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Increasing meditation reduces medication

Mindfulness, while being touted as the next generation of exercises, is probably over 3500 years old. It has its spiritual roots in ancient contemplative practices that were followed in India

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Mental health is defined as a level of psychological well-being or an absence of mental illness. Google it and you will find about 1,19,00,00,000 results. The World Health Organization says around 20 per cent of the world's children and adolescents have mental disorders or problems. Depression is almost as common as common cold and we have stress being declared the biggest epidemic of the 21st century.

But hey, do not lose hope! October 10, is Work Mental Health day and with increasing awareness of the threats to our mental health, the solutions will also increase. Mindfulness, or present moment awareness is one such solution. It has migrated from being only in the realms of spiritual practices to medical centres. 

In fact, it is now widely regarded as a great practice that positively impacts a number of areas of mental health. Stress reduction, emotion regulation, reduced rumination, reducing depression and anxiety and improving attention are some of these areas.

Mindfulness based interventions like Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) have become extremely popular. So much so that in the last decade or so, the number of research papers being published on mindfulness itself has gone up manifold as science begins to provide very encouraging evidence of the positive effects on mindfulness meditation on the brain and consequently, mental health. 

The US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) -- the largest scientific organization in the world dedicated to research on the understanding and treatment of mental illness, is now encouraging mindfulness as a complementary treatment for a number of mental health conditions.

So what exactly is mindfulness, and how can it improve psychological well-being?

Basically, when people are depressed, they are stuck in the past. They are ruminating about something that happened that they cannot let go of. When they are anxious, they are ruminating about the future. 

Anticipation of what they cannot control. However, when we are mindful, we are focused on the here and now. Mindfulness trains us to turn our attention to what is happening in the present moment. In an open, kind and curious way, without judgement.

Neuroscience also shows that practice of mindfulness increases activity in brain areas associated with attention and emotion regulation. Mindfulness also facilitates neuroplasticity -- the creation of new connections and neural pathways in the brain. Either these aspects point to the fact that negative and damaging behaviour patterns can be changed through the practice of mindfulness.

In other words, increasing meditation reduces medication! This realisation has made mindfulness the technique of choice for many high achievers. Olympic athletes, actors, celebrities, Silicon Valley stars, companies like Google, the US army and even the British Parliament! 

In the medical field too, mindfulness is finding mention in de-addiction and rehab, curing conditions like PTST and even post-surgical recovery. Universities like Harvard are studying mindfulness like never before. Why, even schools are teaching mindfulness to tiny tots and seeing empty detention rooms in the process!

But the interesting part? Mindfulness, while being touted as the next generation of exercises, is probably over 3500 years old. It has its spiritual roots in ancient contemplative practices that were followed in India. But then, Mindfulness is actually a quality of presence that is innate in all human beings. Consciousness and awareness are natural and beautiful qualities of humans that extend beyond any particular tradition or country.

In fact, this deep realisation was very much prevalent in many of the older cultures. In Tibetan, the word for meditation is "Gom" which can be translated as familiarising or habituating. It means to familiarise oneself with a positive state of mind. There was a deeper understanding that meditation was not just about closing the eyes and relaxing, but rather, developing a concentrated and clear state of mind, and daily life seamlessly included a number of these principles.

So on this occasion of World Mental Health day 2018, take the first step to improve your mental health. Beat depression, stress and anxiety. Achieve calm, clarity and joy. Right here. Right now. It is available in every single breath.

Breathing in, I am alive. Breathing out, I smile.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Mindfulness meditation anxiety depression stress

Gopi Krishnaswamy

The author is Mindfulness Coach, Search Inside Yourself Teacher, Zentrepreneur and Creative Living Expert

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