Studies Show Meditation Reduces Anxiety and Risk of Stress-Related Disorders

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

Lower your anxiety and risk of stress-related disorders! Improve your energy! Put the brakes on inflammation! Just closing your eyes every day for less than a half-hour and practicing a simple mental technique can provide some very surprising, welcome, and often amazing, benefits.

Two 2014 studies featuring two popular stress-relieving practices provide a glimpse of how powerful such techniques can be.

In the first, researchers assessed the effects on gene expression in a single session of a practice known as the Relaxation Response, in which an individual focuses on a word, sound, phrase, or prayer for 20 minutes. When blood draws were taken from healthy practitioners, and particularly long-term practitioners, the practice was found to enhance expression of genes associated with energy metabolism and reduce expression of genes linked to inflammatory responses and stress activity.

Meanwhile, a review of 16 previous anxiety studies on Transcendental Meditation (TM), in which a sound called a mantra is used in an effortless manner, found that the practice is more effective than usual treatments for individuals with high anxiety, including prison inmates and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

 My Viewpoint: If you can improve the “work” of your genes simply by sitting quietly for a few minutes a day – taking an effective break – what’s stopping you?

 What This Means to You: Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in the United States, affecting 40 million adults (18 percent of the population). Meditation is a tried-and-true method to reduce resistant anxiety that increases the use of smoking and alcohol, as well as the risk of chronic diseases including heart disease.

 My Recommendation: Stress can harm you in many ways, and shorten your life. We all need to find a technique that works to defuse stress and try to stick with it. The Relaxation Response and TM are two simple-to-do examples with solid research behind them. You can find details about them at www.relaxationresponse.org/ and www.tm.org/.

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© 2014 HeartMD Institute. All rights reserved.

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One Comment

  1. kovaisky yoga

    on October 2, 2019 at 6:31 am

    There are studies that demonstrate a link between meditation and mental aging. These studies suggest that the improvement in concentration and mental flexibility achieved through meditation also helps protect the brain from cognitive decline. Factors such as food, physical activity and education are also important for neurological health, but keep in mind that the brain is like a muscle and must be trained to remain active. In that sense, meditation is helpful.

    Fortunately, learning to meditate has never been easier. If you are interested in starting, look for a quiet place in your home, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. You can also look for a trusted institution that explains step by step how to start with this ancient practice. Meditation requires effort, but in a very short time you will begin to feel the benefits of maintaining a healthy mind.

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