Stress reductionThirty years ago, medical Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn used meditation as the basis for his revolutionary "Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program." He put people with chronic pain and depression through a six-week meditation practice in the basement of the University of Massachusetts Medical School and became one of the first practitioners to record meditation-related health improvements in patients with intractable pain. His stress-reduction techniques are now used in hospitals, clinics and by HMOs.
"In the last 25 years there's been a tidal shift in the field, and now there are 300 scientific papers on mindfulness," said Emiliana Simon-Thomas, science director for the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.
People who meditate show more left-brain hemisphere dominance, according to meditation studies done at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"Essentially when you spend a lot of time meditating, the brain shows a pattern of feeling safe in the world and more comfortable in approaching people and situations, and less vigilant and afraid, which is more associated with the right hemisphere," she said.