Research

The therapeutic use of relaxation, mindfulness and meditation
What does the research say?
A series of literature reviews – Dr Ian Gawler BVSc, MCounsHS         

What do relaxation, mindfulness and meditation-based techniques have to offer people affected by significant physical and mental illness? What follows are a series of literature reviews that present key recent research articles relating to the major illnesses, the symptoms that commonly accompany them, and links to the actual research papers.

Introduction

In 1967, Dr Ainslie Meares published a ground breaking book – Relief Without Drugs in which he advocated meditation as a therapy for a wide range of physical and psychological conditions.

In 1985, Dr Meares published an hypothesis in the Medical Journal of Australia in which he speculated intense meditation might actually reverse the progress of cancer. Fair to say there was strong opposition from his medical and scientific colleagues. However, at the time, I had been diagnosed with advanced secondary osteo-genic sarcoma (bone cancer) and had a prognosis of 3 to 6 months.

So, having agreed to test Dr Meares hypothesis and used his methods as a core element in my subsequent survival, and having taught those techniques (along with additions) to many thousands of people affected by cancer over 4 decades, I have lived long enough to see the therapeutic application of meditation go through the 19th century German philosopher Schopenhauer’s 3 stages of truth : First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident.

It seems reasonable to contend meditation has entered the mainstream. It enjoys widespread acceptance and uptake. It is estimated that 200–500 million people meditate worldwide.

When it comes to physical and mental illness, the evidence regarding its contribution to improving quality of life for both patients, survivors and carers is compelling. Search scholarly articles for relaxation, mindfulness and meditation and illness, and around 2.6 million results appear.

Short on time? Need the most important and latest findings? The key research articles?

Here they are…

So what follows is a summary of key research articles investigating the use of relaxation, mindfulness, meditation and related mind-body medicine practices for people affected by significant illness and its symptoms. The aim has been to highlight the best recent research in this field.

THE ILLNESSES REVIEWED

Mental health, relaxation, mindfulness and meditation – a literature review with links to the original papers

Cancer,relaxation, mindfulness and meditation – a literature review with links to the original papers

Dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease, relaxation, mindfulness and meditation – a literature review with links to the original papers

Stroke, relaxation, mindfulness and meditation – a literature review with links to the original papers

THE SYMPTOMS REVIEWED

Sleeprelaxation, mindfulness and meditation – a literature review with links to the original papers

Pain, relaxation, mindfulness and meditation – a literature review with links to the original papers

More reviews to come…