Meditation, often thought of as a path to self-awareness, can also be a path to better health. Practiced for centuries in Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist communities, people use meditation today to cope with stress in a busy world.
Philippe Goldin is a psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist with the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing and meditation practitioner.
“It clears and sharpens my mind so I can be kind to myself and useful to others,” Goldin said. “Most important, it creates a buffer between me and reactivity.”
How to meditate
Meditation is fairly simple, according to Uma Srivatsa, a UC Davis Health cardiologist and lifelong meditation practitioner.
“I frequently deal with patients who are anxious, so I teach them a quick meditation during office visits,” Srivatsa said.
She guides them to sit in a quiet place, focus their attention on one thing such as their breathing, count while taking a breath and hold it, and then count while letting the air out. The goal, according to Srivatsa, is to bring attention back to the one thing you’ve chosen to focus on.
She suggests doing this daily at the same time for five minutes to build discipline and skill.
“Think about long-distance runners,” Srivatsa said. “As they keep practicing, they become less conscious of the activity of running and start enjoying the nature that surrounds them. Meditation is like that.”
10 reasons to meditate
— Philippe Goldin
Research has documented many health benefits of regular meditation:
- Reduced stress: Meditation may decrease stress. It also can improve symptoms of stress-related conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder and fibromyalgia.
- Improved memory: Better focus through regular meditation may increase memory and mental clarity. These benefits can help fight age-related memory loss and dementia.
- Increased attention: Meditation helps with attention span.
- Enhanced will power: Meditation develops the mental discipline needed to avoid bad habits.
- Better sleep: Meditation can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and improve sleep quality.
- Less pain: Meditation can reduce pain and boost emotion regulation. Together with medical care, this may help treat chronic pain.
- Lower blood pressure: Blood pressure decreases during meditation and over time in people who meditate regularly. This can reduce strain on the heart and blood vessels and help prevent heart disease.
- Less anxiety: Regular meditation helps reduce anxiety and related mental health issues like social anxiety, fears and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
- Less depression: Meditation can help reduce the occurrence of depression.
- Greater compassion: Meditation can help you better understand yourself, find your best self, and increase positive feelings and actions toward others.
UC Davis Health meditation programs
Two free meditation programs are available to UC Davis Health patients and employees and held at the Midtown Ambulatory Care Center. One covers how to develop a personal meditation practice, and the other combines yoga with meditation. Both are taught by Brenda Gustin, a certified Ananda yoga and meditation instructor. For information, email Susan Perry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More meditation resources
UC Davis Health Facebook Live with Philippe Goldin on meditation, mindfulness and compassion
Cognitive neuroscience of mindful meditation, a Google TechTalk by Philippe Goldin
Healthy UC Davis information on meditation
Meditation: In depth from the National Institutes of Health
One-moment meditation video