Health & Healing: The Meditation Movement in Modern Medicine

Health & Healing: The Meditation Movement in Modern Medicine

As far back as we can see, communities throughout the world have turned to healers to mend their pain and comfort their sick. Archaeological excavations from as early as 700 B.C. have shown that healthcare was a part of primitive societies. Some of the oldest known healing traditions were performed by Shamans, who entered a state of altered consciousness to discover the key to health and wellness. These altered planes of consciousness inspired medical practices that were equal parts physical and spiritual.

Western medicine is based on scientific facts that are woven together to form a bigger picture. We start with the small things we know and try to connect the dots to understand our bodies, our ailments, and humanity as a whole. We use our observations to draw conclusions that we can substantiate with concrete evidence. 

In the 20th century, meditation became popularized in the West. In English, meditation means “to ponder,” and was embraced by scholars, missionaries, and seekers who wanted to find a way to help those in need, as well as themselves. After all, healing was a fundamental principle of American society. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” is inscribed on one of our greatest symbols, the Statue of Liberty. The quest for healing and freedom were fused into our culture from the very start. 

The Mind & Body as One

Like any foreign practice, meditation has been met with resistance by many and deemed a New Age fad with no place in modern medicine. Our busy, overstimulated culture doesn’t pair well with peaceful pause, and we go, go, go until we burn out or break down. Since the pandemic, there has been a 25% upswing in anxiety and depression throughout the world. Yet, on we go, with shallow breaths and racing hearts.

In 1979, a molecular biologist, meditator, and yogi with a degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology named John Kabat-Zinn founded MBSR. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is an 8-week evidence-based meditation program that was created to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and pain. The Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School was born.

MBSR was used as a medical tool to treat a wide range of physical, emotional, and psychological conditions. Kabat-Zinn created a community of researchers and teachers who sought to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into healthcare, hospitals, higher education, professional sports, prison systems, and more. In his compelling, common sense-based program, he taught the mind-body connection and set the stage for great change.

A Global Movement

While John Kabat-Zinn merged science with the spiritual, throughout the world, this phenomenon was simultaneously gaining traction. In the 1960’s an Indian researcher named B.K. Anand began studying meditation as a medical practice, and found that yogis could meditate so deeply that they didn’t react when hot test tubes were pressed against their bodies.

While meditation was still a fringe phenomenon in the U.S., a Harvard Medical School student named Herbert Benson discovered that meditators used 17% less oxygen, lowered their heart rates, and increased the brain waves that could help them relax and sleep. He published an article called “The Relaxation Response” where he touted the facts, showing the world the biological effects of mindfulness and achieving altered states of consciousness. 

Around this time, a 1975 TIME magazine article delved into Transcendental Meditation, a “drugless high” that became popularized by the Beatles and other celebrity supporters. Meditation became a “health trend,” and while many scoffed, others studied and documented its effects on everything from blood sugar and metabolism to attention and memory.

Meditation & Medicine

Nowadays, scientific evidence has legitimized meditation as a form of healthcare. We have learned through MRI scans of the brain that meditation can have long-lasting effects on the body and brain. Focusing on the breath, slowing down, observing your thoughts from a distance, and repeating mantras can relax the entire body. It isn’t a baseless craze spread by hippies and phoneys; it’s science.

The National Library of Medicine published a study that explains the connection between mindfulness and Western medicine. It explains that with the “rapidly mounting evidence regarding the therapeutic capacities of mindfulness practice, medical professionals are increasingly incorporating such techniques into their clinical repertoire.” In their compelling article, they describe how, unlike most conventional medical practices, our physical health is studied in relation to our “inner experience.”

Patient Care

Some physical ailments can be extremely difficult to treat. Anxiety is a disorder in itself, but it also trickles down to other diseases and injuries. When we suffer, we often lose our appetites, become averse to social situations, and isolate ourselves. These crippling side effects can rob us of our health, well-being, and peace of mind.

In as little as 2-3 weeks, a mindful meditation practice can begin to facilitate change. Some studies show that it can take up to 8 weeks for your brain to begin benefitting, improving focus, emotional regulation, decision-making, communication, and motivation. In 2012, a small study showed that meditation reduced pain levels by 22%. The results were found to last up to a year after treatment. 

In a hospital setting, patients don’t always have access to mindfulness techniques. They sleep poorly and their stress levels rise. Portable tools like Zenimal offer relief no matter where you are. They are pre-loaded with guided meditations and sleep sounds that cultivate relaxation, gratitude, and empathy. They allow us to better cope with challenges, stress, and pain, and all you need is a comfortable position, an open mind, and focused attention. 

Medical Professionals

Physicians and healthcare workers struggle with their own unique challenges and work closely with patients in stressful settings that can be difficult to process. While they learn about biology and medicine in school, their emotional and psychological health is often ignored. With busy minds full of worries, fast-paced action, and very real concerns, it can become difficult to perform their daily tasks and heroic feats. We are all human, after all.

Meditation can be an effective tool that empowers medical professionals and has profound results. With just a few minutes to spare, it can enhance concentration, reduce stress levels, build resilience, encourage positive thinking, and create the calm they so desperately need to excel at their jobs. 

Zenimal is designed to create a calmer, more effective state of mind. It can be used aloud or with earphones and comes with a rechargeable base unit that can last up to 7 hours between charges. During a busy day, meditation can serve as a brief reprieve and emotional hiatus. It can be stressful caring for sick people and, oftentimes, sick people are also stressed. Unplugging for just a few moments can contribute to a healthier life for patients and professionals alike.

Mind, Body & Soul

Times are changing, and what was once considered a fad by much of mainstream culture is now backed by science. Mindful meditation is becoming part of modern medicine, and the more we learn, the more effective we realize it can be. We are the sum of our parts, and you cannot separate the mind from the body without losing your grasp on the truth.

We once believed that the Earth was flat. What is now considered an undeniable fact was dismissed as a myth. Journalist John Hannam described this theory as “more fantasy than fact in their efforts to prove that science and religion are locked in eternal conflict.” Many believed the spiritual and the scientific to be polar opposites. We have now proven otherwise. 

Zenimal was founded to transform lives by offering tools to help us heal our bodies and clear our minds. Stress, fatigue, depression, and pain are systemic diseases that flatten us and rob us of possibility, positivity, and clarity. The truth is, even when we can’t see it, there is depth and dimension to the world that surpasses our wildest dreams. We can learn to create space for this truth. We can close our eyes, open our hearts, and heal.

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