Health Alert: Meditation

Published: Oct. 8, 2007 at 8:47 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 8, 2007 at 8:49 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (NBC) - As many of us look for ways to de-stress our fast-paced lives, new research finds focused meditation may work better than just relaxing.

Researchers at the University of Oregon compared students who used relaxation techniques to those given just 20 minutes of meditation training. After less than a week, they found a significant difference.

Amir Tahami, a meditation instructor with Sun & Moon Yoga Studio, says "time to find that inner peace that's inside of you."

Used for centuries in religious practice, today, people meditate in class, or on a park bench.

"[It] allowed me to relax a bit more," says Klia Bassing, who teaches employees to meditate at work.

Bassing said, "They kept saying I'm so stressed out. I need something. I need something to relax, to help me focus. I'm having trouble sleeping at night."

Beyond just relaxing, meditation is a fusion of mind and body -- a focused effort to eliminate extraneous thoughts.

Meditation student Leigh Thomas, "Just (sigh). Just don't go straight for the email. Don't go straight for the voicemail. Just, you know, just calm yourself down."

The University of Oregon found students in China who meditated just 20 minutes a day for five days produced a third less of the stress hormone cortisol than those who simply relaxed.

Michael Posner, lead researcher at University of Oregon, "So you learn to relax various parts of your body. It does make you feel good. But it doesn't quite seem to do the same sort of thing as performed by the meditation training."

Meditation also produced better test scores, and less anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue.

Susan Salkind, a self-proclaimed "adrenaline junkie," was skeptical, "It's in those moments where you feel the most pressed and the most stressed out that you really have to develop that reflex."

And let your mind go -- to keep it focused.

This study was done with students in China. The lead researcher says to draw conclusions, the same results would need to be duplicated with other cultures -- including here in the US.

Posted by Bryce Mursch