Hyderabad, April 21 (IANS) Unprecedented work pressures and social isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic may worsen loneliness and sleep problems in health-care professionals but a recent study has shown that Heartfulness Meditation can help fight loneliness and improve sleep.
The study was conducted by Jayaram Thimmapuram, Robert Pargament, Theodore Bell and Holly Schurk of the WellSpan Hospital, Department of Internal Medicine, York, PA; and Divya K. Madhusudhan of the Harvard Medical School, Department of Graduate Medical Education, Boston, MA.
Dr. Jayaram Thimmapuram Academic Hospitalist, Internal Medicine, WellSpan York Hospital, York, USA said that it is one of the first attempts to assess loneliness and sleep problems among physicians and advance practice providers during Covid-19 pandemic in the US. He claimed that an improvement of sleep and loneliness was noted with the practice of Heartfulness meditation.
Heartfulness Meditation is a simple heart-based meditation system aimed at attaining a balanced state of mind. A prior study assessing the benefits of Heartfulness meditation practice on resident physicians, nurses and faculty physicians demonstrated improved burnout and emotional wellness along with increased telomere length in a younger subset of population. In patients with chronic insomnia, this practice was associated with favourable outcomes
Out of 1,535 eligible participants who were surveyed, 155 enrolled in the study. Participants were randomly assigned to intervention or control groups based on a prior study conducted for physicians and advance practice providers within the same organisation.
The study highlights the significant burden of loneliness and sleep problems among physicians and advance practice providers during Covid-19 with one in two participants feeling lonely and more than nine out of 10 having sleep problems. Interestingly, younger participants aged 30 and under had higher loneliness and sleep problems.
Further, as compared to a study conducted in 2018 using a 3-point loneliness questionnaire that showed a prevalence of loneliness in physicians at 43 per cent, the current study reported a higher prevalence among physicians at 47.8 per cent. Although it is difficult to ascribe any of the results to Covid-19 pandemic, increase in loneliness prevalence was notable.
Heartfulness intervention resulted in greater improvements in sleep quality and perception of loneliness when compared with the control group. The findings of this study are consistent with the conclusion of other studies reporting mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programs and other meditation practices for loneliness and sleep to have demonstrated favourable outcomes.
This study adds to the body of literature supporting the benefits of Heartfulness practice as reported by some of the previous studies utilising Heartfulness meditation where changes have been noted in heart rate variability, electroencephalography in adults, and improved emotional well-being in school age children.
Heartfulness is a Raja Yoga system of meditation, which is also known as 'Sahaj Marg', or the natural path. It originated at the turn of the 20th century and was formalised with the founding of the Shri Ram Chandra Mission in 1945 in India. With several million practitioners worldwide, Heartfulness meditation is a set of practices for self-development that help us find inner calm and stillness in our fast-paced world.
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New York, March 24 (IANS) The fear, anxiety and stress associated with the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on mental health. However, a new study suggests these symptoms may be eased through safe and convenient online mindfulness practices.
The study, published in the journal Global Advances in Health and Medicine, showed that 76 per cent of participants reported decreased anxiety, 80 per cent reported decreased stress and 55 per cent had decreased Covid-19 concern.
"We found that online mindfulness interventions may improve psychological health at a time of uncertainty. We were also encouraged by the survey responses, which showed a sense of connectedness and a desire to help others," said researcher Rebecca Erwin Wells, Associate Professor at the Wake Forest Baptist Health in the US.
"Helping others during the pandemic demonstrates the beautiful capacity of the human spirit to find positivity despite the extraordinary negative circumstances," Wells added.
The researchers said that they recognised the tremendous impact of this pandemic on emotional health and wanted to evaluate how a safe, online mindfulness meditation strategy might help.
For the study, the team included 233 participants from across the world in this non-randomised clinical trial, which included a pre-session survey, a single 15-minute online mindfulness meditation session and a post-session survey. The pre and post-session surveys evaluated momentary stress, anxiety and Covid-19 concern.
Most of the participants (63 per cent) had never practiced mindfulness before, and 89 per cent of participants said the session was helpful, and that the online platform was effective for practicing mindfulness.
Of note, 21 per cent of participants were retired, suggesting that age did not prevent accessibility.
The participants were also surveyed on how they were helping others during the pandemic.
The responses varied with common themes including following public health guidelines, conducting acts of service and connection such as reaching out to elderly neighbours, and self-care activities such as staying positive and calm.
New Delhi - In the pandemic times, meditation and yoga have emerged as top health activities among people in India, a global study by wearable brand Fitbit has revealed.
While meditation emerged as the top go-to activity among users in India with a staggering uptick of 2,381 per cent, yoga witnessed a 241 per cent spike among the Indian Fitbit users, highlighting a major shift and focus on mental wellness and stress management while staying indoors.
"While Indians slept the least among key APAC markets in 2019 and 2020, Covid-19 induced lockdown and following limited restrictions resulted in Indians sleeping 18 minutes more between March-August 2020 as compared to the same period last year," the study showed on Saturday.
In the Asia-Pacific region, mediation, yoga and pilates saw a huge adoption in 2020, mirroring the global trend, with meditation in particular saw massive popularity among Fitbit users across the region.
Australia and New Zealand continued to lead the region in active minutes achieved, even if they did not lead in overall step count, suggesting a greater level of intentional activity such as exercise.
"Most countries saw their lockdown gains in sleep duration reverse as they reopened, with the exception of Australia, which continued to enjoy an increase in sleep duration to 7 hours 37 minutes -- 39 minutes higher than the regional average.
The regional average Resting Heart Rate (RHR) improved during lockdown and stayed the same even as countries reopened.
"On the whole, the data shows that while users have embraced a more sedentary lifestyle in 2020 with overall activity decreasing, many users have pivoted to more frequent stress-relieving activities," the data revealed. (IANS)
New York - Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course -- yoga and meditation-- was found to benefit patients with chronic pain and depression, leading to significant improvement in participant perceptions of pain, mood and functional capacity.
According to the study, published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, most of the participants (89 per cent) reported the programme helped them find ways to better cope with their pain while 11 per cent remained neutral.
Chronic pain is a common and serious medical condition affecting an estimated 100 million people in the US, which correlates with annual costs of approximately $635 billion.
The small-scale study was conducted in a semi-rural population in Oregon, US, where issues of affordability, addiction and access to care are common.
Participants received intensive instruction in mindfulness meditation and mindful hatha yoga during an eight-week period.
"Many people have lost hope because, in most cases, chronic pain will never fully resolve," said study author Cynthia Marske from the Community Health Clinics of Benton and Linn County in the US.
"However, mindful yoga and meditation can help improve the structure and function of the body, which supports the process of healing," Marske added.
The study found mindful meditation and yoga led to significant improvements in patients' perceptions of pain, depression and disability. Following the course, the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) scores, a standard measure of depression, dropped by 3.7 points on a 27-point scale.
According to the researchers, some patients experience a similar drop from the use of an antidepressant."Chronic pain often goes hand-in-hand with depression," Marske said.
"Mindfulness-based meditation and yoga can help restore both a patient's mental and physical health and can be effective alone or in combination with other treatments such as therapy and medication," Marske added. (IANS)
New York - Want to live longer? Meditation may be key. Researchers have found that meditation linked to lower rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and coronary artery disease.
The study, published the American Journal of Cardiology, shows that it may help with blood pressure, cholesterol level, quitting smoking, and overall cardiovascular health.
"I believe in meditation, as it can give us a sense of calm, peace, and stress reduction, leading to improvement of our emotional well-being," said study researcher Chayakrit Krittanawong from the Baylor College of Medicine in the US.
For the findings, the research team looked at data on more than 61,000 survey participants. Of those, almost 6,000 (nearly 10 per cent) said they participated in some form of meditation.
The researchers found that people who meditated had lower rates of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and coronary artery disease, compared with those who did not meditate.
The greatest difference was in coronary artery disease. Those who meditated were 51 per cent as likely as those who didn't to have the disease.
The prevalence of other cardiovascular risks in the meditation group compared with the non-meditation group was 65 per cent for high cholesterol, 70 per cent for diabetes, 76 per cent for stroke, and 86 per cent for high blood pressure.
The researchers controlled for other factors connected to cardiovascular risks, such as age, sex, cigarette smoking, and body mass index. After adjusting for these factors, the effect of meditation was still significant.
"Many types of meditation exist. Most focus on attention and awareness. Meditation has been shown to increase physical and mental relaxation," explained Krittanawong.
Practising meditation has been linked to decreased stress, greater mindfulness, and improved psychological health.
According to the researchers, It may even lead to long-term functional and anatomical changes in the brain. Meditation is also simple, cost-effective, and low-risk.
Considering all these factors, the researchers concluded that meditation is "probably" associated with lower prevalence of cardiovascular risk.
They noted that the study adds to a growing body of research on the potential benefits of meditation. (IANS)
Hyderabad - Heartfulness meditation improves immunity against infections and cancer and is an effective adjunct in the treatment of several autoimmune disorders, a study said.
In the current context of the Covid-19 pandemic, with no vaccines available, it has been advocated strongly by medical and other research fraternities that the fundamental defence against the virus is to have strong immunity.
In an article published in the International Journal of Recent Scientific Research, authors Raja Amarnath, Director, Critical Care Services, Sree Balaji Medical College, Chennai, Natwar Sharma, Pediatrics in-charge, Saveetha Medical College, Chennai, Prasanthi J., Diabetologist, Chennai, Sugirtha Jenitha, Critical Care, Sree Balaji Medical College, Chitra Rajan, Consultant, Environmental Sustainability, IIT Chennai, and Subbulakshmi Balasubramanian, RRT, Michigan, USA, have drawn a comparison between stress and immunity.
According to the authors, when stress becomes chronic, many organ systems in the body get affected. Persistent stress results in excessive levels of cortisol and other corticosteroids circulating in the blood for a longer period that produces irregularities in the immune responses.
This results in increased susceptibility to infections, increased risk of cancer, tendency to develop an allergy, increased gastrointestinal problems and an increased risk of autoimmune disorders. Chronic stress also leads to anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
The authors say that managing stress through relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, positive thinking and moulding a healthy lifestyle can dramatically improve mood and strengthen the immune system.
They cited studies which revealed that the relaxation produced after meditation reduces the levels of IL-6, a proinflammatory cytokine produced by T cells, that plays a major role in the pathophysiology of several autoimmune diseases, different types of cancers and Alzheimer's disease.
Regular practice of Heartfulness Meditation can aid in stress reduction and general well-being. Shifting the autonomic balance towards parasympathetic from sympathetic and reducing the secretion of stress hormones are the key reasons.
Relaxation response produced by meditation reduces metabolic rate, reduces breathing and heart rate (HR), lowers blood pressure, brings cortisol and lactate levels down, and elevates blood flow to the key internal organs.
Modified Raja Yoga systems like Heartfulness Meditation, which is simple and practised by the majority of spiritual seekers around the world for the last several decades, needs to be explored much deeper through large and controlled trials.
"Meditation should be made an integral part of life. It acts as a silent regulator for all systems in our being -- physical, mental, emotional and spiritual -- to function in harmony. The impact of this is the ability of the body and mind to respond to internal and external stress with extreme effectiveness. Scientific backing forms the core of the offerings at Heartfulness," said Kamlesh Patel, a guide of Heartfulness.
"The recent study that shows Heartfulness Meditation helps in improving immunity should be motivating for many to embrace the practice, to help deal with situations like we are facing now as well as to strengthen oneself internally for the future challenges," he added. (IANS)
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