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Meditation for Health Purposes

Meditation for health purposes is a mind-body practice in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)¹ There are many types of meditation², most of which originated in ancient religious and spiritual traditions. Generally, a person who is meditating uses certain techniques, such as focusing attention (for example, on a word, an object, or the breath); a specific posture; and an open attitude toward distracting thoughts and emotions. Meditation can be practiced for various reasons--for example, with an intent to increase physical relaxation, mental calmness, and psychological balance; to cope with one or more diseases and conditions; and for overall wellness. This Backgrounder provides a general introduction to meditation and suggests some resources for finding out more.

Key Points

  • People practice meditation for a number of health-related purposes. Resources for published research results on meditation are listed at the end of this Backgrounder.

  • It is not fully known what changes occur in the body during meditation; whether they influence health; and, if so, how. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and some other components of the National Institutes of Health are sponsoring studies to find out more about meditation's effects, how it works, and what diseases and conditions it may be most helpful for.

  • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.


Meditation used as CAM is a type of mind-body medicine³ (one of the four domains, or areas of knowledge, in CAM). Generally, mind-body medicine focuses on:

  • The interactions among the brain, the rest of the body, the mind, and behavior
  • The ways in which emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and behavioral factors can directly affect health

People use meditation for various health problems, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Mood and self-esteem problems
  • Stress
  • Insomnia
  • Physical or emotional symptoms that may be associated with chronic illnesses and their treatment, such as:
    • Cardiovascular (heart) disease
    • HIV/AIDS
    • Cancer

Meditation is also used for overall wellness.

A large national survey on Americans' use of CAM, released in 2004, found that nearly 8 percent of the participants had used meditation specifically for health reasons during the year before the survey.


¹ - A group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine. Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine, and alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. Conventional medicine is medicine as practiced by holders of M.D. (medical doctor) or D.O. (doctor of osteopathy) degrees and by their allied health professionals, such as physical therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses. Some health care providers practice both CAM and conventional medicine.

² - A conscious mental process using certain techniques -- such as focusing attention or maintaining a specific posture -- to suspend the stream of thoughts and relax the body and mind.

³ -
Practices that focus on the interactions among the brain, mind, body, and behavior, with the intent to use the mind to affect physical functioning and promote health. Examples include meditation and yoga.

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NCCAM has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCAM.

Article Source: http://www.journey101.info

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