Meditation Reduces Anxiety

Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have identified the brain functions involved in how meditation reduces anxiety.

The team wrote in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience about how they studied 15 healthy volunteers with normal levels of everyday anxiety. They said these individuals had no previous meditation experience or anxiety disorders. J0145020.JPG

The participants took four 20-minute classes to learn a technique known as mindfulness meditation. In this form of meditation, people are taught to focus on breath and body sensations and to non-judgmentally evaluate distracting thoughts and emotions.

“Although we´ve known that meditation can reduce anxiety, we hadn´t identified the specific brain mechanisms involved in relieving anxiety in healthy individuals,” said Dr. Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow in neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study. “In this study, we were able to see which areas of the brain were activated and which were deactivated during meditation-related anxiety relief.”

The researchers found that meditation reduced anxiety ratings by as much as 39 percent in the participants.

“This showed that just a few minutes of mindfulness meditation can help reduce normal everyday anxiety,” Zeidan said.

Fadel and colleagues were also able to reveal that meditation-related anxiety relief is associated with activation of the anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which are areas of the brain involved with executive-level function.

“Mindfulness is premised on sustaining attention in the present moment and controlling the way we react to daily thoughts and feelings,” Zeidan said. “Interestingly, the present findings reveal that the brain regions associated with meditation-related anxiety relief are remarkably consistent with the principles of being mindful.”

MP900430798.JPGHe said the results of this neuroimaging experiment complement that body of knowledge by showing the brain mechanisms associated with meditation-related anxiety relief in healthy people.

Scientists wrote in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in November 2012 about how meditation has lasting emotional benefits. They found that participating in an eight-week meditation training program could have measurable effects on how the brain functions, even when someone is not actively meditating. The team used two forms of meditation training and saw some differences in the response of the amygdala, which is the part of the brain known to be important for emotion.

Meditation may physically alter regions of the brain

Harvard researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital reported that the practice of mindfulness meditation can physically alter regions of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress. 260291_10151674843907518_1073142538_n.png

The study, to be published in January 2015, in “Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging” indicates that the brain’s gray matter may change as a result of meditation.

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” said Sara Lazar, the study’s senior author. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

Researchers measured MR images of participants brains during the eight-week “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” program, conducted by the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. Participants spent an average of 27 minutes in meditation during the program. The program was delivered through recorded audios and guided meditations.

Compared to measurements on MR scans of a control group who did not participate in the program, the participants’ brains showed an increase in gray-matter density in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the region of the brain associated with learning, introspection, memory and awareness.There also was a decrease in gray-matter density in the amygdala, the region associated with anxiety and stress. However, the Insula, a region of the brain thought to be associated with self-awareness according to earlier research, remained unchanged, and the researchers hypothesize that participants may have to meditate for longer periods of time before any change is noticed in this region.

str.jpgIt has been noted that meditation can reduce stress but according to Britta Hölzel, one of the authors, “Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.”

The researchers believe that these findings of physiological change can pave the wave for a better understanding and treatment of stress-related disorders. The study was supported by the BBC, National Institutes of Health and the Mind and Life Institute.

Meditation and creative thinking

Certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking, even if you have never meditated before. This is the outcome of a study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato and Dominique Lippelt at Leiden University, published in Mindfulness.

Long-lasting influence

The study is a clear indication that you don’t need to be an experienced meditator to profit more from meditation. The findings support the belief that meditation can have a long-lasting influence on human cognition, including how we conceive new ideas. Besides experienced meditators, also novices may profit from meditation.

Different techniques, different effectsmeditation-1.jpg

But the results demonstrate that not all forms of meditation have the same effect on creativity. Test persons performed better in divergent thinking (= thinking up as many possible solutions for a given problem) after Open Monitoring meditation (= being receptive to every thought and sensation). The researchers did not see this effect on divergent thinking after Focused Attention meditation (=focusing on a particular thought or object.)

Setup of the study

40 individuals participated in this study, who had to meditate for 25 minutes before doing their thinking tasks. There were both experienced mediators and people who never meditated before. The study investigated the influences of different types of meditative techniques on the two main ingredients of creativity:

  • Divergent thinking Allows for many new ideas to be generated. It is measured using the so-called Alternate Uses Task method where participants are required to think up as many uses as possible for a particular object, such as a pen.
  • Convergent thinking Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is a process whereby one possible solution for a particular problem is generated. This is measured using the Remote Associates Task method, where three unrelated words are presented to the participants, words such as ‘time’, ‘hair’ and ‘stretch’. The participants are then asked to identify the common link: in this case, ‘long’.

Lorenza S. Colzato, Ayca Szapora, Dominique Lippelt, Bernhard Hommel. Prior Meditation Practice Modulates Performance and Strategy Use in Convergent- and Divergent-Thinking Problems. Mindfulness, 2014;

Yoga & Depression

From an article on the Yoga International web site:
Anyone who has suffered from depression understands how deep, abiding sadness or worthlessness can infiltrate and affect every aspect of our being. Our psychological makeup, physical health, mental outlook, and even our ability to interact with friends and family and be present to the world around us can get shaken to their core. Why? Because we identify with and attach ourselves to things that will inevitably change. As our feelings and other symptoms of depression persist, we have an increasingly difficult time imagining a life in which we break free from their spell and avoid “becoming” them.
Yoga teaches us that we aren’t our feelings or our symptoms but live in multidimensional relationship with them. 1472891_10151996608469691_438298404_n.jpg

One way to grasp this paradox is to picture the Self (purusha or pure, undifferentiated awareness) as pervading all nine interlocking and interdependent spheres of influence without being any one of them. See More here.

What is Mindfulness ?

Mindfulness is a concentrated state of awareness that can help us see and respond to situations with clarity and without getting carried away by emotions or the constant chatter in our heads. Mindfulness enables us to:

· Better manage tension and stress

· Enhance objectivity, mental focus

· Communicate and make decisions more effectively

· Improve productivity

· Quiet’s noise in the mind



Meditation is the tool we use to cultivate mindfulness. With meditation, you intentionally pay attention to a particular object as a way to strengthen concentration. There are thousands of meditative techniques: Tai Chi, yoga, focusing on the breath and using a mantra are all examples. People often think that meditating “correctly” means clearing all thought from the mind. This is a myth. The mind never stops thinking – it’s when we get caught up in our thoughts that we lose mindfulness. By witnessing thoughts, allowing them to pass, and returning to your chosen object of focus, you can actually build the muscle of concentration. Think of meditation as a fitness routine for the mind.

Are there other benefits to mindfulness?

In addition to boosting brain power, numerous research studies have shown significant physical benefits including:

· Reduced blood pressure

· Lowered cholesterol levels

· Enhanced immune function

· Reduced headache, migraine, back pain

· Improved respiratory function

Mindfulness does not require a particular set of beliefs in order to learn and practice – it is a quality of mind, accessible and available to all.

Mindfulness allows us to live every moment fully without the filters of bias, judgment or emotional reaction.

Mindfulness helps the body cope with physical challenges such as headaches, back pain and even heart disease.

Mindfulness keeps us from reacting too quickly – it helps increase the gap between impulse and action.

Ten Myths About Psychotropic Drugs

Dr. Peter Gotzsche has created a controversy and sparked criticism over what he sees as a damaging over-prescription of drugs by psychiatrists.

Gotzsche recently compiled a list of ten common myths held not only by the general public, but also trained psychiatrists concerning the safety of psychotropic drugs, and the rationale for their use.1pillst

As an internist, Gotzsche remarked that since he was outside of the political orthodoxy of the world of psychiatric medicine, he was free to express what he believed to be the sentiments of many psychiatrists who must remain quiet in their objections for fear of hurting their careers.

1.  Mental diseases are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain

“We have no idea about which interplay of psychosocial conditions, biochemical processes, receptors and neural pathways that lead to mental disorders and the theories that patients with depression lack serotonin and that patients with schizophrenia have too much dopamine have long been refuted.”

2.  It’s easy to go off antidepressants any time you want to

Here, Gotzsche points to drug trails involving agoraphobics and people suffering from panic disorder, whom were not depressed.  Fifty percent of the patients found it difficult to come off antidepressants even though they were gradually reducing their doses.  It could not be that the patients saw their depression returning, as they were not depressed to begin with.

3.  Psychotropic drugs are to mental illness as insulin is to diabetes

“When you give insulin to a patient with diabetes, you give something the patient lacks, namely insulin. Since we’ve never been able to demonstrate that a patient with a mental disorder lacks something that people who are not sick don’t lack, it is wrong to use this analogy.”

4.  Psychotropic drugs reduce the number of chronically ill patients

“In 1987, just before the newer antidepressants (SSRIs or happy pills) came on the market, very few children in the United States were mentally disabled. Twenty years later it was over 500,000, which represents a 35-fold increase. The number of disabled mentally ill has exploded in all Western countries.”

5.  SSRIs don’t cause suicide in children and adolescents

“The companies and the psychiatrists have consistently blamed the disease when patients commit suicide. It is true that depression increases the risk of suicide, but happy pills increase it even more, at least up to about age 40, according to a meta-analysis of 100,000 patients in randomized trials performed by the US Food and Drug Administration.”

6.  SSRIs don’t have side effects

“Patients care less about the consequences of their actions, lose empathy towards others, and can become very aggressive. In school shootings in the United States and elsewhere a striking number of people have been on antidepressants.”

7.  SSRIs are not addictive

“The worst argument I have heard about the pills not causing dependency is that patients do not require higher doses. Shall we then also believe that cigarettes are not addictive? The vast majority of smokers consume the same number of cigarettes for years.”

8.  The prevalence in depression has increased a lot in recent history

Gotzsche points out that this is difficult if not impossible to determine, as the criteria for being diagnosed as clinically depressed has been drastically lowered over the last 50 years.

9.  The main problem is not overtreatment, but undertreatment

“In a 2007 survey, 51% of the 108 psychiatrists said that they used too much medicine and only 4 % said they used too little. In 2001-2003, 20% of the US population aged 18-54 years received treatment for emotional problems.”

10.  Antipsychotics prevent brain damage

“Some professors say that schizophrenia causes brain damage and that it is therefore important to use antipsychotics. However, antipsychotics lead to shrinkage of the brain, and this effect is directly related to the dose and duration of the treatment.”

Read the rest of the article here:

%d bloggers like this: