Psychological Benefits Of Meditation – Its Mental And Emotional Value

The psychological benefits of meditation cover through both your mental health and your emotional health, with very deep and positive effects in each. Whilst being a very simple thing to do meditating is something that can create far reaching and deep impact on your experience of living through core improvements of your disposition and as a result your ability to connect with life and living. As such if you are truly wishing to achieve joyful living as a daily thing then meditating is one of the things that can aid you most.

Your Mental Health And Emotional Health

Whilst often people refer to mental health or emotional health the two are realistically very closely intertwined. Whilst the mental functionality of the mind governs logic and thought in a conscious manner, emotional functionality is carried out on an unconscious level and works with the less tangible side known as feelings. Whilst the two functions are very different in nature they work in unison and the terms of mental health and emotional health are often used interchangeably as health professionals tend to find them indistinguishable.

Stability And Control

As a further note on this when you have greater control over your conscious thoughts, refraining from negativity, etc, you will tend towards a healthier emotional state. In the same vein by having greater emotional control, keeping yourself in a happier state as a conscious measure you tend towards a healthier mental state. All emotion and thought comes from choice, for most this is an unconscious thing, it can become conscious with ease though. For more on this it is worth discovering about Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).

Psychological Conditions Meditating Has Been Noted To Alleviate

Anxiety
Depression
Insecurity
Loss
Low Self-Confidence

Low Self-Worth
PTSD
Stress
Trauma

Stress – Dis-Ease Created On A Societal Level

Modern life has brought a high degree of ease with it, mobile communications and a multitude of attention getting advertising forms are among the spearhead of that. Almost everywhere you go, around the city or town, even out into the country you can access a mobile data network. On buses, trains and in taxis there are advertisements that reach out to you. Things can happen at a fast pace and most people expect them to do so due to the way society has developed along with technology.

That increase in pace and the higher demand for speed comes with a price though, stress. It has seeped into other aspects of life too, work and relationships being two such areas. With the opportunity for faster communications as well as the perception of increasing competition many organisations feel the need for more to be done and for it to be done faster too. This along with other factors brings a higher level of stress within, something which is then carried through to other things, relationships for example which in turn become can become more stressful due to the alteration in our interactions with each other. In turn raising stress levels further, and thus there is a spiralling effect which multiplies.

The top 4 factors cited by the American Psychological Association (APA) as elevating stress levels are:

Money
Work
Family Responsibilities
Health Concerns

One of the major points noted in the APA report, which is available here, is this “ Nearly three quarters (72 percent) of adults report feeling stressed about money at least some of the time and nearly one quarter say that they experience extreme stress about money (22 percent rate their stress about money during the past month as an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale). In some cases, people are even putting their health care needs on hold because of financial concerns”.

Whilst many may feel that the response to financial issues is deeper thought and worry, the negativity can actually create a magnetic effect which only serves to further worsen the situation, more on this can be discovered through learning about NLP and the mind. Worrying for sure only serves to cause those doing it to experience ever deeper negativity, and thus spiral down.

Though aside from the big factors small things cause issue too. Things such as another persons music coming through their earphones to “annoy” those around them. People cutting in on the highway or motorway. Or anything where you may feel that a person, group or organisation is being inconsiderate. In short there are a multitude of stress sources that can affect mental and emotional states when people allow them to. That last point being a major factor as we choose how to interact with our surroundings and environment.

In order to bring an end to that spiral and reverse its effect a separation point is required, meditation is one highly effective way of creating that gap and achieving an opportunity for change.

The Induction Of Peace And Calm

Within your meditative practice you are naturally slowing your mind down. You take time to create distance from yourself and the external world. The further you move within, the deeper you go, the deeper the level of quiet you become able to achieve. From this you induce peace and calm on and effective level. Achieving this, in even small amounts, helps you to induce higher degrees of wellness on various levels psychologically, something which is driving doctors and psychologists to recommend the practice for an increasing amount of patients over a wide variety of health and psychological issues.

An Effective Method For Depression Treatment

Depression goes hand in hand with stress. Granted you can be experiencing high levels of stress without feeling depressed, the reason for being depressed though is down to high levels of stress, be they through emotional, mental, physical or a mixture of causes. Dealing with the causes on a root level is the best thing of course, like removing weeds from a garden you want to pull the whole thing out down to the root. NLP sessions with a good practitioner (At least master practitioner level and highly experienced that is) are great for achieving that effect, if you are unable to get such treatment sessions then meditating forms another powerful option.

Resetting And Releasing

Everybody has a different level of tolerance to stress, pure and simple. Some people hit their limit quickly, others seem to take a huge amount before they show any sign of wavering. That said regardless of the level you are capable of tolerating it has an effect on a background level.

Relativity – If It Can Aid People With PTSD It Can Help Those With Workstress

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a condition that comes on due to a psychological overload, through emotional and mental loading. For a long time very few really understood the condition or how to deal with it. It has led people to end up on high dosage prescriptions with pharmaceuticals that did little or nothing to aid the healing from it. However it is reasonably easy to treat in an effective manner. Whilst highly skilled NLP practitioners can help people in a very rapid way meditation offers a route for those wishing to recover gently.

Research pioneered at the University Hospital of the University of Western Ontario in Canada involving the use of mindfulness meditation and metta meditation (loving kindness meditation) with 177 research subjects has demonstrated promising results in terms of alleviating and healing the condition.

Mindfulness and Metta-based Trauma Therapy (MMTT): Initial Development and Proof-of-Concept of an Internet Resource.

“Results suggest that, independent of level of self-reported current and past psychiatric history and PTSD symptoms, participants considered the MMTT website as a credible and helpful therapeutic intervention for improving self-regulation and well-being and reducing PTSD, anxiety, depression, and dissociation. Overall, participants considered guided and non-guided meditation practices more helpful than a journaling exercise, and participants with increased PTSD symptoms preferred metta (lovingkindness) meditations less than other participants. We conclude that MMTT should be piloted in clinical trials as an adjunctive intervention to evidence-based treatments for persons with mood, anxiety, and trauma and stressor-related disorders, as well as more generally as an online resource to support self-regulation and well-being practices.”
Frewen P, Rogers N, Flodrowski L, Lanius R.
Source Article

This builds on other work carried out at University of Washington School of Medicine, where a study involving the use of loving kindness meditation again demonstrated positive results in terms of healing the condition.

Loving-kindness meditation and the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions among veterans with post traumatic stress disorder.

“Results: Significant increases in unactivated pleasant (d=0.73), but not activated pleasant, emotions were found over time. Activated and unactivated unpleasant emotions decreased over time (d=-0.69 and -0.53, respectively). There were also increases in environmental mastery (d=0.61), personal growth (d=0.54), purpose in life (d=0.71), self-acceptance (d=0.68), and decentering (d=0.96) at 3-month follow-up.
CONCLUSIONS: Overall, positive emotions increased, and enhancement of personal resources occurred over time. Further investigation of LKM for PTSD is warranted.”
Kearney DJ, McManus C, Malte CA, Martinez ME, Felleman B, Simpson TL.
Source Report

With PTSD being a very extreme condition where the mind has been taken beyond its functional level of tolerance, and where meditation has been shown to be effective in treatment, contrast can easily be drawn as to how beneficial meditating can be to anyone who is wishing to enhance their psychological disposition.

On this point of enhancing psychological disposition, it has been widely noted that those who do meditate every day, and have built up a good daily practice, feel less of the stressful effects that most people do. Within the same or similar situations meditators have a greater tendency towards feeling a greater sense of calm and composure, thus enabling them to function more effectively. The level of this effect runs in a manner that is in many ways proportional to the length of experience with their practice, those practising longer feeling an ever stronger sense of composure.

So whilst the greatest benefits are noted with those who have many years of practice, you can feel good effects yourself from developing a daily practice even if you only have time for 10 minutes or so.

Clearing Anxiety

In much the same way that it has been noted to aid other conditions, the sense of composure brought by meditating can bring lessening and eventually a cease to feelings of anxiety.

Anxiety is a form of stress which revolves around the perception of things yet to happen. Within the mind of the person the events play out as they think they would, something which involves the persons expectations, beliefs and perceptions of the world. However this is all coming from the way the person thinks the world is, rather than the actual way in which things happen.

The effects and results that support feelings of anxiety work in unison with what is referred to as the law of attraction, what you place your attention and focus on gains energy and becomes attracted to you. Thus if you put enough energy through your focus on a particular vision or thought, that thing will manifest and become real.

With anxiety taking up greater and greater amounts of energy as the condition becomes ever stronger the people experiencing it become ever more adept at creating the very things they are anxious about. They draw to negativity and bad results to themselves. This in turn gives them validation of their model of the world and an elevated sense of confidence that how they perceive the world is is true. As such causing them to manifest negative events with ever greater ease until the cycle is broken and the pattern interrupted.

This is where meditative practice steps in. Through lessening the negativity and chatter that comes from it the mental and emotional effects can diminish. As these things diminish the likelihood of adverse manifestation decreases too.

Emotion is a strong component of how our experience of the world and our manifestation of it occurs. The more intense the feeling you have, the more intense that associated perception is experienced and observed in the world around you. When you enhance your ability to hold and retain composure you lessen the chance of feeling anxious. As such the world becomes a calmer place for you and you become able to enjoy yourself and the world around you on a greater basis. Your ability to experience joyful living expands and becomes stronger.

What Clinical Research Demonstrates Regarding Anxiety And Meditating

A clinical study funded primarily by the National Center on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health, by Elizabeth A. Hoge, M.D., Eric Bui, M.D., Luana Marques, PhD, Christina A. Metcalf, B.A., Laura K. Morris, B.A., Donald J. Robinaugh, M.A, John J. Worthington, M.D., Mark H. Pollack, M.D., and Naomi M. Simon, M.D. which was printed in the August 2013 edition of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry further backs up the benefit.

Within the study their were 93 participants with DSM-IV-diagnosed G.A.D. (Generalised Anxiety Disorder), these individuals took part in an 8 week group intervention with two test streams, one with MBSR as the intervention, with an additional metta (Loving-kindness component in the first class as well as a self practice CD) and the other following teachings from a Stress Management Education class.

Both groups had weekly meetings over the 8 week test period duration, plus 20 minutes of homework each day, in addition the MBSR group also took part in a 4 hour long weekend retreat the SME group also had special weekend class.

The Stress Management Group studied “stress physiology, effect of stress on body systems, time management techniques, sleep physiology, insomnia, optimal nutrition, effects of stress on diet, caffeine, exercise, stress hardiness, and factors that can buffer the impact of stress”. With their homework including listening to 20 minute long audiobook recordings. With the weekend class including “stability ball exercise instruction, a lecture on functional movement and individual postural assessments with a fitness instructor, a short massage, and a lecture from a licensed dietician.”

The MBSR group had learnings centering around the use of breath-awareness, body-scaning, along with gentle Hatha yoga with these elements being used to “cultivate awareness of internal present-moment experiences with an accepting, non-judgmental stance”. One of the other elements covered within the group was the use of present-focused awareness with direction for its use during activities such as eating, bathing or cleaning.

The results of this clinical study indicated that both approaches led to significant reductions when measured with the HAM-A (Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale). The difference coming when the results were measured over a selection of other scales and led to the following “was associated with a significantly greater reduction in anxiety as measured by the CGI-S, the CGI-I, and the BAI (all Ps<0.05). MBSR was also associated with greater reductions than SME in anxiety and distress ratings in response to the TSST stress challenge (P<0.05), and a greater increase in positive self-statements (P=0.004).”

For those interested in a quantitative contrast, the stated results demonstrated that the CGI-I scores of 1 (being the best) and 2 (being the second best) were better for the MBSR group (at 66% of participants) than the SME group (with 40% of participants). These measured states of improvement showing that the mindfulness approach was 65% more effective than the stress management education approach. So whilst both approaches provided good results, actively gaining deeper rapport with yourself and taking control over your mental and emotional state does a lot more to reduce and clear feelings of anxiety.

Glossary Of Terms

Where CGI-S is the Clinical Global Impression measurement of Severity, and CGI-I is the Clinical Global Impression measurement of Improvement. Both are seven point scales where the severity scale measures from 1 being normal to 7 being extremely ill, and the improvement scale measures from 1 being very much improved to 7 being very much worse.

BAI is the Beck Anxiety Inventory, a self reported scale which consists of 21 multiple questions concerning your state over the previous seven days and includes the test day.

The TSST is the Trier Social Stress Test which is a laboratory based test using a combination of procedures designed to induce stress in human subjects.

The full report can be found here.

So whilst education regarding stress and its effects is useful, taking time to learn and practice meditation is shown to provide greater effects and have wider health benefits for those taking it up on a regular basis. Whilst the study, as with many others, used the Mindfulness meditation technique good results can be achieved through other forms of meditative practice too.

One potentially major reason for the use of mindfulness within clinical settings and tests is its separation from religious ideology, thus providing a technique which can be comfortably practised by anyone regardless of their religious or spiritual beliefs. Whilst Zen can also be practised by anyone, the potential exists for a person of non-Buddhist beliefs to feel that the method is religious due to its origins. That said, the practice of Zen in its purest form requires zero belief in Buddhist teachings in order to function, it can aid those on a spiritual path to move higher along that path, though religious, or spiritual, beliefs are far from being required.

Departing From Insecurity To Be At Ease And Assured

Insecurity is a form of anxiety in basic terms. Again it revolves around the perception of the world from the mind of the person feeling insecure. As such it stems from the beliefs of the person feeling it. The distinction in this case being that it is their perceptions of what other people think of them, as well as their beliefs in what they are capable of and their own abilities which causes them to feel insecure.

In that insecurity is based around thoughts and feelings the effective reduction and clearing of it can also be based around shifts in mentality and action taken around controlling your flow of emotions. That is through noting when feelings of negativity and insecurity start, and from that point exercising conscious decision to be positive and let go of the negative states that had started. This is much in line with the mindful approach, albeit with strict mindfulness you detach from the emotions and thoughts noting them purely as if you were an observer and allowing them to flow.

This approach of detaching from things can be exceptionally empowering and can be relatively easy when compared to actually transmuting negative thoughts into positive ones which for some can feel very challenging. Both the detached approach and the move to positive transmutation are incredibly effective when dealing with insecurity.

The choice between which is best is a very personal one and you are best going with what you believe will be the easiest and most comfortable for you when you start out. For most people this means starting off with detachment and then progressing to transmutation. A further alternative is the use of Ho'oponopono which can be performed both as a meditative practice and also as a daily moment by moment practice much as mindful living can be.

Simple meditative practices which can be highly beneficial here are Zen, mindfulness and vipassana, for beginners these techniques are relatively easy to learn and practice as well as being effective in dealing with the issue. For more seasoned practitioners the use of chakra meditations can be very positive too, focusing on the heart and solar plexus will aid issues around self-confidence and self-love in relation to the issue. That said each chakra contains possible routes for healing with the seeds of insecurity being dependent on the root cause of the issue, for example if the feeling is relating to not being understood or listened to then throat chakra healing would offer opportunity for healing.

Improving Feelings Of Self-Worth And Confidence

For many people both of these things as mentioned previously stem from beliefs around how others view them. With little faith in others thinking they have value or use. Roots can also come from the belief that what we are capable of is less than others are. There are many differing processes and presenting issues that can result in the feelings. The core of them are down to how we feel about ourselves and the extent to which we feel the requirement to compare ourselves with others.

When you develop a regular practice you cultivate something which has you spending a lot of time with yourself, specifically you spend a lot of time within yourself. You spend a great deal of time observing your thoughts, or shifting your thoughts to other forms, depending on the techniques used that is. One of the things that happens as  result is that you develop a deeper rapport with yourself.

As with any relationship the more time you spend with someone the opportunity compounds and extends for developing  deeper and deeper rapport. The deeper the rapport you have with a person the more confident and comfortable you feel with them. You sense greater value in them and like them more and more.

This is something that occurs within you as a result of meditating too. You develop a stronger relationship with yourself every time you practice. With each session you strengthen your relationship with yourself, and thus experience a growing sense of self-worth and self-confidence. You detach in part from beliefs about what you think others think, and have a greater sense of belief and stronger feelings of ease in yourself.

Use of the special ho'oponopono forgiveness meditation can also be highly beneficial too at first. Healing the relationships with others from within offers you an opportunity to also heal the way in which you perceive they view you. The use of Self Identity Through Ho'oponopono (SITH) in general offers an opportunity to heal these things, as stated previously it can practised as both a meditative technique and a daily living moment by moment practice, both options offer a huge degree of personal empowerment.

Getting The Best From The Psychological Benefits Of Meditation

The best results come from developing and sustaining a regular, ideally daily, practice. Granted the psychological benefits of meditation can be felt from a single session as has been demonstrated through various clinical studies, some of which have been shared within this article.

Whilst many people wait until they are in need of serious change in life, or have major issues, cultivating a regular meditative practice can offer the opportunity to in many ways immunise yourself from a high degree of psychological issues. When you meditate you build up your psychological resilience, giving you greater and greater ability to weather mental and emotional storms as they pass through, with the effects compounding and enabling you to calmly pass through ever greater issues. Something which is hugely valuable as it enables you to live joyfully to a fuller extent.

Whilst many believe the practice can be difficult meditating is in reality one of the simplest things you can do in life, and the effects can be realised from even short sessions of 5 to 10 minutes, especially when done regularly. For long term practitioners the effects come through quicker, the multitude of practice compounding and influencing neurology in such a way that even closing your eyes for a few seconds and going within can produce wonderful effects.

So for those wishing to gain the best results and fully access the psychological benefits of meditation your best option is to start cultivating a regular practice today. Start with just simple things and short sessions and build up into longer ones as is appropriate to you and your desired way of living. You will be truly appreciative of yourself for having done so. You can use the resources in the beginners section to help you or find other resources as you feel is appropriate to yourself. However you choose to practice enjoy what you do and the feelings of goodness, calm and peace that flow to you and throughout your life from it. For those who feel that they would benefit from special help in clearing away the various mental and emotional pressures they are facing, be they stress, anxiety, depression, inability to achieve success or other such things it would be worth considering taking direct action in the form of life change through coaching in addition to building up a quality meditative practice.

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