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By vinnis211 November 9, 2018

According to Psychology Today, some archaeologists date meditation to as early as 5,000 BC. The worldwide spread of meditation began around five or six centuries BC. along the Silk Road when the practice spread across Asia. Arriving in to the new world, it slowly transformed to adapt to each new culture. But it was not until the 20th century that it began to emerge from the realm of specific religions, especially in the West.

Ever since it’s popularity started to emerge in western societies, scientists have been intrigued by extraordinary feats they witnessed Buddhist monks performed while in meditative states.

Witnessing the ability of Buddhist monks

In recent years, more and more studies have been conducted on the psychological and physical effects of meditation. Scientist are using modern tools, such as MRI and EEG, to monitor the brain physiology and neural activity during meditation or before and after meditation.  In this way, connections are being established between the contemplative practices and changes in the structure and functioning of the brain.

One such case was performed by Harvard scientists researching Buddhist monks abilities to manipulate their bodies. Using nothing but their body temperature and a yoga technique known as “g Tum-mo,” the monks in the video below completely dried their icy blankets in thirty minutes by simply using deep concentration. They even produced steam from them and in some cases raised their body temperature by 17 degrees.

Even more intriguing was how the intense meditation slowed down their metabolisms by as much as 64%. Thereby, delaying the aging process. That’s enough to considerably increase someone’s longevity! The monks suggest that everyone has the ability to practice profound meditation and focus, which unlocks these powers. They asserted that it is in our nature to be able to exert such control over our bodies. Watch the incredible video!

U.S. Government research on the efficacy of Meditation

During my research for this article, I’ve become aware that the U.S. government has studied the practice of meditation quite extensively. From the first physiological studies of meditation in the 1950s meditation research has come a long way. Several departments within the government are touting the myriad benefits of practicing meditation; including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Center For Disease Control, The Veterans’ Administration and even The Department of Homeland Security.

8 Things to Know About Meditation and Mindfulness – U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Service

Meditation has a history that goes back thousands of years, and many meditative techniques began in Eastern traditions. Some types of meditation involve keeping mental focus on a particular sensation or a repeated word or phrase. Others include the practice of mindfulness, which involves keeping attention or awareness on the present moment without making judgments.

Here are 8 things to know about what the science says about meditation and mindfulness for health:

  1. Mindfulness-based practices may be helpful for anxiety and depression. They are better than no treatment at all, and they may work as well as established evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
  2. Studies that looked at the effects of meditation or mindfulness on pain have had mixed results. The evidence for a beneficial effect on chronic pain is better than the evidence for an effect on acute pain.
  3. Mindfulness meditation practices may reduce insomnia and improve sleep quality. Their effects are comparable to those of cognitive behavioral therapy or exercise.
  4. Meditation and mindfulness may reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In one study in veterans, meditation was as helpful as prolonged exposure therapy, a widely accepted treatment for PTSD.
  5. Mindfulness-based practices may help people recover from substance use disorders. These practices have been used to help people increase their awareness of the thoughts and feelings that trigger cravings and learn ways to reduce their automatic reactions to cravings.
  6. Mindfulness-based approaches may improve mental health in people with cancer. Most of the people studied have been women with breast cancer; effects might be different in other groups of people.
  7. Studies have suggested possible benefits of meditation and mindfulness programs for losing weight and managing eating behaviors. Programs that combine formal meditation and mindfulness practices with informal mindfulness exercises seem especially promising.
  8. Meditation and mindfulness practices are usually considered to have few risks, but some people do have negative experiences with these practices. In an analysis of studies on more than 6,000 people, about 8 percent of participants reported negative effects—most commonly, anxiety or depression—which is similar to the percentage reported for psychological therapies.

Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

  • A 2018 NCCIH-supported analysis of 142 groups of participants with diagnosed psychiatric disorders such as anxiety or depression examined mindfulness meditation approaches compared with no treatment and with established evidence-based treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant medications. The analysis included more than 12,000 participants, and the researchers found that for treating anxiety and depression, mindfulness-based approaches were better than no treatment at all, and they worked as well as the evidence-based therapies.

High Blood Pressure

Few high-quality studies have examined the effects of meditation and mindfulness on blood pressure. According to a 2017 statement from the American Heart Association, the practice of meditation may have a possible benefit, but its specific effects on blood pressure have not been determined.

  • A 2020 review of 14 studies (including more than 1,100 participants) examined the effects of mindfulness practices on the blood pressure of people who had health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, or cancer. The analysis showed that for people with these health conditions, practicing mindfulness-based stress reduction was associated with a significant reduction in blood pressure.


Studies examining the effects of mindfulness or meditation on acute and chronic pain have produced mixed results.

  • A 2020 report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality concluded that mindfulness-based stress reduction was associated with short-term (less than 6 months) improvement in low-back pain but not fibromyalgia pain.
  • A 2020 NCCIH-supported analysis of five studies of adults using opioids for acute or chronic pain (with a total of 514 participants) found that meditation practices were strongly associated with pain reduction.
  • Acute pain, such as pain from surgery, traumatic injuries, or childbirth, occurs suddenly and lasts only a short time. A 2020 analysis of 19 studies examined the effects of mindfulness-based therapies for acute pain and found no evidence of reduced pain severity. However, the same analysis found some evidence that the therapies could improve a person’s tolerance for pain.
  • A 2017 analysis of 30 studies (2,561 participants) found that mindfulness meditation was more effective at decreasing chronic pain than several other forms of treatment. However, the studies examined were of low quality.
  • A 2019 comparison of treatments for chronic pain did an overall analysis of 11 studies (697 participants) that evaluated cognitive behavioral therapy, which is the usual psychological intervention for chronic pain; 4 studies (280 participants) that evaluated mindfulness-based stress reduction; and 1 study (341 participants) of both therapies. The comparison found that both approaches were more effective at reducing pain intensity than no treatment, but there was no evidence of any important difference between the two approaches.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – Evidence Map of Mindfulness

According to the VA, many Veterans desire complementary and alternative medicine or integrative medicine modalities, both for treatment and for the promotion of wellness. Given the VA’s desire to promote evidence-based practice, they conducted an evidence mapping project which aimed to help provide guidance to VA leadership about the distribution of evidence on mindfulness.

The VA Evidence-Based Synthesis Program located in West Los Angeles, CA conducted the systematic review of 10 electronic databases through February 2014 to examine the evidence on the effectiveness of mindfulness interventions. After applying inclusion/exclusion criteria, they identified 81 unique systematic reviews on mindfulness interventions that they used in the scope of the project.

Key Questions/Scope of Project

1: An Evidence Map that provides a visual overview of the distribution of evidence (both what is known and where there is little or no evidence base) for mindfulness; and
2: A set of executive summaries that would help stakeholders interpret the state of the evidence to inform policy and clinical decision making.

Most research is available for general overviews on health benefits or psychological wellbeing. Reviews on chronic illness, depression, substance use, somatization, distress, and mental illness also included 10 or more randomized controlled trials (RCTs). The largest review included 109 mindfulness RCTs. Reviews suggest differential effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and other mindfulness-based interventions, and definitions of “mindfulness-based” varied. The most consistent beneficial effect for various mindfulness interventions was reported for depression. Published meta-analyses of MBSR also indicated beneficial effects compared to passive control (e.g., no intervention) on overall health and psychological outcomes and for chronic illness. In addition, reviews indicated positive effects of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for mental illness and of various mindfulness interventions for somatization disorders. All depicted dimensions are estimates and can only provide a broad overview of the evidence base.

Link to the research document

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