Schizophrenia and Meditation: An Aid To Recovery?

by Christina Bruni Patient Expert

According to Health Day:

"A new study finds that people skilled at meditation seem able to turn off areas of the brain associated with daydreaming and psychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia."

It is posited that people experienced at meditation continually monitor and suppress "me" thoughts and mind wandering. They are able to co-activate two brain regions to develop a present-centered mindset that is less self-centered.

In an unrelated study, even a brief amount of meditation can create an improved mood. It showed electrical activity in the left frontal region of the brain was significantly greater, a pattern linked to positive mood. In the study, brain patterns shifted in as little as seven hours among the new meditators.

Extended meditation leads to neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to change, structurally and functionally, on the basis of environmental input. Experienced meditators are able to not get stuck on a particular stimulus, even long after their meditation session has ended. They're able to control their thoughts and reactiveness.

Meditation has long been linked to numerous health benefits, including stress relief, lowered blood pressure and aid to people with cancer.

I'm interested in trying out meditation and have wanted to do this for quite some time. I met a guy who let me borrow a meditation handbook. I wasn't motivated to read it because the first chapter detailed the dogma of Buddhism so I was less inclined to continue reading it. My interest quickly faded in the guy as well as the book, so now I have to figure out how I can possibly return the book to him without giving him false hope.

One great book on meditation that I checked out of the library and then bought was Thich Nhat Hanh's The Miracle of Mindfulness, An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation.

Hanh, and other practitioners of meditation and yoga, focus on the breath. According to Hanh: "To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds. Each time we find ourselves dispersed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by different means, the method of watching the breath should always be used."

That's the roundabout way of saying that focusing on your breath is a good way to chill out. I went to an Arts of Healing conference easily 10 years ago and sat in on a meditation workshop. The leader suggested that people with mental health conditions have shortness of breath and could benefit from this technique.

Hanh tells us that the goal of meditation is not just relaxation, it's a clear mind. This can be as simple as counting your breath in the beginning: "As you breath in, count 1 in your mind, and as you breathe out, count 1. Breathe in, count 2. Breathe out, count 2. Continue through 10, then return to 1 again." After a time, you won't need to count. At the end of the book, he details specific ways to meditate.

The journal Psychological Science reports that closing your eyes and focusing on the flow of your breath at the tip of your nose for 5 to 16 minutes a day creates positive brain changes. Bring your attention back to your breath when a random thought arises. Acknowledge it, and focus on your breath again.

This seems simple to do and doesn't take up too much time so I'm going to try it tonight.

I bought the book how to meditate and hope to read it when I get the time. The idea that meditation can benefit people with SZ intrigues me. Should I try it out, I'll let you know how it goes. I do know a person with schizophrenia who meditates regularly to combat the stress at her job.

Meditation: An Aid to Recovery? I'd love to hear your comments on this.

Christina Bruni
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Christina Bruni

Christina Bruni wrote about schizophrenia for HealthCentral as a Patient Expert. She is a mental health activist and freelance journalist.