Advocates claim numerous health benefits for meditation, many of which are supported by studies on the practice. Still, meditation has not become part of mainstream medicine.
So researchers at Johns Hopkins University analyzed 47 previously published clinical trials to narrow down the most effective use for meditation as medical therapy.
The studies involved more than 3,500 patients suffering from various issues including stress, addiction, depression, anxiety, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and chronic pain. The meta-analysis is in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. [Madhav Goyal et al., Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis]
Apparently practicing just 30 minutes of meditation per day significantly decreases the symptoms of anxiety and depression. An 8-week training program in mindfulness meditation – where participants have to focus on the current moment – led to optimal improvement in lowering anxiety, depression and pain. And the improvements continued over the six months following the training.
For depression and anxiety, the effects of meditation were as strong as for those achieved by taking antidepressant medication. However, meditation failed to significantly affect any of the other conditions, such as heart disease or cancer.
Nevertheless, while some might view meditation as sitting and doing nothing, doing nothing does something.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]