People are social animals but as we age the risk of social isolation and loneliness increases. Results from recent research, published online in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, states that just 30 minutes of meditation a day not only reduces the sense of loneliness, it also reduces the risk of heart disease, depression, Alzheimer’s and premature death. These are the findings of a UCLA study into the effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) a form of simple meditation that requires the participant to focus on the present, rather than the past or the future.
UCLA researchers followed a group of 40 men and women aged between 55 and 85 who were evaluated as to their perceived loneliness by an established measure. Participants in the study were then randomly assigned to an eight-week program of MBSR, or were asked to go about their daily routines as before. Both groups volunteered blood samples, which were checked before and after the study period to measure gene expression and levels of inflammation. Certain genes and proteins are indicators of inflammation strongly associated with cardiovascular and other diseases.
The meditation group was asked to participate in weekly 2-hour meetings where the techniques of mindfulness training were taught and practiced. A homework task, in the form of a 30-minute period of mindful meditation per day, was also required. In addition, the group went on a day retreat.
When the results from the two groups were compared, those who had learned and had practiced the mindfulness breathing and awareness techniques, reported lower feelings of loneliness. Significantly, this same group was found to have a substantially reduced expression of inflammation-related genes.
Director of the Cousins Center, Dr. Michael Irwin conceded that while the study sample was small the results add to a growing body of evidence pointing to the very positive benefits that derive from practices such as yoga, tai-chi and other meditative techniques.
Grace Rattue. (2012, August 17). "Meditation Can Help Loneliness." Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/249181.php.
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.