dyskinesia (muscle movements that the patient can't control). These side effects are enough to make most people feel worse than their original condition made them feel. These symptomsalso get worse when the drug istaken for extended periods of time, whereas meditation will in provide greater help the longer the practice is carried out.
In a world where people seem to want instant cures as fast as they can get an instant coffee, meditation may not seem to be the kind of answer that would be popular, as it takes time and effort to work. However now that Western science is finally catching up, we may finally see progress in the field of mental health, a field that has seen little real progress in the last 200 years.
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About the author:
D Holt is currently involved in research in the UK into the mechanisms involved in healing due to meditation, hypnosis and other ''spiritual'' healers and techniques. Previous work has included investigations into effects of meditation on addiction, the effects of sulphites on the digestive system and the use of tartrazine and other additives in the restaurant industry. new blog is now available at http://tinyurl.com/sacredmeditation