During meditation people sit quietly, witnessing internal thoughts and external stimuli without getting too engaged with them. There are many forms of this ancient practice. The origins of meditation are in ancient spiritual and healing practices – mainly from India, China and Japan. Relaxation and meditation have been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of many diseases as it improves both psychological and physical health. Individuals who practice meditation view the mind and body as inseparable.
The two most popular forms of meditation are Transcendental Meditation (TM) and mindfulness mediation. TM is derived from Hindu tradition and promotes relaxation through the use of a mantra. A mantra is a word or sound used for concentration. Mindfulness meditation trains the participant to be an observer by focusing on what is happening in the present moment both internally and externally.
There are four basic elements common to medication techniques – a mental device (such as a word), a passive attitude, a comfortable posture and a quiet environment. A number of recent studies have explored to what degree we can exercise control over things that were thought to be non-changeable.
Research has found that meditative practice can change the workings of the brain including learning and states of consciousness. Studies have shown that the areas of the brain that govern concentration, mood and memory all experience increased signaling during meditation. Physical functions such as a decrease in the production of stress hormone, and changes in blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory function have all been documented during mediation. Adults with cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer disease may also benefit from meditation, as recent studies have shown that meditation may change the mapping of brain circuitry. Other disorders such as anxiety, depression, chronic pain and sleep disturbances related to cancer may also be improved with meditation.
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