5 academic sources with purposeful summaries
- Contrary to popular belief, anyone can practice meditation. It doesn’t require any special, expensive equipment or anything fancy. It can be practiced wherever, whenever, and however feels right to you. The mind can become extremely crowded due to the obstacles of daily life, causing stress. However, meditations help produce a tranquil mind and a deep state of relaxation which make daily stressors easier to overcome. The benefits of meditation do not just come to a halt when you end your meditation. It allows you to go through your day with a clear mind. While meditation isn’t a replacement for traditional medical treatment, it can be a very useful addition to treatment for both physical and mental illnesses. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are many types of meditation and relaxation techniques including guided, mantra, and mindfulness meditations. Each of these techniques shares the same goal of achieving inner peace.
- According to Arlin Cuncic, an author for the website Very Well Mind, 6.8 million Americans struggle with chronic daily anxiety. It is not surprising that so many people are affected by anxiety due to the fast paced lives we all live. However, meditation and being mindful offers a way to finally relax. Meditation and mindfulness go hand in hand because they are very similar. Mindfulness is the act of becoming aware of the present moment. It involves noticing what your senses are showing you. For example, noticing any sounds that you may hear, any smells that you can smell, and so on. Mindfulness-based meditation can be used to treat anxiety disorders. Cuncic states that “the basic premise of mindfulness-based meditation is to learn to detach from anxious thoughts. This is achieved by practicing awareness, identifying tension in the body, understanding your thinking patterns, and learning how to deal with difficult emotions.” However, it is important to understand that this process takes time, and will not cure you immediately. Like anything, mediation requires practice in order to get good at it and experience its full benefits.
- Meditation has neurological benefits that have been confirmed by fMRIs and EEG. A study was conducted at Yale University that revealed mindfulness meditation “decreases activity in the default mode network or DMN, the brain network responsible for mind wandering and self-referential thoughts”, says Alice G Walton. Mind wandering can lead to unwanted thoughts or worrying. Many studies show that meditation quiets down the DMN, allowing you to become better at snapping back into reality when the mind wanders. There was another study done at Johns Hopkins where they discovered that mindfulness meditation has the ability to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain. It can also help social anxiety and addiction, which are common struggles in society.
- People with anxiety disorders often struggle with unwanted thoughts, worries, negative thinking, and more stress than the average person. However, meditation provides relaxation techniques that can alleviate these symptoms. Many people have misconceptions of what occurs during meditation. Meditation does not mean just “doing nothing” or having no thoughts. It is allowing your thoughts to happen and detaching yourself from them, so that there is no judgement placed on your thoughts. Mindfulness is the act of acknowledging your thoughts, sitting with them, and allowing them to pass. This allows you to understand why certain thoughts come up, and change your ways of thinking. You cannot just push your thoughts and feelings to the side, because they will come up at some point. Meditation allows you to face negative thinking without reactions.
- Sometimes, the act of sitting with your thoughts can be scary. People who struggle with mental illnesses often push away any negative thoughts and emotions because they are too hard to deal with. However, pushing these things away is not helpful, because it doesn’t make them go away, it only piles on. The idea of practicing meditation can seem difficult. That is why it is important to remember that peace is a practice. Results come in time, and it gets better with time and practice. According to Sandra Casabianca, a 2020 review shows that people who practice meditation for a long time start showing changes in the areas of their brain that modulate the stress and anxiety response. “Specifically, the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus show increased activity. Also, the amygdala, which is involved in the fight, flight, or freeze response, shows decreased activity. All of this indicates improved emotional regulation, according to the review.” says Sandra.
Working Hypothesis 1:
Meditation can be an extremely useful tool in the event of an anxiety/panic attack.
Working Hypothesis 2
Mindfulness meditation is an extremely useful tool for those who suffer with mental illnesses such as generalized anxiety, panic disorders, depression, and more.
Current State of Research
As I began my research, I came across multiple different types of meditations. In my paper I can discuss a specific type of meditation- mindfulness meditation. This is used to treat a variety of mental illnesses, not limited to just anxiety. There are so many studies that revealed that meditation actually has a physical effect on your brain and has the ability to change it. So, I have a lot of good resources to prove my hypothesis.