(Reuters Health) – Mindfulness meditation may be useful in battles against anxiety, depression and pain, according to a fresh look at past research.
Using data from 47 earlier studies, researchers found moderate evidence to support the use of mindfulness meditation to treat those conditions. Meditation didn’t seem to affect mood, sleep or substance use.
“Many people have the idea that meditation means just sitting quietly and doing nothing,” wrote Dr. Madhav Goyal in an email to Reuters Health. “That is not true. It is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.”
Goyal led the study at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
He and his colleagues write in JAMA Internal Medicine that meditation techniques emphasize mindfulness and concentration.
So-called mindfulness meditation is aimed at allowing the mind to pay attention to whatever thoughts enter it, such as sounds in the environment, without becoming too focused. Mantra meditation, on the other hand, involves focusing concentration on a particular word or sound.
Approximately 9 percent of people in the U.S. reported meditating in 2007, according to the National Institutes of Health. About 1 percent said they use meditation as some sort of treatment or medicine.
For the new report, the researchers searched several electronic databases that catalog medical research for trials that randomly assigned people with a certain condition – such as anxiety, pain or depression – to do meditation or another activity. These randomized controlled trials are considered the gold standard of medical research.
The researchers found 47 studies with over 3,500 participants that met their criteria.
After combining the data, Goyal said his team found between a 5 and 10 percent improvement in anxiety symptoms among people who took part in mindfulness meditation, compared to those who did another activity.
There was also about a 10 to 20 percent improvement in symptoms of depression among those who practiced mindfulness meditation, compared to the other group.
Excerpt from Article Meditation may help with anxiety, depression and pain BY ANDREW M. SEAMAN