Meditation in medicine
Siddhartha Gautama, better known as the Buddha, 2500 years ago declared that suffering is subjective, and can be reduced through self-awareness. Today, a growing number of American doctors and healthcare workers are utilizing Buddha’s principles in treatment of their patients. In hospitals and clinics meditation is increasingly being presented as a method of stress reduction, and to help patients better cope with the physical pain and mental strain associated with many medical conditions, including heart disease, stroke, post traumatic stress, and even HIV infection. Research shows meditation’s soothing effects can be detected in arterial walls and in brain imaging.
Meditation is the act of disidentifying from inner thought flow and concentrating on calming and healing. Doctors help patients detach from their pain and anxieties and cultivate a connection between their mind and the body, through meditation. The aim is to assist people in taking better care of themselves through a daily discipline of meditation and relaxation. Doctors refer patients to meditation programs and practitioners for any number of diseases and disorders, including heart disease, anxiety and panic, job or family stress, chronic pain, cancer, headaches, sleep disturbances, type A behavior, high blood pressure, fatigue, skin disorders, and numerous other maladies. Meditation has helped recent military veterans deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. Meditation has more recently been used to treat eating disorders, alcoholism, psoriasis, and even impotence.
Relaxation and reducing stress through meditation may reduce artery blockage and the risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a study released by the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke Another recent pilot study, published in the NeuroReport, by Sara Lazar, Ph.D., a Harvard research fellow in psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston, suggests meditation activates specific regions of the brain that may influence heart and breathing rates. The usual, fight-or-flight brain response liberates adrenalin and is stressful to the body, but during meditation the brain acts to quiet the body through concentrated breathing or word repetition, evoking a relaxation response that minimizes the harmful effects of stress. A growing body of research shows that meditation has a discernible effect on the brain that promotes various types of health and well-being.
More than 6 million Americans are now being referred for meditation, and other mind-body therapies by conventional health care providers, according to a report released by Harvard Medical School.
Some more progressive insurance companies, such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield in Massachusetts and other more enlightened states like Oregon and California, are now paying for all or part of these programs.
Meditation in medicine