In meditation, a type of mind-body medicine, people regulate their attention or systematically focus on particular aspects of inner or outer experience. Meditation may involve sitting or resting quietly, often with the eyes closed or gaze cast downward. Sometimes it involves repeating a phrase (a mantra) meant to help the person focus. Transcendental meditation and mindfulness meditation have been scientifically studied. (See also Overview of Integrative, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine.)
Most meditation practices were developed within a spiritual context and held as their ultimate goal some type of spiritual growth, personal transformation, or transcendental experience. As a health care intervention, however, meditation may be effective regardless of people’s cultural, spiritual, or religious background.
Meditation has been shown to offer numerous health benefits, including relieving the following:
Meditation has favorable effects on brain activity. For example, it may increase activity in parts of the brain associated with mental clarity. Meditation often induces physical relaxation, mental calmness, and favorable emotional states such as loving-kindness and even-temperedness.
Meditation has been proposed to have many beneficial effects on heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) health. The American Heart Association has endorsed the use of meditation as a low risk, low cost intervention in the prevention of cardiovascular disease while at the same time commenting the strength of the evidence for meditation is low quality and needs to be studied further.
Meditation is beneficial in reducing stress and enhancing overall well-being. Its roles in chronic medical conditions, including pain and neurologic disorders (for example, Parkinson Disease) are under study.