Meditation - Fad, Fact or Fiction?

if you find yourself wondering why you can never find your keys, glasses or that word you're looking for Ð don't just put it down to forgetfulness Ð perhaps you are more stressed than you realise

Feature by Lorraine Urquhart | 16 Apr 2006

To most people meditation may be only something for the rich, famous or religious, but a new wave of research demonstrates that there are real, tangible health benefits if practised regularly.

Medical research across the world is beginning to awaken to the possibility that by meditating regularly, the relaxation and visualisation techniques applied can help to reduce the stress hormones in our blood that influence our long-term health and well-being.

Very simply, stress is caused by our adrenal glands, and the adrenalin and cortisol (hormones) they produce when we feel under threat of attack. Most people are familiar with the 'fight or flight' response, where a person finds that they are able to react more quickly or discover new depths of strength when faced with danger. It's a mechanism that has existed for millions of years and has helped the human species survive.

However if a person perceives a real or imagined threat over a sustained period then the adrenal glands go into overdrive and start producing excess cortisol to maintain this high response state, and this is where problems begin. Cortisol can affect a part of the brain which makes it more difficult for us to recall information – so if you find yourself wondering why you can never find your keys, glasses or the word you're looking for – don't just put it down to forgetfulness – perhaps you are more stressed than you realise.

Lorraine Urquhart from Feel Good Therapies explains; "this is just one of the symptoms and it feels a bit like the filing clerk for all your thoughts has gone on holiday so nothing gets done. Another is insomnia or broken sleep patterns."

Lorraine has been working with different groups teaching meditation and visualisation techniques to help them find a way to deal with stress.

"I've been working around schools in Edinburgh, mainly with teachers, and also at Maggie's Centre for Cancer. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests the more we practice these techniques, our body responds by reducing the levels of cortisol in our blood stream. It can be quite self-empowering to learn these methods, and many people find that it enables them to better manage and accept change in their lives - situations that are often responsible for higher levels of stress."

So are we simply discovering something that the Yogis and Buddhists have known for years? These techniques, though, don't require a religious following to benefit from the results. Lorraine runs classes and workshops for beginners to intermediates and has produced an information sheet that she is happy to email to anyone interested.

Email Lorraine at or visit for information on classes and workshops.