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Live longer, be a log: here's how

Date

Stephanie Gardiner

Ohm's the word ... for Miranda Kerr.

Ohm's the word ... for Miranda Kerr. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

Miranda Kerr swears by it, Hugh Jackman said it changed his life and Nicole Kidman does it too.

Meditation, popularised when The Beatles practised it in their beardy White Album days, may have become a fad for the stars but it appears to have science on its side.

I've come across meditators from the 70s who are now very senior executives in various corporations. They practise covertly, it's like a secret vice they've had for the last 30 or 40 years 

A new study from the University of Sydney is the latest to highlight possible links between meditation and improved mental and physical health.

Still mind appeal ... Nicole Kidman's a fan

Still mind appeal ... Nicole Kidman's a fan Photo: AFP

Based on the ancient definition of meditation - "a meditator sits and like a log he does not think" - researchers surveyed 343 long-term Sahaja yoga meditation practitioners and compared their results to the general population.

“We found that the health and wellbeing profile of people who had meditated for at least two years was significantly higher in the majority of health and wellbeing categories when compared to the Australian population,” said research leader Dr Ramesh Manocha, from the university's psychiatry discipline.

The study highlighted Sahaja yoga meditation because it focuses on achieving "mental silence", the closest practice to the "log" definition which was found by the researchers in old texts.

Thumbs up ... from Hugh Jackman.

Thumbs up ... from Hugh Jackman. Photo: Reuters

Dr Manocha said the study, which has been published in the journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, showed those who achieved mental silence more often had more health benefits.

"The frequency with which they were experiencing mental silence and its relationship to a [health] advantage was very significant."

A recent study from the University of California's Centre for Mind and Brain, published in New Scientist magazine, showed meditation may slow the ageing process.

The researchers found that people who went on a three-month meditation retreat had signs of stronger telomeres, which play a part in protecting cells from ageing.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have also reported that people who practised meditation long-term had more active "disease-fighting" genes than those who did not practise any type of relaxation.

Dr Maarten Immink, the director of human movement at the University of South Australia, said meditation has also been shown to strengthen the hippocampus, part of the brain associated with memory.

"Along a number of lines we have evidence that meditation promotes quality of life as we get older," Dr Immink said in an interview last year.

"Stress-reduction means that our metabolism works better, our immune systems work better, our whole body systems work better."

Sydney Meditation Centre director Kevin Hume said meditation largely involves focusing on the present to clear the mind and relax.

Mr Hume said his meditation classes attracted bankers, IT professionals, corporate lawyers and executives because it helps them deal with highly stressful workplaces.

"We're moving a long way from the old shaved head 'ohm' on top of the mountain thing.

"Curiously, I've come across meditators from the 70s who are now very senior executives in various corporations.

"They practise covertly, it's like a secret vice they've had for the last 30 or 40 years.

"They're often people who are renowned in their organisations for their ability to focus, for their ability to be empathetic managers, for their ability to be emotionally strategic in how to manage people in conflict or crisis situations."

Mr Hume said some other effects he observed included an improved attention span, a greater ability to handle emotions and improved sleep patterns.

"The research indicates very clearly that if you incorporate it into your fitness regime as a matter of regular practice you're going to have much more long-lasting and observable effects."

Dr Immink said other research showed practising meditation even for a short time had an impact.

"We're not talking about lifetime meditation to get changes, they've put people through four weeks of meditation and they've done some neuroimaging while they're doing certain things and their brains have changed.

"So it's quite powerful."

Dr Ramesh Manocha's tips for meditating can be found here

Kevin Hume's tips for meditating:

- Meditate for 20 minutes a day.

"Just leaving thoughts until later is the key element and moving into the present. It can be very simple, the effects can be very fast".

- Meditate in the shower:

"Get in the shower. Focus on one thing at a time. Move into the present, don't plan or review your day in the shower. Leave your thoughts outside the shower, focus on the shower. Focus in the present what's happening right now. Leave thoughts until later."

- Use meditation techniques on the way to work, by cultivating deliberately positive feelings for yourself, people you come across and then people you have conflict with:

"What it seems to do is detach you from the impact that negative criticism or conflict or alpha-males or alpha-females in the workplace can have.

"It gives you a sense of detaching and also focusing on a more benign connection with everybody, rather than worrying about what I call the arsehole factor in the workplace.

"You're moving essentially from thinking to feeling. You start with yourself onto people you're fond of, people you come across casually, people you have conflict with."

88 comments

  • The same celebrity offenders swearing by the latest fad. Where's Cate Blanchett? You forgot Cate Blanchett.

    Commenter
    reality bites
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    May 11, 2012, 12:01PM
    • That is actually the paper's spin to get you to read the article.

      The content of the article stands or falls by itself.

      But I happen to think that people like Cate Blanchett have contributed much, much more to this country than @reality bites could ever imagine doing, let alone doing it.

      So leave out the sleazy swipes at the people who do something constructive please.

      Commenter
      Johnno
      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 12:27PM
    • "the latest fad"?? This is nothing new, meditation has been around for longer than this newpaper...and the health benefits have proven decades ago - wake up SMH!!

      Commenter
      truthseeker72
      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 12:29PM
    • definition of fad: A fashion that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a brief period of time.

      Meditation has been around for possibly thousands of years, but it is currently a fad for celebrities. It is you who needs to 'wake up', whatever that means...

      Commenter
      Problem?
      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 12:57PM
    • For as long as I can remember in the last 40 or so years people have been derisively calling meditation "The latest fad" It must be the longest running 'fad' I've ever heard of

      Commenter
      Deano
      Location
      Bondi
      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 1:17PM
    • Johnno, perhaps you could outline the"much,much more" that Cate Blanchett has contributed to the country?

      Commenter
      Jeff
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 2:56PM
    • It's really unfortunate that Jimmy, and possibly a few others didn't bother reading the story - too busy, too rushed, too anxious, too angry, too sexist! If more people would meditate there'd be a lot less angst in the world. Meditation is the answer to many of the world's ills today. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, sets such an example, and he would meditate certainly once a day and possibly more. Meditation brings a serenity and happiness to one's life, as well as mental clarity, more energy and better health. Meditation courses cost next to nothing or it is something you can try by yourself. I'm not surprised at the number of celebrities who meditate. They, along with thousands of others around the world, know that it is the key to helping them be the very best they can be, a worthwhile human being.

      Commenter
      Crystalviva
      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 4:54PM
  • Of course it prolongs life - otherwise the time you wasted sitting still and not thinking about anything would have been in vain!
    Unfortunately you only break even though.

    Commenter
    Matt
    Location
    Tatura
    Date and time
    May 11, 2012, 12:06PM
    • I meditate for eight ours every night. I think we call it "Sleep".

      Commenter
      ur2unreal
      Location
      India
      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 12:12PM
      • Haha good call. Any daylight hours available to clear my mine I'd rather do it through exercise. Spare time is so scarce that lying down like a log seems a huge waste

        Commenter
        Mick
        Location
        Melb
        Date and time
        May 11, 2012, 3:55PM

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