Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Evidence for Meditation

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By Jonathan R. Krygier, Sara Shahrestani & Andrew H. Kemp

Meditation has traditionally been associated with Eastern mysticism, but science is beginning to show that cultivating a “heightened” state of consciousness can have a major impact on our brain, the way our bodies function and our levels of resilience.

Jonathan Krygier is a PhD candidate, Sara Shahrestani is a third year psychology student, and Andrew Kemp is a NHMRC Career Development Award Fellow at the University of Sydney's School of Psychology.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Our minds and bodies are inextricably linked. For example, in 2006 Dr Michael Gonzales of Duke University reported that people with depression are at an increased risk of heart attack and up to 40% of patients with cardiovascular disease suffer from depression.

Increasing concerns over the effectiveness of antidepressants have led clinicians to look for preventative, non-pharmacological options to treat illnesses such as depression. Meditation techniques – such as quietening the mind, understanding the self and exercising control – show promise as an alternative tool to regulate emotions, mood and stress.

Meditation is neither exclusively Buddhist nor even eastern. It has long been a part of monastic Christian practices, especially those of Jesuit founder Saint Ignatius de Loyola, while the practice of Sufi whirling, a form of physical meditation, is rooted in Islamic culture and traditions.

There are many varieties of meditation, including:

• concentration meditation, which involves focusing on an object;

• compassion meditation, which involves generating feelings of loving and kindness;

• insight meditation, which involves dispassionate observation of the self; and

• physical meditations like yoga.

These different types of meditation can have very different effects. Compassion meditation increases happiness and...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.