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The Benefits of Meditation, Term Paper Example

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Term Paper

Although many individuals believe that meditation is a good activity for relaxation, they fail to recognize the extent of benefit that this practice has for both physical and mental health. Ultimately, the brain is one of the most important parts of the body, and having happy and healthy thoughts can result in better overall health. One of the major health benefits of meditation is allowing people to deal with stress. When patients are faced with chronic diseases such as depression and cancer, it is recommended that they meditate in order to achieve a reduced stress level, which has been shown to reduce some of their symptoms as well. In addition, meditation has been shown to help people sleep better. Since many people fail to get an adequate amount of sleep, meditation can help alleviate some of the symptoms of sleeplessness. In addition, individuals who are able to get better sleep are at a lesser risk for many chronic diseases. Therefore, although many people do not appreciate the relationship between meditation and health, there is a direct impact of this practice on physical fitness.

Meditation can be practiced in many different ways, but in each case, it is essential that the individual achieves a state of mind that allows for complete relaxation. This may necessitate completing activities such as yoga before entering the state or simply allowing the individual to sit in his or her favorite place and focus on his or her thoughts. Essentially, not all individuals can achieve a meditative state in the same manner, and it may be more or less difficult for different individuals to achieve this. For example, a cancer patient who has a high level of stress as a result of her diagnosis may be less likely to relax and enter this state than an individual trained in this art. However, it is possible for all types of individuals to learn how to meditate.

In many cases, meditation has shown to provide benefit to patients with chronic disease. One study, entitled “A Randomized, Wait-List Controlled Clinical Trial: The Effect of a Mindfulness Meditation-Based Stress Reduction Program on Mood and Symptoms of Stress in Cancer Outpatients” found that mood disturbance and stress symptoms were decreased in a variety of cancer patients with different stages of illness and across several age groups (Speca et al., 1999). Ultimately, this shows proof that meditation is useful in alleviating the stress of cancer patients. In order to test their hypothesis that patients would respond well to a meditation program, ninety patients were enrolled on a randomized clinical trial that focused on meditation as the intervention. Patients who did not receive meditation therapy were found to be more stressful and depressed than patients who had received this therapy. Although cancer patients are an extreme case and are expected to be faced with significantly more stress than the average individual, it is likely that the same benefits of meditation could apply to people without a chronic diagnosis.

In a similar clinical study, researchers were interested in determining whether meditation has an effect on sleep. To do so, psychologists were specifically interested in examining several sleep stages, including REM, to determine the impact of meditation on sleep. In the study entitled “Sleep during transcendental meditation”, five experienced practitioners attempted to enter sleep stages 2, 3, and 4 during mediation (Pagano et al., 1976). The researchers were able to achieve these sleep states, as indicated by EEG readings, however, each individual was able to remain in each stage of sleep for a different period of time. The researchers then compared the EEG’s of their meditative participants with normal individuals who were napping. They found that unlike the nap, meditation does not produce a single unique state of consciousness. Therefore, meditation reflects a full night’s sleep more closely than a nap because those in the meditative state are able to achieve many different sleep cycles, while individuals who are napping cannot. This study shows proof that meditation may be more effective than sleeping in some cases. Not only does it allow the body to feel more rested, it actually becomes more rested. Therefore, individuals who meditate are far less likely to feel sleepy throughout the day and to suffer symptoms of sleeplessness and the associated adverse health risks.

Although meditation is not perfectly understood, it has been shown to assist with stress reduction and it functions as a sleep aid. Since people who meditate are less likely to have health risks associated with these two factors, it is recommended that a majority of people ask their health practitioners about meditation and how it could help them with their unique health issues. The two studies discussed demonstrated that practicing mediation has health benefits for cancer patients and people with sleep difficulty. However, these practices could also benefit the average individual who wishes to reduce his or her stress and have better sleep. Therefore, meditation is recommended for anyone who wishes to live a healthier, more stress free life.

References

Pagano RR, Rose RM, Stivers RM, Warrenburg S. (1976). Sleep during transcendental meditation. Science, 191(4224): 308-310.

Speca M, Carlson L, Goodey E, Angen M. (1999). A Randomized, Wait-List Controlled Clinical Trial: The Effect of a Mindfulness Meditation-Based Stress Reduction Program on Mood and Symptoms of Stress in Cancer Outpatients. Psychosomatic Medicine, 62(5): 613-622.

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