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Meditation: Just What the Doctor Ordered!

by Beth on May 20th, 2011

Last week there was a story featured on ABC World News about the amount of doctors who are now prescribing meditation to their patients.  Over 6 million Americans have been advised by their health care providers to use meditation or other mind-body therapies.  This isn’t surprising given the growing evidence showing that meditation works.  It has been found to help with cardiovascular disease, anxiety, insomnia, asthma, diabetes, pain, and eating disorders.  It can strengthen our immune system and lower our stress.

According to a Harvard study meditation can physically change our brain!  They discovered that after people meditated for 8 weeks the areas of their brain associated with self-awareness and compassion grew while the area associated with stress shrank.  The people in the study meditated for 30 minutes a day, but even five or ten minutes can make a difference.

In Buddha’s Brain, Rick Hanson explains that meditation can bring us more happiness, love and wisdom by increasing our concentration, compassion, empathy, and mood.  What we focus our attention on shapes our mind.  Through meditation we bring awareness to our body, which helps us to withdraw attention from stressful matters and to relax.  I like the way Mark Thornton, author of Meditation in a New York Minute, puts it: “Meditation is a journey to the ocean of calm” that is deep inside of us and often hidden by the noise of our busy days.

You can meditate by following these three steps: 1) sit comfortably 2) focus on your breath and 3) every time your mind wanders gently return your attention to your breath.  It sounds easy, but it’s not!  The good news, Hanson assures us, is that we can become better at meditation.  Our concentration is like a muscle that gets stronger with use.  So don’t give up!  The many benefits of meditation certainly make it worth the effort.  It’s what the doctor ordered!

 

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