Meditation has been valued for many decades. This is due to its healing, spiritual, and
therapeutic qualities (Swami, n.d, p.2). Meditation can be described as a mental attention training
that can awaken the mind and reveal the nature of reality (Brach, 2003, p.2). Anger, greed, and
delusion are known to cause emotional upheaval (Chen, 1999, p.9). In addition, hallucinations,
extreme mood swings and depression may disrupt emotions (Chen, 1999, p.9). These
psychological effects of stress require therapeutic relaxation. This paper reviews research done
on psychological effects of meditation.
History of Scientific Studies on Meditation
Meditation has been a major subject of study among scientific researchers. Research on
meditation gained popularity in late 1990s but has been studied for the last four decades
(Braboszcz et al., 2010, p.2). Studies on meditation have mainly focused on how the brain is
affected by mental training. Recent scientific studies are on the view that meditation induces
brain plasticity (Braboszcz et al., 2010, p.2). Meditation is believed to trigger consciousness and
is thereby studied in consciousness researches (Braboszcz et al., 2010, p.3).
Developments in medical technologies have raised popularity in neuroscience studies of
meditation, as it is believed to have major impacts on the body and the brain (Braboszcz et al.,
2010, p.3). The relationship between first-person experience and consciousness is also under
focus by meditation investigators. In the early 20 th century, researchers examined
electrophysiological responses and behavioral performances (Braboszcz et al., 2010, p.3). Since
then, researchers have developed a neuro-phenomenology approach when studying meditation
(Braboszcz et al., 2010, p.3). Neuro-phenomenology assists in understanding consciousness and
the gap between inherent human experience and brain neural dynamics (Braboszcz et al., 2010,
Types of Meditation
Meditation is a practice done globally is mainly an Asian tradition (Braboszcz, Hahusseau &
Delorme, 2010, p.1). Soto Zen is one of the major meditation practices (Braboszcz et al., 2010,
p.1). It is based on open awareness and mindfulness. In this type of meditation, a person sits
while facing a wall. The eyes are usually opened while performing a Soto Zen meditation.
Thoughts and emotions are observed in this type of meditation. A person should not cling to any
form of thoughts and emotions when performing Soto Zen meditation technique. However,
person should let go any thoughts and emotions and bring attention or focus on a present
moment. Solving riddles is another method used in Soto Zen meditation. In this technique,
riddles are also used. A person who can successfully solve a riddle may be able to forget
thoughts and become conscious of the present moment.
Vipassana meditation, now common in the West, is another major meditation technique
(Braboszcz et al., 2010, p.2). In this type of meditation, a person observes his or her breath and
the nosal area (Braboszcz et al., 2010, p.2). This form of meditation assists in developing focused
and sustainable attention. The mind can wonder away due to thoughts. However, it can be
brought back to attention by controlled breathing as per the Vipassana meditation technique.
Practitioners of this meditation technique maintain attention by feeling the sensation in all body
parts. It is usually hard to experience sensations in all body parts for a beginner. However, with
time, a practitioner is able to feel the sensations in more body parts. Furthermore, a practitioner
is usually advised to avoid cravings for specific types of sensations in this meditation technique.
The most popular meditation technique is known as prayer or mantra meditation (Braboszcz et
al., 2010, p.2). It is present in many traditions such as Hinduism, Tibetan, Sufism, and Buddhism
(Braboszcz et al., 2010, p.2). In this form of meditation, mantras are recited. A mantra can be a
mystical or religious sound, poem or word (Braboszcz et al., 2010, p.2). It is believed that
reciting a mantra causes body vibration that may calm the mind and keep it focused without
much effort. Other forms of meditation involve focusing and generate feelings of compassion
towards other people. Meditation techniques are mainly done while sitting, but others can be
done while working or moving. A person who is able to meditate while working is able to focus
on the present work. Concentration while working ensures that work is well done.
Psychological Effects of Meditation
Meditation is considered as a technique that offers mental relaxation. It can thereby be assumed
that meditation affects how the body functions. Meditation is able to alter the perception on one’s
body (Braboszcz et al., 2010, p.4). Research shows that meditation induces changes in cortical
areas in the nervous system (Braboszcz et al., 2010, p.4). Cortical areas in the nervous system
process inputs. This finding can be relied on to account for increased awareness because of
meditation. According to this study, it can be assumed that regular meditation that focuses on
sensation, both external and internal, increases the cortex’s thickness. Research shows that
increased thickness of the cortex is correlated with meditation (Braboszcz et al., 2010, p.4).
Increased thickness of the cortex increases body awareness. Therefore, it can be assumed that
meditation increases body awareness.
Meditation is believed to induce various changes in self-representation of a person (Braboszcz et
al., 2010, p.4). Research done using fMRI shows that there is reduced coupling between the
medial prefrontal cortex and the insular cortex after extensive meditation (Braboszcz et al., 2010,
p.4). The insular cortex is involved in internal body responses and perception of pain. The medial
prefrontal cortex is usually involved in cognition at a higher-level. This research can be relied on
to assume that meditation creates self-awareness at different levels.
Meditation is believed to affect attention. Meditation is a skill and thus it is assumed of being
able to train the brain into being attentive. Mental trainings that are involved during meditation
reinforce brain circuits involved in attention (Braboszcz et al., 2010, p.5). This finding relied on
a study done using fMRI. FMRI is a technique that is used in monitoring metabolic activities of
the brain (Braboszcz et al., 2010, p.5). People meditating were analyzed and fMRI results
showed that their brains had more activity in brain attention areas (Braboszcz et al., 2010, p.5).
Expert meditation practitioners showed less activity in brain attention areas than novel
meditation practitioners (Braboszcz et al., 2010, p.5). This finding can be used to assume that
meditation is a practice that is learned and requires many years of practice to perfect.
Meditation is a practice that has attracted a lot of interest among behavioral researchers. There
are many types of meditation. These techniques mainly focus on attention and selfconsciousness. Meditation is believed to affect the functioning of the brain. Many studies have
been conducted with the aim of finding out how meditation affects the brain psychologically.
These studies have been used to assume that meditation may offer mental relaxation and
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2. Brach, T. (2003). How to Meditate: A Guide to Formal Sitting Practice. Insight
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3. Chen, T. (1999). The Fundamentals of Meditation Practice. Buddha Dharma Education
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4. Swami, S. J. n.d. Mind Meditation. Sri Vidya Meditation Center, 1-2.