A federal panel recently released a surprising report that found meditation may actually be able to change a person’s brain.
Patrick Slavens often found himself caught up with what he says is the “rush” of everyday life. He has A.D.H.D and a bad smoking habit that only added to things, but then the former marine tried meditation.
"I never thought I'd end up to be the warm, fuzzy, meditating kinda guy,” he said.
According to Dr. Richard Davidson, "It's the kind of thing that has very, very few downsides."
Dr. Davidson is a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he has been studying meditation for decades now.
A friend of the Dalai Lama, Dr. Davidson has scanned the brains of Buddhist monks as they practiced meditation. He found that the brain can undergo a process known as neuroplasticity, and make new connections and even grow new neurons in a meditative state.
Dr. Davidson believes that with practice, meditation can improve symptoms of social anxiety, phobias, and inflammatory problems like asthma or psoriasis.
"My own view is that it's best considered as an adjunct, it shouldn't be thought of as a replacement for conventional treatment,” he said.
A government panel recently reviewed 34 meditation trials with around 3,000 participants. The panel found that meditation can reduce both chronic and acute pain.
However, the evidence is weaker on meditation’s effect on stress and anxiety, but the committee did fine some benefits.
Patrick Slavens says that thanks to meditation he has quit smoking and has come off his A.D.H.D medications.
"It really does work," says Slavens.
Dr. Davidson’s research has been published in several peer reviewed journals. The doctor is currently conducting a study comparing the effects of meditation versus yogic breathing on war veterans suffering with P.T.S.D.
The ongoing project will take several years to complete, but meditation’s power to change the brain does not seem to take that long. In fact, Dr. Davidson says his studies show neuroplasticity can occur in as little as two weeks if a person meditates every day for 30 minutes.