Fortunately, it’s becoming increasingly more acceptable for a medical doctor or psychiatrist to teach about spirituality while he or she is active in private practice. Russell Razzaque, a psychiatrist based in London who work within the NHS, teaches his patients mindfulness meditation and leads retreats for other psychiatrists and mental health providers who want to learn the techniques. Watch his 3 minute introduction above and a longer presentation by clicking here.
Even 60 Minutes recently ran a special story on the positive impact of mindfulness. Still, most medical boards lean towards drugs as a standard of care and have looked down on such “alternatives” as outside the box. Despite this, mindfulness for stress reduction is more widely accepted now and more doctors advise it regularly to patients. But an MD who teaches that meditation can be useful as a daily practice to optimize mental health may still be marginalized for being “New Agey”.
This prejudice is not based in scientific research but caused by our medical institutions’ investment in a materialistic approach to problems (surgery and drugs). Most research dollars are dedicated to our quest to find the perfect chemical to answer all our problems with mental health. Fortunately, research is now showing us that spiritual practices change the brain in positive ways.
As of 2008 mindfulness meditation was known to:
- Raise levels of pleasure inducing hormones in the brain
- Improve mental acuity
- Reduce depression
- Reduce alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking
- Improve the health of older adults
- Add years to the average lifespan
- Reduce the incidence of cancer and heart disease
- Ameliorate pain
- Reduce the time it takes wounds to heal
–N. Shealy, MD and D. Church, PhD. in “Soul Medicine” (2008)
Results of research reported in 2012 adds to the list– that mindfulness meditation also:
- Strengthens focus and attention
- Improves relationship to self and others
- Decreases anxiety and depression
- Improves ability to be more thoughtful in stressful circumstances
- Slows reactivity to improve outcome when stressed
- Increases self compassion and compassion to others
- Reduces inflammation
- Reduces loneliness
- Reduces cancer-related fatigue in survivors
A recent study by Oxford University in the UK reported on an online mindfulness course given via mindfulnessonline.com that completers of the course show average reductions of 58% in anxiety, 57% in depression, and 40% in stress.
- Britton, W. B., Shahar, B., Szepsenwol, O., Jacobs, W. J. (2012). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy improves emotional reactivity to social stress: Results from a randomized controlled trial. Behavior Therapy, 43, 365-380.
- Creswell, J. D., Irwin, M. R., Burklund, L. J., Lieberman, M. D., Arevalo, J. M. G., Ma, J., Breen, E. C., Cole, S. W. (2012). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training reduces loneliness and pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults: A small randomized controlled trial. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 26, 1095-1101.
- Van der Lee, M. L., Garssen, B. (2012). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy reduces chronic cancer-related fatigue: A treatment study. Psycho-Oncology, 21, 264-272.
(There are now 1000+ published research studies on Mindfulness Meditation.)