In this interesting and hallmark mindfulness research study on the effects of mindfulness meditation as compared to more general relaxation techniques, in this case “somatic relaxation training”, Jain et al. demonstrate that meditation may in fact trump other forms of relaxation in terms of shifting thought patterns and creating a more positive mindset. Monitoring a group of 83 students, with an average age of 25, all participants attended a weekly 1.5 hour class for 4 weeks, with the addition of a 6 hour one day retreat between the 3rd and 4th session. One group received instruction in meditation/yoga, one group practiced relaxation/stretching, and the third was a control group from the same sample of 83 students in order to deduce results.
The study proved that, in fact, meditation was far more effective at alleviating the spiral of ruminative thoughts and behavior patterns. The study defined some key ways of looking at these patterns: for action – “go to my room alone and think about my feelings” or “isolate myself and think about the reasons I’m feeling this way,” and for thoughts – “I need to understand these feelings” or “if I don’t snap out of this mood, I won’t be able to get anything done.” Rumination is characteristically dwelling in a certain negative feeling or experience, reliving it, and/or returning to it compulsively. As this is something that can be seen to breed larger periods of depressive states and general malaise, it is an important facet of the positive effects of these practices. The researchers in this study speculate “mindfulness meditation attempts to cultivate non-judgmental, moment-to-moment awareness to inner as well as outer stimuli. The development of this skill would result in the ability to shift and redirect attention to the present moment rather than thinking about past or future experience or otherwise distracting oneself from the present moment.” This study proved that practicing mindfulness meditation, even for a short period of time, decreases extensive rumination and increases positive experiences.
Image Source: MilitaryHealth