By Lara Evans Bracciante
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, August/September 2003.
Turns out, those monks really are on to something. Meditation has a biological effect on the body, easing anxiety and boosting immunity, according to a recent study published in Psychosomatic Medicine. Using a technique called “mindfulness” meditation, researchers at the University of Wisconsin enrolled 41 subjects, 21 of whom attended a weekly meditation class and one seven-hour meditation retreat during the study; the remaining 20 served as the control group and did not participate in any meditation. All subjects were given a flu shot at the start of the study to measure immune response. After eight weeks, electrical activity on the frontal left side of the brain — an area associated with lower anxiety — was more active in the meditating subjects, indicating a more positive emotional state. The meditation group also had higher antibody levels, suggesting stronger immunity.