Meditation and Mental Health
Posted on November 29th, 2010

Dr. Ruwan M Jayatunge M. D.  

Meditation is a synchronized mind body technique. It is a technique, defined as, ‘the maintained focus of attention on a single object, through which the mind is calmed and distracting influences of other internal and external events are reduced.

Meditation enhances cognitive functions strengthening attention span. It helps to achieve an optimal growth towards a state of total brain functioning. Mediation augments psycho physiological functioning of the body and helps to achieve full mental potential.

Meditation and Combating Anxiety
Anxiety is viewed as a diffuse and vague feeling of apprehension. Anxiety disorders involve symptoms of anxiety and avoidance behavior that cause clinically significant distress or impairment of functioning in social and work situations. Anxiety was first recognized as a medical diagnostic entity in the late 1800s.

In 1871 Dr Mendez Da Costa described a chronic cardiac syndrome with no apparent organic cause. In the early 1900, Sigmund Freud recognized anxiety as a central component of mental disorders.

Relaxation training is one of the major techniques proposed by the Psychotherapists to combat anxiety. Simple relaxation or mindfulness breathing helps to reduce anxiolytic feelings. Physiologically, breathing is important to the human body. Breathing nourishes the body and its various organs with the supply of oxygen, which is vital for survival. Oxygen is essential for the integrity of the brain, nerves, glands, internal organs and healthy skin.

Breathing plays an important role in cleansing the body of toxins and waste products. Hence systematic and mindfulness breathing helps to gather more oxygen concentration to the system and reduce anxiety.
Meditation helps to have an exceptional control over the thoughts and facilitate to reduce dysfunctional patterns of thought and perceptions that generate anxiety. In addition, it gives a greater ability to manage negative emotions and helps to gain a greater sense of stability.

Anxiety often activates the sympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that activates the body for emergencies and activities) via meditation, a person would gain more control over nervous system.

The researcher Alex Hankey studied the advanced stages of meditation and found numerous physiological changes in the human body. Alex Hankey states that most of these somatic changes act positively to gain better mental and physical equilibrium. Another study which was done by David Orme-Johnson, the MERU laboratory director, and K.G. Walton after comparing 10 meta-analyses comprising many hundred studies of different meditation techniques pronounced meditation can produce very different magnitudes of effect in anxiety reduction.

Meditation as a Stress Breaker
Sometimes severe anxiety is caused by dysfunctional brain chemistry and genetic factors. Therefore, meditation alone may not help to reduce the anxiety. In such patients, medication is required. But as a supportive therapy meditation act positively in these patients.

Medically stress is defined as a perturbation of the body’s homeostasis. It is a state of affair involving demand on physical or mental energy. Stress is a condition that sometimes adversely can affect normal physiological and psychological functioning of an individual. Stress is both additive and cumulative.

Some Medical Experts view stress as a silent killer. From common cold to hypertension, diabetes and genesis of cancer, stress plays a key role. Stress can trigger various anxiety disorders, depression, psychosomatic ailments and sometimes-psychotic illnesses like ATPD (Acute Transient Psychotic Disorder) or Schizophrenia.

Recent Studies have found positive correlations between stress reduction and meditation. Meditation is a unique stress breaker. It helps achieve personal growth opens a system of values and philosophy of life. It is a systematic tuning of mental chatter. Researchers say that meditation works at least in part by lowering the body’s responsiveness to the stress hormone norepinephrine.

Meditation as a Combined Therapy in Depression
Depression is an affective disorder that can cause physical and psychological distress in an individual. It gives a series of persistent feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, guilt, agitation and indecisiveness.
Depression can dramatically impair person’s ability to function in social situations and at work. Depression is estimated to contribute to 50 % of all suicides.

Psychiatrist Aaron T Beck of University of Pennsylvania pioneered the psychological mode of management of depression in 1979. He developed a cognitive therapy as a treatment of depression, which is called today as Beck’s therapy. He identified negative thought patterns as the hallmark of clinical depression.
Beck’s therapy helps organize cognitive restructuring in patients. As Beck hypothesized that depression prone individuals process negative self schemata.

Meditation helps place worries, fears, and disappointments in a more rational perspective way giving a true picture. It helps the depressed person to analyze his negative thinking pattern more logically.
The person comprehends that the negativism is rather in his own thoughts not in the real event. He can experience power and peace. Reduction of frustration and overwhelming feelings leads him toward a more rational path. Meditation helps change negative self-schemata.

A Study by a Harvard Physician
Herbert Benson a Harvard Physician and a scientist undertook a research on the effect of meditation to physiology. He characterized meditation as a uniquely relaxing physiological state _ distinct both from everyday wakefulness and from sleep.

He emphasized that during meditation oxygen consumption stabilizes, heart rate decreases, hormonal balance returns and alpha brain waves associated with relaxation increases. Alpha brain wave state is characterized by high frequency and low amplitude. It is a state of passive awareness, composure of physical and mental relaxation. Emotional sensation in the alpha state includes a sense of well being pleasure and tranquility.

4 Responses to “Meditation and Mental Health”

  1. jimmy Says:

    Jesus is the healer
    Read the bible and surrender to Jesus

  2. jimmy Says:

    http://www.bennyhinn.org/radio/default.cfm

  3. Andare Says:

    Dr. Jayatunge’s article is a good one, but it looks only at the physical aspects of Meditation. There is a far deeper spiritual dimension to meditation which he has not touched upon. As indicated by the Buddha, the whole world we see and hear is an Illusion which is constantly changing.

    All living things are aware. They only vary in the degree of Consciousness. As you all  know, Humans are the most conscious, then the animals, lastly the plants. Animals and humans eat the plants, and humans also eat the animals.

    For those who are interested there is a book written by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird called the “Secret Life of Plants”. They did extensive experiments with plants which were connected to Electroencephalographs. It is available as a dvd. They proved the existence of consciousness in plants.

    This consciousness or awareness can be focussed, instead running around sense objects in the outside world, to go within. When the focus is true and the mind falls silent, then this other dimension can be experienced. Many books have been written on this Transcendental experience by the so called Mystics in every religion.

    This is the Cosmic Consciousness that some people refer to, and what the Buddha referring to Nirvana said: “O bhikkus, there is the Unborn, the Ungrown, and Unconditioned. Were there not the Unborn the, Ungrown and the Unconditioned, there would be no escape for the born, grown and conditioned.——————–   etc”.  He goes on to say “Here the four elements of solidity, fluidity, heat and motion have no place; the notions of length and breadth, the subtle and the gross, the good and evil, name and form are altogether destroyed; neither this world or the other, nor coming or going or standing, neither death nor birth nor sense objects are to be found.” See page 37 (hard copy edition) of “What the Buddha Taught” by Walpola Rahula. In our humble opinion, Nirvana is the experience of this Universal Power (what ever you call it) by the human Consciousness. In India, a form of greeting is Jai Sat Chit Anand. This means ‘glory to Truth (Sat), Chit (Conciousness) and the result of plugging Consciousness into Truth is Bliss (Anand). Truth is another name for this Power. In Meditation, the Human Consciousness is connected to the Universal Power or Life Energy within us.  In practical terms, for a lay person to reach this Consciousness, the three aspects, Dhana, Seela, Bhavana really makes sense. 

  4. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Until we reached age of 4 during the normal state of eyes open, awake and alert our brains were functioning in the delta state, with brain waves function at less than 4 Hz. But still when we have deep sleep our brains function in the delta state..

    From age of 4 to 7, during the normal state of eyes open, awake and alert our brains were primarily operating in theta state, with brain waves functioning mainly between between 4 to 7 Hz. Now we experience this level of brain wave activity during sleep and during states of fear when the body goes into a fight,-flight or freeze response, (hyper arousal, or the acute stress response). This is a powerful level from which to initiate change and in this state, we only need mostly just one or couple of experiences of learning to change our behaviour.

    From the age 7 until we reached our puberty, during the normal state of eyes open, awake and alert our brains were mainly operating in the alpha state of 7 to 14 Hz. Now during light sleep, meditation, or eyes closed relaxation we reach alpha state. At this level effective learning can take place after about 21 repetitions. Practice a new behaviour for about 21 times and that behaviour becomes a habit. Strong levels of physical healing can take place when the brain is at 10 Hz

    Since puberty during the normal state of eyes open, awake and alert our brain operates in the beta state, 14 to 21 Hz during the normal state of eyes open, awake and alert. In this state it may take many thousands of repetitions to learn a new behaviour. To create significant change in our lives at this level takes extensive deal of time and effort.

    Brain waves less than 7 Hz are very ideal for rejuvenating and to maintain good health.

    0.5 Hz – Relaxation, Soothe headaches
    0.5 – 1.5 Hz – Pain relief. Endorphin release
    0.9 Hz – Euphoric feeling
    1 Hz – Well being. Harmony and balance
    1 – 3 Hz – Profound relaxation, restorative sleep. Tranquility and peace
    2.5 Hz – Production of endogenous opiates (pain killers, reduce anxiety)
    2.5 Hz – Relieves migraine pain. Produces endogenous opiates
    3 – 8 Hz – Deep relaxation, meditation. Lucid dreaming
    3 – 8 Hz – Increased memory, focus, creativity
    3.4 Hz – Helps achieve restful sleep
    3.5 Hz – Feeling of unity with everything. Whole being regeneration
    3.9 Hz – Self renewal, enhanced inner awareness
    4 Hz – Enkephalin release for reduced stress
    4 Hz – Allows brain to produce enkaphalins, all natural pain killer
    4 Hz – Full memory scanning. Releases enkephalins
    4.Hz – Vital for memory and learning. Problem solving, object naming
    4 – 7 Hz – Profound inner peace, emotional healing. Lowers mental fatigue
    4 – 7 Hz – Deep meditation, near-sleep brainwaves.
    4.5 Hz – Brings about Shamanic/Tibetan state of consciousness, Tibetan chants.
    4.9 Hz – Induce relaxation and deeper sleep
    4.9 Hz – Introspection. Relaxation, meditation
    5 Hz – Reduces sleep required. Replaces need for extensive dreaming
    5.3 Hz – Allows relaxing breathing, free and efficient
    5.5 Hz – Inner guidance, intuition
    6.5 Hz – Activates creative frontal lobe
    7.5 Hz – Activates creative thought for art, invention, music. Problem solving
    7.5 Hz – Ease of overcoming troublesome issues
    7.8 Hz – Schumann earth resonance. Grounding, meditative, Leaves us revitalized
    8 Hz – Associated with the mouth. Brings creativity
    8- 10 Hz Super-learning new information, memorization, not comprehension.
    10 Hz – Enhanced serotonin release. Mood elevation, arousal, stimulant
    10 Hz – Provides relief from lost sleep, improves general mood
    10 Hz – Mood elevator. Used to dramatically reduce headaches
    10 Hz – Clarity, subconscious correlation. Releases serotonin
    11 Hz – Relaxed yet awake state
    11 – 14 Hz – Increased focus and awareness
    12 Hz – Centering, mental stability.
    12 – 15 Hz – Relaxed focus, improved attentive abilities
    12 – 14 Hz – Learning frequency, good for absorbing information passively
    13 – 27 Hz – Promotes focused attention toward external stimuli
    13 – 30 Hz – Problem solving, conscious thinking
    14 Hz – Awakeness, alert. Concentration on tasks, Focusing, vitality.
    16 Hz – Bottom of hearing range. Releases oxygen/calcium into cells
    18 – 24 Hz — Euphoria, can result in headaches, anxiety.

    To Listen Deep Theta Meditation 5.5Hz Isochronic Tones With Metal Crystal Bowls and Rain visit
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7EHidYj9BQ

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