Mental Health x Meditation, in times of pandemic: cognitive and behavioral modifications

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Marina Candido da Silva, 5th year of medical school, academic at Centro Universitário Ingá (Uningá), member of the International Federation of Medical Student Associations of Brazil (IFMSA Brazil). She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Studies show that the practice of meditative activities can have excellent influences between mental and body health. They have intense effects on the central nervous system, with increased dopamine release, reduced levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline release, and reduced depression and anxiety. Meta-analysis works, associating reduction of oxygen consumption, elimination of carbon dioxide and respiratory rate, indicating a decrease in the metabolism rate. Besides being related to an increase in skin resistance and a reduction in plasma lactate, of which its high concentration is linked to high levels of anxiety.

The frequent action of meditation has cumulative effects, intensifying the ability to concentrate attention, improving mood, reducing fatigue and anxiety, attenuating negative feelings and mental or intellectual rumination and improving the processing capacity of the individual to cope with external emotions and traumas, such as the Covid-19 pandemic. It is able to ignite healthy aspects such as activation of the left prefrontal cortex, which is related to positive affections and increased resilience.

In addition, meditation practice can be defined as similar to some techniques of cognitive psychotherapy, elaborating skills to deal with automatic thoughts. But the difference is that in meditation, the subjects that arise to the consciousness should not be confronted or elaborated on purposely, only observed, so that the practice becomes a learning of how not to let oneself be manipulated by them and understand them as mental flows.

Thus, the competence to process environmental stimuli and emotions seems to be susceptible to conscious improvement, and meditation can be a good mechanism to achieve a balance between the most relaxed state and the condition of vigilance of the mind, and also to obtain some degree of control over autonomic psychobiological processes of biofeedback, one of the oldest techniques of self-regulation.

Finally, regarding the time necessary for such results to occur, there is no precision. But it is known that the longer the practice time, the greater the intensity and permanence of the responses produced. Therefore, the regularity of the practice would constitute another mediating variable of the effects of meditation.

References

BAER, R. A. (Ed.). Mindfulness-based treatment approaches: Clinician’s guide to evidence base and applications. Elsevier, 2015.

BRASIL; Ministério Da Saúde. Portaria nº 849, de 27 de março de 2017. Inclui a Arteterapia, Ayurveda, Biodança, Dança Circular, Meditação, Musicoterapia, Naturopatia, Osteopatia, Quiropraxia, Reflexoterapia, Reiki, Shantala, Terapia Comunitária Integrativa e Yoga à Política Nacional de Práticas Integrativas e Complementares. Diário Oficial da União, 2017.

CARVALHO, J. L.; NOBREGA, M. P. S. S.. Práticas integrativas e complementares como recurso de saúde mental na Atenção Básica. Rev. Gaúcha Enferm.,  Porto Alegre ,  v. 38, n. 4,  e2017-0014,    2017 .   Available from <http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1983-14472017000400406&lng=en&nrm=iso&gt;. access on  23  Apr.  2020.  Epub May 21, 2018.

CARDOSO, R. et al. Meditation in health: an operational definition. Brain research protocols, v. 14, n. 1, p. 58-60, 2004.

CARDOSO, R.. Medicina e Meditação: um médico ensina a meditar. MG Editores, 2011.

DESTRO, J. M.; JÚNIOR, E. G..; SCHWEITZER, C. M.. Meditação, modificações cognitivas e comportamentais. Archives of health investigation, v. 6, 2017.

LEONELLI, L. B.; ATANES, A. C. M.; KOZASA, E. H.; ANDREONI, S.; DEMARZO, M. M. P. Efeitos da meditação em profissionais da Atenção Primária à Saúde: uma revisão da literatura. Revista Brasileira de Medicina de Família e Comunidade, v. 7, n. 1, p. 42, 22 jun. 2012.

LUTZ, A. et al. Meditation and the neuroscience of consciousness. Cambridge handbook of consciousness, p. 499-555, 2007.

About the author

Marina Candido da Silva, 5th year of medical school, academic at Centro Universitário Ingá (Uningá), member of the International Federation of Medical Student Associations of Brazil (IFMSA Brazil), local coordinator of the Standing Committee on Human Rights and Peace (SCORP) and extension director of academic league of Medical Clinic and Emergency (LACMUE).

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