Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. Scholars have found meditation difficult to define, as practices vary both between traditions and within them.
Meditation has been practiced since antiquity in numerous religious traditions, often as part of the path towards enlightenment and self-realization. Some of the earliest written records of meditation (Dhyana), come from the Hindu traditions of Vedantism. Since the 19th century, Asian meditative techniques have spread to other cultures where they have also found application in non-spiritual contexts, such as business and health.
Meditation may be used with the aim of reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and pain, and increasing peace, perception, self-concept, and well-being. Meditation is under research to define its possible health (psychological, neurological, and cardiovascular) and other effects.
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The US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that "Meditation is a mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being."
A 2014 review found that the practice of mindfulness meditation for two to six months by people undergoing long-term psychiatric or medical therapy could produce small improvements in anxiety, pain, or depression.
In 2017, the American Heart Association issued a scientific statement that meditation may be a reasonable adjunct practice to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, with the qualification that meditation needs to be better defined in higher-quality clinical research of these disorders.
Low-quality evidence indicates that meditation may help with irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, cognitive decline in the elderly, and post-traumatic stress disorder.