In recent years, there has been a growing general interest in mindfulness meditation. Meditation is generally one of four types: concentration, visual, mantra and guided. Mindfulness meditation is similar to “concentration meditation” without the religious aspects. This interest has resulted, not surprisingly, in an increase in the number of research studies on the effects of this unique form of mental training. While the results are impressive, I believe that the increased research is not creating the current upsurge in interest in meditation—it is a response to it.
As appealing as it is to have so much information literally at our fingertips in the new century, I believe that an increasing number of people are feeling their mind is cluttered by information overload. This plus multi-tasking is stressful to many. It is also possible that multitasking and remaining “always connected” feels like a kind of technology-induced ADD. Some people postulate that this negative reaction to technology happens largely to an older population who did not grow up with these tools. I would disagree. The fact that more people of all ages are pursuing activities to slow us down physically (like Yoga) or mentally (like meditation) suggests that negative reactions to our interacting with lots of information from a wide range of sources is far more widespread than is commonly understood and certainly not age-related.
And now to some of the exciting new evidence of mindfulness training’s effectivenes. A new study by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation. The study investigated the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators, compared to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities. After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.
Here is a link for a more complete synopsis of this research: Click Here
The best summary of research showing the physical changes that occur through mindfulness training is on the website of the Center for the Study of Healthy Minds at UW-Madison: Click Here
Robert Hoyt, Ph.D, President of Allied Health Professionals LLC