The Clinically Relevant Value of Meditation

A paper written for Graceland University
by Sarah Piestrup, RN, EAMP

Meditation is a cost effective and clinically proven tool that can benefit a myriad of health disorders. Aftanas and Golosheykin (2005) looked at electroencephalograms (EEGs) in a controlled environment to empirically show that meditators have more control over their reactions to stressful situations or “intensity of emotional arousal” (p. 894). According to the studies reviewed by Koopsen and Young (2009), meditation can provide physiological benefits such as a decrease in: oxygen consumption, blood lactate levels, cortisol levels, heart and respiratory rates, blood pressures, muscle tension, and pain and an increase in: skin resistance, alpha waves, and psychological benefits. These emotional and physiological effects have far reaching benefits to the health of a patient as well as the effectiveness of a health care provider if they too engage in conscious awareness.

Astin, Shapiro, Eisenberg, & Forys (2003) review a collection of cumulative clinical evidence that “lends strong support to the notion that medicine should indeed adopt a biopsychosocial rather than exclusively biologic-genetic model of health” (p. 141). They identify meta-analyses and randomized controlled trials that have shown mind-body medicine has effective benefits with: chronic low back pain, coronary artery disease, headache, insomnia, surgical procedure preparation, symptoms of cancer and its treatment, arthritis and urinary incontinence (Astin, et al., 2003). Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, & Walach (2004) find that improvements in health are consistently seen in a variety of standardized mental health measures and measures of disability with mindfulness-based stress reduction. Other health parameters such as medical symptoms, sensory pain, physical impairment and functional quality of life estimates were also found to have benefits from mindfulness-based stress reduction (Grossman, et al., 2004).

Jung, et al. (2010) give us some clues about the background physiology of these positive effects. They looked at 67 subjects who regularly engaged in mind-body training vs. a control group of 57 healthy subjects and compared their plasma catecholamine (norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine) levels as well as their positive and negative affect scores, and showed: lower stress, higher positive affect, and higher plasma dopamine levels in the meditation group.

A state of heart centered consciousness that can be achieved through meditation or even quick redirection of attention is contagious. A high state of “coherence” affects others in the room to also a achieve a high state of coherence (McCraty, Atkinson, Tomasino & Bradley, 2006). Coherence has been measured with reliable instruments and has shown health benefits in numerous studies over the past 20 years (McCraty, et al., 2006). Practitioners can have positive effects on their patients during a therapeutic encounter if they practice coherence (McCraty, et al., 2006). Nursing literature has examined similar phenomena under the term “presence” and researchers like Zyblock (2010) identify presence as having a sustained therapeutic effect. The Annals of Internal Medicine even has articles on healing skills for physicians that outline themes such as being open, listening, removing barriers and sharing authority (Churchill & Schenck, 2008).

Simple meditations can be easily taught by trained physicians and ancillary staff in a short amount of time and patients can be referred to a growing number of highly trained individuals who specialize in a variety of forms of mindful practices. With so many options and variations, all patients and providers should be able to find some form of mediation that works for them and implement them into daily practice.


Aftanas, L., Golosheykin, S. (2005). Impact of regular mediation practice on EEG activity at rest and during evoked negative emotions. International Journal of Neuroscience, 115: 893-909. doi: 10.1080/00207450590897969

Astin, J. A., Shapiro, S. L., Eisenberg, D. M. & Forys, K. L. (2003). Mind-body medicine: State of the science, implications for practice. Journal of the American Board of Family Practice, 16(2), 131-147.

Churchill, L. R. & Schenck, D. (2008). Healing skills for medical practice. Annals of Internal Medicine, 149, 720-724.

Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindful-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomic Research, 57, 35-43.

Jung, Y. H., Kang, D. H., Jang, J. H., Park, H. Y., Byun, M. S., Kwon, S. J., ... Kwon, J. S. (2010). The effects of mind-body training on stress reduction, positive affect, and plasma catecholamines. Neuroscience Letters, 479(2), 138-42.

Koopsen, C. & Young, C. (2009). Integrative health: A holistic approach for health professionals. Boston, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

McCraty, R., Atkinson, M., Tomasino, M. & Bradley, R. T. (2006). The coherent heart. Boulder Creek, CA: The Institute for HeartMath

Zyblock, D. M. (2010). Nursing presence in contemporary nursing practice. Nursing Forum, 45(2), 120-124.