Mindfulness meditation is a practice that essentially involves focusing the mind in the present moment. Mindfulness allows you to become aware of, without judgment of your thoughts and actions that are happening in the here and now. Because it breaks the common chronic negative thinking many people experience, it relaxes the body, improves mood, decreases stress, and enhances immune system functioning.
During the last 30 years, Mindfulness Meditation has been increasingly utilized by doctors and psychologists to help alleviate several physical and psychological conditions.
A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin to determine the underlying biological changes that occur with mindfulness meditation, the biological processes that are associated with reported changes in mental and physical health have not been systematically explored.
Researchers performed a randomized, controlled study on the effects on brain and immune function of a well-known and widely used 8-week clinical training program in mindfulness meditation applied in a work environment with healthy employees.
The study measured brain electrical activity before and immediately after, and then 4 months after an 8-week training program in mindfulness meditation. Twenty-five subjects were tested in the meditation group. A wait-list control group was tested at the same points in time as the meditators. At the end of the 8-week period, subjects in both groups were vaccinated with influenza vaccine.
The study found for the first time significant increases activation in the left side of the brain, a pattern known to exert a positive effect, among the meditators compared with the nonmeditators. It also found significant increases in antibody titers to influenza vaccine among subjects in the meditation compared with those in the wait-list control group. Finally, the magnitude of increase in left-sided brain activation corresponded with the size of the antibody level increase to the vaccine.
The researchers concluded that these findings indicated a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function. They also suggest that meditation may change brain and immune function in positive ways and underscore the need for additional research.
Psychosom Med. 2003 Jul-Aug;65(4):564-70.