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Strong Medicine: Studies Back Meditation

Broad benefits revealed in studies

The latest miracle drug has been around for thousands of years and, at its core, is all about nothing.

Meditation might strike some as New Age-style nonsense, but studies proving its benefits — physical, mental, and spiritual — continue to pile up.

An article on huffingtonpost.com last month listed 20 research-backed benefits of meditation that may cause caregivers to stop and say OMG (or just “om”). A study in the Journal of Neuroscience, for example, is one of many that showed a connection between meditation and pain reduction. “Researchers speculate that those who practice meditation develop the ability to exert greater control over unpleasant feelings, including pain, by turning them down as if using a ‘volume knob’ in the brain,” the article states.

Other benefits of meditation that studies have revealed include lowered blood pressure: more than half the patients in a study at Mass. General Hospital taught a relaxation technique experienced a drop in blood pressure — sometimes even resulting in reduced medication. Another study linked meditation to reduced rates of heart attack, stroke, and early death from heart disease in African-Americans.

The mental benefits of meditation are numerous as well. A UCLA study revealed that MRI scans of subjects who were long-time meditators showed that certain parts of their brains were larger, particularly those associated with emotional regulation. Additional studies point to such benefits as improved will power; increased focus and concentration; and improved cognitive function.