Doctors have been so quick to prescribe medications for various issues because pharmaceutical drugs seemed to promise the relief of suffering. Eventually there was a pill to treat every single problem a human being can have: depression, anxiety, high cholesterol, insomnia, pain, and the list goes on.
As more research is conducted, and the problems of prescription drugs have reached epidemic proportions, the medical and mental health communities are shifting toward alternative forms of treatment to answer the question: can modalities like meditation be more effective than medication in helping those suffering from any ailment?
Quite simply, the practice of meditation is done by sitting quietly for an uninterrupted length of time. The idea is to let all thoughts go, without judgement, to reach a place of inner peace and stillness.
While it sounds easy enough, training the mind to stay silent and the body to stay still are not without struggle. Meditation must be practiced regularly, much like a profession or a sport. A successful athlete did not wake up one day and decide to try out for the Olympics; he or she spent several hours a day for many years practicing a skill. After countless attempts at an event or sport, the Olympic tryouts, and eventually even the Olympic games, then became a reality.
Meditation is no different. To experience the benefits, a person must train. The good news is that anyone can meditate and the process starts with just five minutes a day.
The Benefits of Meditation
The practice of silence and peace improves mood. The JAMA Internal Medicine Journal printed a study that monitored the mood of 3,500 different participants throughout 47 clinical trials. All study subjects experienced anxiety or depression before the study, and all expressed a reduction in the mental illness symptoms after attending mindfulness meditation classes for eight weeks.
Anxiety develops when a person worries about the future and depression is when worry is about the past. Meditation brings your mind, body, and soul into alignment in the present moment. When continuously mindful of the here-and-now, it is impossible for the brain to worry about the future or about the past. Therefore, anxiety and depression are treated with consistent meditation.
Prescription drugs are handed out for almost any level of reported pain, but all the 3,500 study participants who reported pain, in the form of arthritis, headaches, back pain, or residual pain from an accident or injury, also reported pain alleviation from the meditation classes without the involvement of any pharmaceutical medication.
Tapping into the physical pain through meditation can eventually break up the problematic area, or areas, that are causing your body to hurt. Somatic work in meditation can further advance pain relief.
How Can You Practice Meditation and Treat Your Anxiety, Depression, or Pain?
Start by setting a timer for five minutes. In a quiet space, sit or lay in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and, with your palms facing up, focus on your breath. Feel the air go in, and then out. If any thoughts pop up, let them go without attachment or judgment. For an additional explanation on the basics of meditation: click here.
If you have time, journal about your experience. For those who can take five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening, try meditation twice a day. From there, add five minutes to each meditation session, each day, until you reach the point of 20 or 30-minute periods of practice every single day. You can do it!
Treat your symptoms of anxiety, depression, and pain with meditation instead of medication. It will work and you will thank yourself.
Marissa Maldonado is a mental health expert specializing in depression treatment at Sovereign Health.