Merck Manual

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Denise Millstine

, MD, Mayo Clinic

Last full review/revision Oct 2021
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In meditation, a type of mind-body medicine Mind-Body Medicine Five categories of complementary or alternative medicine are generally recognized: Whole medical systems Mind-body medicine Biologically based practices not usually used in conventional medicine... read more , patients regulate their attention or systematically focus on particular aspects of inner or outer experience. The most highly studied forms of meditation are transcendental meditation (TM) and mindfulness meditation. Results to date suggest that meditation could work via at least 2 mechanisms:

  • Producing a relaxed state that counters excessive activation of neurohormonal pathways resulting from repeated stress

  • Developing the capacity for metacognitive awareness (the ability to stand back from and witness the contents of consciousness), thus theoretically helping patients not react to stress automatically (with highly conditioned, learned patterns of behavior) and helping them tolerate and regulate emotional distress better

Most meditation practices were developed in a religious or spiritual context; their ultimate goal was some type of spiritual growth, personal transformation, or transcendental experience. However, studies suggest that as a health care intervention, meditation can often be beneficial regardless of a person’s cultural, spiritual, or religious background.

Uses for Meditation


  • 1. Hilton L, Hempel S, Ewing BA, et al: Mindfulness meditation for chronic pain: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Behav Med 51(2):199-213, 2017. doi: 10.1007/s12160-016-9844-2

  • 2. Gunjawate DR, Ravi R: Effect of yoga and meditation on tinnitus: a systematic review. J Laryngol Otol. 135(4):284-287, 2021. doi: 10.1017/S0022215121000566

  • 3. Jaderek I, Lew-Starowicz M: A systematic review on mindfulness meditation-based interventions for sexual dysfunctions. J Sex Med 16(10):1581-1596, 2019. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2019.07.019

  • 4. Long J, Briggs M, Astin F: Overview of systematic reviews of mindfulness meditation-based interventions for people with long-term conditions. Adv Mind Body Med 31(4):26-36, 2017. PMID: 29306938

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