According to a recent study conducted by Peter Sedlmeier of the Department of Psychology at Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany, meditation does provide positive health benefits. Meditation was originally used to achieve a sense of spiritual and psychological freedom. However, in modern Western societies, meditation is used in many therapeutic approaches to help individuals reduce symptoms of negative conditions, such as depression, anxiety, phobia, fear, pain, and even insomnia. Some studies have demonstrated that the relaxing effects of meditation can even provide physiological benefits such as lower blood pressure.
Although people who meditate are quick to tout the many therapeutic effects, measuring the actual cognitive and emotional gains achieved through meditation is challenging because the theories surrounding the goal of meditation are varied. Therefore, Sedlmeier chose to focus not on the emotional changes resulting from meditation, but rather cognitive and other psychological indicators. For his study, Sedlmeier analyzed results from 125 separate studies that reported findings on meditation techniques used for relaxation and enlightenment and not for psychotherapeutic purposes. He asked, “Does meditation work in principle, that is, does it have positive effects?” Sedlmeier said, “The evidence accumulated in the present meta-analysis yields a clear answer: yes.”
Sedlmeier said that after review of the studies, he found that the effects achieved through meditation were similar to those achieved through some therapeutic and behavioral approaches used in modern psychotherapy. The findings of this study support the previous research that suggests meditation can provide improvements across many domains of mental and physical health. Whether this is attained through physical relaxation, cognitive flexibility, or other means is unclear. However, these most recent results show that regardless of whether meditation is being used to gain personal awareness, universal enlightenment, or being used more specifically to address particular psychological issues such as substance abuse, the overall effect is a positive one. But Sedlemeir added, the mechanisms that produce those positive effects need further exploration.
Sedlmeier, P., Eberth, J., Schwarz, M., Zimmermann, D., Haarig, F., Jaeger, S., et al. (2012). The psychological effects of meditation: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028168
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.