Meditation Reduces Loneliness, Inflammation
Meditation helps us contemplate the oneness of things, and curiously, it can also make us feel less lonely. That’s the conclusion of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, who also found that mindfulness meditation — a 2,500-year-old practice dating back to Buddha that focuses on creating an attentive awareness of the present moment — lowered inflammation levels, which is associated with many diseases. A Carnegie Mellon news release reports that the research team recruited 40 healthy adults aged 55-85, took blood samples, and assessed each person’s loneliness.
The participants were randomly assigned to an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program or no treatment. The MBSR program consisted of weekly two-hour meetings in which participants learned body awareness techniques — noticing sensations and working on breathing — and worked their way toward understanding how to mindfully attend to their emotions and daily life practices. They also were asked to practice mindfulness meditation exercises for 30 minutes each day at home and attended a daylong retreat. After eight weeks, the researchers found that the mindfulness meditation training decreased the participants’ loneliness, an important benefit they say, because loneliness is a serious health risk. They also found that the older adult sample had elevated pro-inflammatory gene expression in their immune cells at the beginning of the study, and that the training reduced this pro-inflammatory gene expression, as well as a measure of C-Reactive Protein (CRP). Something to think deeply about.