Brief Meditations on Meditation: Mental Health and the Beautiful Quiet

The sad truth is that ‘one in four adults will experience a mental illness at some point each year in the UK [and]…we only expect to help 15 per cent of them’ [1].

Perhaps it’s time to take matters into our own hands, and it seems a way forward is found…or always has been known.

 

What is Meditation?

People see meditation as a non-scientific, religious, mystical practice, and it would be forgivable, but wrong, to think so. Very simply, meditation is ‘about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective’ [2] and can be done in several ways.

Most people are accustomed to visualising meditation as an old, greying man sat cross-legged on top of a mountain, or a middle-aged woman in a gym class. But really all sorts of people do it, and it’s open to everyone.

In certain forms, meditation can be done walking or whilst on the move, so it has diverse properties which can fit in to everyday life, leaving no excuse for people not to do it! Also, since it is such a religious staple, a lot of people already practice and find solace in it.

 

Benefits and Bonuses of Meditation

The benefits of meditation are lauded and widespread, according to many recent studies. One study found that ‘Results suggested large effects on stress, moderate effects on anxiety, depression, distress, and quality of life, and small effects on burnout’ [3].

The NHS prescribe meditation as a way to deal with mental health problems. They specifically use mindfulness, a meditative process where one identifies ‘signs of stress or anxiety earlier and helps us deal with them better.’

The NHS go on to note that ‘Mindfulness is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a way to prevent depression in people who have had 3 or more bouts of depression in the past’ [4].

So, if it isn’t directly impacting mental health it is helping to identify it. Not beneficial only in the realm of mental health, it aids physical health too. Studies have shown that meditation ‘lengthens attention span’ and ‘may reduce age-related memory loss’ [5].

 

Stress is a killer – meditation changes how the body reacts to stress

Meditation reduces levels of your body’s stress hormone – cortisol. Cortisol is produced by your adrenal glands (as in adrenaline) in response to physical and emotional stress.

·         It eases the psychological symptoms of stress-related anxiety, pain and depression

·         Better quality of sleep

·         More tolerance for pain for those suffering from chronic pain

 

Places to Go

There are many good places online to learn about meditation (including all articles linked in this piece) and several good apps to start the practice of meditation: Headspace, The Mindfulness App, Calm, Simple Habit, and more [6].

 

Summaries

Meditation has many clear, scientifically backed benefits. Whether or not you are doing it for religious reasons, or even reasons that don’t involve mental health issues, the practice is something everyone will benefit from.

Furnishing your mind with ways to cope and calm is an integral part of living a healthy lifestyle.

Links and Useful Resources:

1.      https://www.childline.org.uk/

2.      https://youngminds.org.uk/

3.      https://www.barnardos.org.uk/

4.      https://www.thecalmzone.net/

5.      https://papyrus-uk.org/

6.      https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/how-to-access-mental-health-services/

7.      https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/mental-health-problems-introduction/treatment-options/#.XSy_fpNKh-0

References:

[1] Carlton-Crabtree, R. (2017) World Mental Health Day: The Modern Struggle For Peace of Mind,  Independent. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/world-mental-health-day-wellbeing-modern-life-technology-anxiety-depression-illness-stress-a7990296.html

[2] Headspace What is Meditation?  Retrieved from https://www.headspace.com/meditation-101/what-is-meditation. acc. 10.07.19

[3] Khoury B., Sharma M., Rush S.E., Fournier C. (2015) Mindfulness-based stress reduction for healthy individuals: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 78s (6) , pp. 519-528.

[4] NHS Moodzone. Mindfulness.  Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mindfulness/

[5] Thorpe, M. (2017) 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation

[6] Timmons, J. (2019) The Best Meditation Apps of 2019. Healthline.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/top-meditation-iphone-android-apps

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