(01/10/13) - You may be able to swap a few of your prescription drugs for a
little "om" time. More research is finding meditation has real health
benefits for all sorts of problems.
Patrick Slavens often found himself caught up. His ADHD and smoking habit didn't help.
Then the former marine tried meditation. "I never thought I'd end up to be the warm, fuzzy, meditating kinda guy."
"It's the kind of thing that has very, very few downsides," says Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin.
Davidson has been studying meditation for decades. A friend of the Dalai Lama, he's scanned the brains of Buddhist monks as they meditated. He says the brain can actually make new connections, even grow new neurons in this state, called neuroplasticity.
The doctor believes, with practice, meditation can improve symptoms of social anxiety, phobias, and inflammatory problems like asthma or psoriasis.
"My own view is that it's best considered as an adjunct, it shouldn't be thought of as a replacement for conventional treatment," Davidson adds.
A government panel just reviewed 34 meditation trials with 3,000 participants, and found it can reduce chronic and acute pain. The evidence is weaker on meditation's effects on stress and anxiety, but the committee found there were benefits.
Patrick says thanks, it has helped him quit smoking and get him off of ADHD drugs. "It really does work."
Dr. Davidson is currently conducting a study comparing the effects of meditation versus yogic breathing on war vets with PTSD. The project will take several years.
Davidson says neuroplasticity can start happening in as little as two weeks, if you meditate every day for 30 minutes.
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