In the prescription happy world of contemporary medicine, meditation may seem like the province of granola munching hippies. However, recent studies have shown the benefits of the practice for individuals suffering from anxiety, depression, and pain. This research hinges on a key clarification: meditating isn’t just sitting quietly and passively, it’s an active practice where one trains the mind to increase awareness of the self and one’s surrounding through concentration and mindfulness.
In an aggregate study, scientists examined 47 studies that tested the impact of the practice on mental health. They found between a 5-10% improvement in anxiety symptoms and a 10-20% improvement in depression symptoms in participants who meditated. Researchers advised doctors and clinicians to consult with their patients about using the practice to address psychological stress. While these benefits did not surpass those typically associated with treatments such as drugs and exercise, mindful meditation can help improve overall mental health.
Despite many people’s skepticism about the practice, meditation is quite popular in the U.S. According to the National Institute of Health, in 2007 9% of people in the U.S. reported they meditate and 1% used the practice as treatment or medicine. Practitioners engage in a variety of types of the practice, such as mindfulness meditation and repeating mantras to treat their ailments or simply collect their thoughts and improve concentration.
To learn more about the growing popularity of meditation and its benefits, check out our additional articles on meditation.