The results in the table below are very subjective and I’m probably not being completely honest, but it does look like my diastolic blood pressure, depression, and generalized anxiety are getting better after meditating for 5 minutes every day for just over two weeks.
I don’t know if meditation is really curing my ills, or maybe just that fact that I’m doing something kinda fun and engaging and that’s making me feel better, or maybe I just want to believe this isn’t a waste of my time so I’m subconsciously goosing my scores down.
There is some interesting research that has been done on meditation, though. One study I found via from a google search was led by Mass General researchers. The study was published in the journal Psychiartry Research: Neuroimaging and observed participant’s brains with MRIs while they participated in an 8 week structured mindfulness meditation program.
The MRI showed ” decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress. Although no change was seen in a self-awareness-associated structure called the insula, which had been identified in earlier studies, the authors suggest that longer-term meditation practice might be needed to produce changes in that area. None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.”
Which brings me to what I see as a misunderstanding about meditation, at least in my case. I always saw meditation as hippy dippy nonsense. I couldn’t imagine that closing your eyes and making weird chanting noises did anything but make you look silly. I also couldn’t see how it would have any kind of effect on the things that were stressing me out and certainly couldn’t help me solve any of those problems.
In reality, it turns out that my brain actually makes anxiety and creates negative thoughts and emotions all by itself regardless of external stressors in my life. Why? Maybe just because that is the way my brain works. With the help of meditation, I’ve become aware that my brain is going to produce thoughts no matter what, and whatever I do to try and control the things that are stressing me out aren’t really going to change how I feel. I’ll find something else to stress out about.
So, while meditation does provide some instant relief and help calm you down, it also apparently helps change to actual structure of your brain, so that those areas that are making those negative thoughts and emotions are kept in check. Maybe. The Mass General Study was only 16 patients and I don’t honestly don’t know how proficiently the role of the Amygdala, a small almond sized part of the brain is understood. But, there don’t seem to be any negative side effects to meditation and mindfulness and it’s also simple and free, which is nice. It will be interesting to see how this 30 day challenge plays out. I should probably increase the duration of my meditation practice. The participants in the Mass General study meditated on average 27 minutes daily. So, maybe I’ll turn it up a notch for the remainder of this challenge.
I hope you enjoy following along and hope you give a meditation practice a try yourself.
Copy of Weekly Progress
|Baseline||Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4|
|PHQ-9 Depression Score||9 (Mild Depression)||5 (Mild Depression)|
|GAD-7 Anxiety Score||10 (Moderate Anxiety)||5 (Mild Anxiety)|