Does Meditation Work?

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

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  • Cale V

    June 20th, 2012 at 4:09 AM

    Meditation could work for some people, for those who are in the right frame of mind to do the process and to do it the right way. But there are sure to be others for who meditation feels like more of a chore instead of being something positive. These are the impatient people like me who, if you want to know the truth, just likes things a little more fast paced than what meditation offers.

  • Frederica

    June 20th, 2012 at 5:01 AM

    My doctor recommended this to me when I was having a hard time sleeping. I read some books and took a few classes that really helped me to get a grasp on some breathing exercises and methods for slowing down that had a very positive effect on me. It was not a problem that was resolved overnight, but it did start me on a journey that helped me to begin the healing process. I struggled with sleep for many years, and getting that little push to begin meditation and to think beyond sleep medications and other things that I had tried really helped me to face down one of the obstacles that I have struggled with for a very long time. It felt good to see the changes that I was making and that feeling of accomplishment encouraged me to keep going.

  • carroll

    June 20th, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    Do you think that this is something that can help everyone, or are there only certain people who could benefit from meditation practices? I have to admit that I have always felt a little closed off to the idea because, don’t laugh, but I was raised with a dad who felt and still feels that practicing things like yoga and meditation are ways to invite the devil in. Yes he still believes that and of course he raised me and my siblings to believe the same things.
    It has only been recently that I have discovered that I don’t really feel the same way that he does and I am open to trying some new things to help me relax and become more focused. I have thought about giving meditation a try but with this background working against me I guess I am a little afraid to even try.

  • Asatar Bair | University of the Heart

    June 20th, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    Thank you for this interesting report!
    It’s always interesting to see how modern science confronts and seeks to understand the ancient art of meditation. Modern and ancient can learn from each other.
    I have written many articles on heart-centered meditation that you might be interested in.

  • jane few

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:32 AM

    If you allow your mind to be open to this concept then I have no doubts that meditation could benefit you in a myriad of ways.

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