Fighting stress: meditation or medication?

The percentage of people who report being depressed is the highest in developed countries such as France and the US (around 30%), according to the Cross-national Epidemiology of DSM-IV Major Depressive Episode study published in the BMC Medicine journal in July. The study is referred to in an article on stress and meditation in Mint, the second-largest business newspaper in India.

mintviewThe article cites Roy Abraham Kallivayalil, who is vice-president of Indian Psychiatric Society: “Depression can be either biological — which needs to be treated with medication — or non-biological or reactive — which can be alleviated by proper counselling, yoga and meditation.”

Stress weakens the immune system
It also cites Are Holen, founder of Acem Meditation, Norway, and a professor of medical psychology at the faculty of medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology:

Long-lasting, high levels of stress elevate the stress hormones, and they weaken the immune system and make us susceptible to infections and certain kinds of cancer. Moreover, long-standing stress makes us also vulnerable to heart and circulatory diseases such as high blood pressure.

It gives the positive effects of meditation as ranging from deep relaxation, reduced stress and depression levels, increased concentration, reduced heart rate and blood pressure and overall well-being, to boosting confidence and personality development. “But just like there are different kinds of medication for one illness, there are also different schools of meditation—and each school comes with its own ideology and techniques,” the article says, before turning to a number of meditation practices, including Acem.

“Helped me come out of my shell”
It describes Acem Meditation as a non-religious, modern, scientific and psychological approach to meditation, and it once again quotes Acem’s founder Dr Are Holen:

The physiological effects of several relaxation techniques are fairly similar, but Acem Meditation is far more focused on personality development. In addition, the meditator does not get involved in a belief system, cult or a guru tradition.

It also interviews an Indian practitioner of Acem Meditation:

I wasn’t a very social person, and Acem really helped me come out of my shell and develop my personality. It made me more confident and sure of myself.

Says Delhi-based Nivanthee Jayaraj, 26, a group manager with New Era India Consultancy, a recruiting firm.


  1. Kaif

    I was also going to write a post about this article and about meditation in the media in general.

    It nicely lays out information on four different methods, with a section for each method on the technique, what the instructor says, what the practitioner says, and scientific research. At the same time, it seems to reinforce the stereotype of meditation being a medicine or a quick therapy, rather than addressing each meditation method as a unique and complex process.

  2. I suggest you go on and write your post. We are eager to hear your more nuanced views of this article – sounds interesting.

  3. Kaif

    I will. But I think I should get some meditation before that!

  4. satprem

    nice one Kaif…practice is what its all about…an early Zen teacher of mine said “anything I can say is besides the point”.

    Our minds have such a desire to communicate knowledge and experience…silent awareness has little or no ego attachment, yes?

  5. What’s the difference between meditation and yoga? I am always confused about these two terms. Is yoga just a form of meditation?

    Thanks – Matt

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