Meditation

Description
Meditation is another of those rather amorphous ‘Alternative Medicine’ terms that everyone understands, but very few people really understand. There are probably as many ways to meditate as there are people who ‘meditate’. And while meditation is often mentioned when the topic turns to alternative treatments for alopecia, the simple fact is that very little, if any, research has been done to back up such claims.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) describes meditation this way in their Mind-Body Medicine Overview :

~Meditation, one of the most common mind-body interventions, is a conscious mental process that induces a set of integrated physiological changes termed the relaxation response. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been used to identify and characterize the brain regions that are active during meditation.

This research suggests that various parts of the brain known to be involved in attention and in the control of the autonomic nervous system are activated, providing a neurochemical and anatomical basis for the effects of meditation on various physiological activities.

Recent studies involving imaging are advancing the understanding of mind-body mechanisms. For example, meditation has been shown in one study to produce significant increases in left-sided anterior brain activity, which is associated with positive emotional states. Moreover, in this same study, meditation was associated with increases in antibody titers to influenza vaccine, suggesting potential linkages among meditation, positive emotional states, localized brain responses, and improved immune function.~

If you are interested in finding guided meditation CDs & mp3s for health and healing, visit BrainPlayground.com for reviews and info about these unique tools.

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Research

Systematic review of the efficacy of meditation techniques as treatments for medical illness.

From the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

Arias AJ, Steinberg K, Banga A, Trestman RL .

Department of Psychiatry, University of Connecticut Medical School, Farmington, CT, USA.

BACKGROUND: Meditative techniques are sought frequently by patients coping with medical and psychological problems. Because of their increasingly widespread appeal and use, and the potential for use as medical therapies, a concise and thorough review of the current state of scientific knowledge of these practices as medical interventions was conducted.

PURPOSE: To systematically review the evidence supporting efficacy and safety of meditative practices in treating illnesses, and examine areas warranting further study. Studies on normal healthy populations are not included.

METHODS: Searches were performed using PubMed, PsycInfo, and the Cochrane Database. Keywords were Meditation, Meditative Prayer, Yoga, Relaxation Response. Qualifying studies were reviewed and independently rated based on quality by two reviewers. Mid-to-high-quality studies (those scoring above 0.65 or 65% on a validated research quality scale) were included.

RESULTS: From a total of 82 identified studies, 20 randomized controlled trials met our criteria. The studies included 958 subjects total (397 experimentally treated, 561 controls). No serious adverse events were reported in any of the included or excluded clinical trials. Serious adverse events are reported in the medical literature, though rare. The strongest evidence for efficacy was found for epilepsy, symptoms of the premenstrual syndrome and menopausal symptoms. Benefit was also demonstrated for mood and anxiety disorders, autoimmune illness, and emotional disturbance in neoplastic disease.

CONCLUSIONS: The results support the safety and potential efficacy of meditative practices for treating certain illnesses, particularly in nonpsychotic mood and anxiety disorders. Clear and reproducible evidence supporting efficacy from large, methodologically sound studies is lacking.

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Now the study cited below is clearly for anxiety disorders and not for alopecia (although our alopecia has driven many of us to develop our own very special brand of anxiety disorder). But as previously noted, there is not a lot to choose from when looking for research on the efficacy of meditation as medical therapy. This seemed to be at least worthy of a look.

Meditation therapy for anxiety disorders.

As reported by the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Krisanaprakornkit T, Krisanaprakornkit W, Piyavhatkul N, Laopaiboon M.

Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, KhonKaen University, KhonKaen, Thailand.

BACKGROUND: Anxiety disorders are characterised by long term worry, tension, nervousness, fidgeting and symptoms of autonomic system hyperactivity. Meditation is an age-old self regulatory strategy which is gaining more interest in mental health and psychiatry. Meditation can reduce arousal state and may ameliorate anxiety symptoms in various anxiety conditions.

OBJECTIVES: To investigate the effectiveness of meditation therapy in treating anxiety disorders

SEARCH STRATEGY: Electronic databases searched include CCDANCTR-Studies and CCDANCTR-References, complementary and alternative medicine specific databases, Science Citation Index, Health Services/Technology Assessment Text database, and grey literature databases. Conference proceedings, book chapters and references were checked. Study authors and experts from religious/spiritual organisations were contacted.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Types of studies: Randomised controlled trials.Types of participants: patients with a diagnosis of anxiety disorders, with or without another comorbid psychiatric condition.Types of interventions: concentrative meditation or mindfulness meditation. Comparison conditions: one or combination of 1) pharmacological therapy 2) other psychological treatment 3) other methods of meditation 4) no intervention or waiting list.Types of outcome: 1) improvement in clinical anxiety scale 2) improvement in anxiety level specified by triallists, or global improvement 3) acceptability of treatment, adverse effects 4) dropout.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Data were independently extracted by two reviewers using a pre-designed data collection form. Any disagreements were discussed with a third reviewer, and the authors of the studies were contacted for further information.

MAIN RESULTS: Two randomised controlled studies were eligible for inclusion in the review. Both studies were of moderate quality and used active control comparisons (another type of meditation, relaxation, biofeedback). Anti-anxiety drugs were used as standard treatment. The duration of trials ranged from 3 months (12 weeks) to 18 weeks. In one study transcendental meditation showed a reduction in anxiety symptoms and electromyography score comparable with electromyography-biofeedback and relaxation therapy. Another study compared Kundalini Yoga (KY), with Relaxation/Mindfulness Meditation. The Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale showed no statistically significant difference between groups. The overall dropout rate in both studies was high (33-44%). Neither study reported on adverse effects of meditation.

AUTHORS’ CONCLUSIONS: The small number of studies included in this review do not permit any conclusions to be drawn on the effectiveness of meditation therapy for anxiety disorders. Transcendental meditation is comparable with other kinds of relaxation therapies in reducing anxiety, and Kundalini Yoga did not show significant effectiveness in treating obsessive-compulsive disorders compared with Relaxation/Meditation. Drop out rates appear to be high, and adverse effects of meditation have not been reported. More trials are needed.~

Hmmmm. Well that isn’t overly heartening is it?

Perhaps these words from WebMD’s informative feature entitled “Meditation Balances the Body’s Systems” by Jeanie Lerche Davis and reviewed by Louise Chang,MD will soothe the meditation enthusiasts among us.

~Any condition that’s caused or worsened by stress can be alleviated through meditation, says cardiologist Herbert Benson, MD, well known for three decades of research into the health effects of meditation. He is the founder of the Mind/Body Institute at Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“The relaxation response [from meditation] helps decrease metabolism, lowers blood pressure, and improves heart rate, breathing, and brain waves,” Benson says. Tension and tightness seep from muscles as the body receives a quiet message to relax.

The soothing power of repetition is at the heart of meditation. Focusing on the breath, ignoring thoughts, and repeating a word or phrase – a mantra – creates the biological response of relaxation, Stan Chapman, PhD, a psychologist in the Center for Pain Medicine at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, tells WebMD .

“Meditation is not difficult to learn,” Chapman tells WebMD . “You don’t need to see a therapist 40 times to learn it. But like tennis, it’s a skill. You need to practice. In time, people develop the ability to produce these meditative, very relaxed states very quickly. When they meditate several times during the day, they become more relaxed during the entire day.”~

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Resources

There can really be no doubt that meditation helps the people who claim that it helps them. For it just isn’t a stretch to state that if you think you feel better, you probably do feel better. So for those of us who are interested in experiencing the myriad potential benefits from meditation, we are striving to provide as comprehensive an overview as possible.

If you would like to explore further, all of the following CD’s have received 4 and a half, to 5 star reviews on Amazon. And are, in our estimation, lovely and calming to listen to. Whether you meditate to them, fall asleep to them, or clean the kitchen to them.

Chanting Om by Music for Deep Meditation

The Ease of Being: Guided Meditations for Centering and Healing by Mary Maddux and Richard Maddux

The Soul of Healing Meditations by Deepak Chopra

Reviews

If you have experience with this therapy, whether positive or negative, please take a moment to share your review with those who are considering it for themselves or their family member. And please also mention, if your alopecia wasn’t improved, whether or not your ability to cope with it was.

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