For thousands of years, societies have been practicing meditation as a form of building a spiritual connection. With the development of modern science, the practice has undergone scrutiny, with many experts casting doubt on meditation’s supposed benefits.
From a mental health perspective, however, psychologists are seeing a possible link between meditation and a reduction in mental health risk.
But how does psychological science stack up against a tradition that has seen a major surge since the pandemic began?
Practicing Meditation: A Pseudoscience?
Let’s first look at a few objections directed against the supposed benefits of meditation. An article on Scientific American points out the fact that meditation (more specifically mindfulness meditation) lacks empirical backing.
This stems from the fact that there is no fixed scientific definition for mindfulness. In addition, many studies that attempt to understand meditation’s mental health benefits produced lackluster results.
As a matter of fact, a 2014 study conducted by researchers from The John Hopkins University in Baltimore found no evidence linking meditation with improving a person’s mood, eating habits, and sleep quality. The same goes for meditation’s supposed benefits in reducing the effects of substance abuse.
The study, however, does not discount other areas where meditation can be useful. For one, it suggests that practicing meditation can have a low to moderate effect on anxiety, depression, and pain. While it does not necessarily lead to an overall improvement in a patient’s mental well-being, meditation can be beneficial in helping individuals cope with extreme anxiety.
A case in favor of mindfulness meditation
Whether or not you doubt the evidence that’s currently available, psychiatric experts and institutions are weighing in on the potential clinical value that meditation can deliver to patients.
Classifying transcendental meditation as “alternative medicine,” Mental Health America cited studies suggesting meditation’s benefits, from improving recovery from stress to reducing high blood pressure. These studies are, of course, inconclusive but they indicate physiological effects that can help patients cope with distress and depression.
This is further supported by studies that suggest physical changes as a result of practicing meditation constantly. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, meditation can affect the performance of the amygdala.
As a part of the brain that coordinates emotional responses, the amygdala is activated when a fear-inducing stimulus is introduced. A 2018 study suggests a reduction of amygdala reactivity through hours of meditation. Although this finding may require further confirmation, it does set the keystone for more research on the psycho-physiological effects of meditation.
Should you do meditation?
With the information that exists at present, should practicing meditation be a part of improving mental health?
To some degree, yes. Meditation can be an effective coping device for improving your response to stressful situations. It also helps you relax and re-focus in the short term. In the long term, however, meditation should not replace conventional psychiatric treatment. As of the moment, there is little to no evidence linking the practice with reducing the onset of major psychological disorders.
It’s still best to reach out to a psychiatric clinic providing a holistic approach to helping patients find mental peace. MidCities Psychiatry specializes in assessing the physical and mental dimensions of psychological illnesses and treating these based on a patient’s unique needs.
Contact us today and learn more about how we can help you or a loved one on the road to recovery!