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Zen Medication: Can Meditation Heal Us?

Heal
A study published in the July Journal of Psychiatric Practice reveals that Zen meditation and its secular sister, mindfulness meditation, effectively reduce depression, anxiety, and pain—and are “beneficial for general psychological health and stress management in those with medical and psychiatric illness,” its authors write.It’s the latest of many studies suggesting that a practice honed by Japanese monks in remote temples 1,400 years ago can combat such maladies as breast cancer, asthma, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, HIV, PMS, and irritable bowel syndrome.Mindfulness meditation trains the brain to release fear, anxiety, and other negative emotions. This lessens stress and boosts the immune function, as thoughts and emotions actively shape our brains, for better or worse.“Mental activity requires neural activity; neural activity sculpts neural structure,” says neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom and author of Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom. As new neurons form constantly, he says, “ch …

S. Rufus is the author — under the byline Anneli Rufus — of several books including Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself (Tarcher Penguin 2014) and continues on the path of addressing self-esteem.

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