Is there a spiritual purpose for depression

Do I have to be spiritual to meditate - or: What is the point of meditation?

Meditation is associated with spirituality and religious practices for a reason. The history of meditative exercises goes back a long way. Thousands of years ago people meditated in different places on earth. What is striking: Meditation not only plays a role in Hinduism and Buddhism, but also in Christianity, Judaism and various other religions. Practices that have been tried and tested around the world over such a long period do not raise the question of whether they are good for anything - but rather, for what. What can meditation do for me? Can I meditate properly even if I don't feel religious or spiritual? And what happens to me in the process? We answer these questions in our article.

Is Meditation Always Spiritual?

Basically, meditation does not have to be spiritual. Well-known is, for example, the mindfulness meditation teachings of Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. In the "Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction" program he developed, he combines various methods such as the so-called body scan, sitting meditations and practices from Hatha yoga in order to generate an attentive state of mind in which one's own life, thoughts and Sensations are perceived clearly and mindfully. [1]

In addition to this heightened mindfulness, there are a number of other purposes that meditation can help with: For example, you can use meditation to relax, to fall asleep or to concentrate better. And: Meditation has a number of remarkable effects medically, some of which we would like to introduce to you.

Meditation against fear and pain

Studies show that people with meditation experience deal more calmly with fear and pain. The central processing of pain in the brain deals differently with the negative sensations, because the chronic pain itself does not necessarily decrease, but because it is evaluated fundamentally differently, it seldom leads to typical side effects such as anxiety or depression.

Even spontaneous pain stimuli are less likely to throw meditation experiences off course: In a study it was shown that the brains of people with only five months of meditation experience are supplied with up to 50 percent less blood when they are subjected to experimental stimuli. This indicates that the impending stimulus is coupled with significantly less anxiety and stress for them. In addition, after several weeks of intensive meditation training, the electrical activity of certain brain regions increasingly shifts to the left part of the brain - an indication that the brain can cope with negative emotions more efficiently and faster with the appropriate exercise. In other words: Meditation makes you balanced and helps you to deal with fear and frustration in a more “emotionally intelligent way”. [2]

Meditation for relaxation - and for a better togetherness

The intensive examination of a single thing, as it is used in many meditation techniques, has been shown to have a relaxing and beneficial effect on the body. With prolonged meditation, your breath and heart will slow down, your blood pressure will drop, and your metabolism will calm down. [3]

Regardless of the method used, one effect is particularly noticeable: Meditation improves interpersonal relationships. [4] Not really surprising, because the more relaxed we deal with ourselves and our everyday problems, the easier we are in social contact. In addition, regular meditation in itself can make us more compassionate and altruistic, as further research shows. Not only do our fellow human beings benefit from our strengthened empathy, but also we ourselves: After the study, the test subjects reported greater well-being, less stress and a better general mood. [5]

If you would like to test the relaxing effect of meditations, you will find a short, practical introduction in our article 4 Breathing Techniques for Relaxation.

Less stress by meditating

Meditation exercises like those from the MBSR program can reduce stress and have a positive effect on your own perception, even without a basic spiritual attitude: body sensations, emotions and thoughts are observed in order to recognize rigid reaction patterns and break them up. Therefore, meditative exercises are now used in many places in addition to conventional therapy. The newly acquired stress resistance can also be demonstrated in the brain: In the event of permanent stress, the gray matter in the hippocampus can be damaged by an increased cortisol level in the blood. In a study, however, scientists were able to discover a significant compression of this substance in their test subjects after just eight weeks with 45 minutes of meditation training daily - the meditations had made them more resistant to stress. [6]

Strengthen the immune system through meditation

There is even evidence that meditation has a positive effect on certain immune system factors. Regular meditation can therefore improve the inflammatory process in the body, the cell-mediated immune response and the enzyme activity with regard to cell aging, as scientists discovered in a comprehensive meta-study. However, the strength of the effect is strongly linked to how often and how intensively the test persons meditated. Thus, no reliable statements can yet be made about the exact interaction between the immune system and meditation practice. [7]

There is still enough need for research, but the basic tone remains: Regular meditation can support and enrich us in many ways in everyday life.

Summary: What is meditation really good for?

In this article we have shown you that meditation has its roots in religion, but does not have to be ideological or spiritual for a beneficial effect. Meditation helps against stress, fear and other negative sensations, improves our social skills and lets us deal with our problems in a more relaxed manner. Some studies even suggest that it can boost our immune systems.

Would you like to try meditation but don't know how to start? In our series of articles “Meditation for Beginners” you will find suggestions for your first steps. Or do you want to get started right now? Then give our sonamedic app a try. Here you will find an abundance of guided meditations of around 10 minutes in length that you can easily try out: Put your headphones in, find a quiet place and get started. We wish you a lot of joy with your first meditation!

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[1] Kabat-Zinn, Jon: What is mindfulness. An introduction to MBSR practice. Date of access: 03/11/2020, online.

[2] Albrecht, Bernhard: The science of the here and now. Date of access: 03/11/2020, online.

[3] Techniker Krankenkasse: Learn to meditate (1/4). Date of access: 03/11/2020, online.

[4] Sedlmeier, Peter: Meditation and Science in: Research & Teaching, 9/2016, Online.

[5] Lenzen, Manuela: The neuroscience of meditation. Date of access: 03/11/2020, online.

[6] Ott, Ulrich: Why meditation? Date of access: 03/11/2020. On-line.

[7] Hacke, Daniela: Meditating for a strong immune system. Deep relaxation activates self-healing powers. Date of access: 03/11/2020, online.