February 26, 2013 4 Comments
By: Phyllis Class, RN, Executive Director, Allied Health CE at Gannett Education
Once considered a mysterious and far out Eastern phenomenon, the practice of meditation has gone mainstream. It’s no wonder.
About seven years ago, while I was in the midst of a crisis and so stressed out I couldn’t sleep, I discovered what many have known for centuries. I learned that quieting my mind by listening to meditation CDs enabled me to sleep and to function better the next day. It also produced a peace and calmness that left me wanting more. Needless to say, I’ve been hooked on this path to Nirvana ever since.
Apparently, I’m not the first nurse who has discovered that meditation produces health benefits for caregivers as well as patients. In fact, a growing body of research backs up the benefits of this ancient practice.
Several years ago, Gannett Education evaluated the effects of its Meditation Specialist™ Certification Program on nurse participants. Susan Taylor, PhD, a published pioneer in the field and the program instructor, and Robert Hess, RN, PhD, FAAN, Executive VP, Global Programming, and a published researcher in his own field of shared governance, surveyed learners before and after the 16-day program. They measured the effects of the program on mindfulness, the qualities of consciousness that affect one’s degree of self-regulation and well being, and on burnout. The results suggested that taking the course enhanced mindfulness and lowered the risk for burnout.
Other studies demonstrate that meditation may enhance attention span and reduce blood pressure in patients with coronary artery disease. In addition, it may boost immunity and has proven helpful for people with affective disorders, chronic pain and fibromyalgia.
And just recently, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Bender Institute of Neuroimaging in Germany, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School concluded that people who meditated 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray matter in density in parts of the brain associated with memory, empathy, sense of self and stress.
And the list goes on and on.
If you’d like to experience some of these benefits firsthand, it’s easy to get started. All you need is a willingness to be present in the moment. First, shut off the outside world of cell phones, email, television and other distractions. Begin by sitting or reclining quietly for ten minutes and breathing deeply. You can increase that time as you get comfortable meditating. Be patient, it takes a while to chase away intrusive thoughts.
I’m not an expert though. If you’d like to learn more about meditation, check out these courses:
Research Reveals the Benefits of Meditation
Get informed about the science related to the practice of meditation and its clinical application.