Can You Find Calm Through Meditation?
Will It Really Help My Health?
For Essie, daily meditation offered drastic relief from her debilitating nerve pain. "My muscles are much more relaxed, and I'm on less medication now," she says. In essence, Essie's brain learned to handle pain differently. With the help of MRIs, researchers at the University of California at Irvine discovered that people who meditated twice a day for five months showed 40 to 50 percent less activity in the area of the brain that senses pain as compared with non-meditators.
Earlier this year, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that 15 to 20 minutes of Transcendental Meditation (TM) practiced twice daily can significantly reduce the severity of congestive heart failure and increase survival rates. In addition, a randomized, placebo-controlled study -- the gold standard of research -- published last year in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that four months of TM significantly decreases risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and insulin resistance. "Meditators have lower death and heart attack rates, too," says Noel Bairey Merz, MD, study coauthor and medical director at the Preventive Cardiac Center at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
And the list goes on and on: Research has shown that daily meditation can lesson symptoms of stress, chronic illness, epilepsy, and PMS; ease menopause, depression, and anxiety and mood disorders; heighten insulin resistance; and help psoriasis patients heal faster. And a 2005 MRI-based study found that meditation increased brain density.
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