There is a lot of talk about the benefits of meditating, but a new study has found that meditating is not for everyone and this is why…

About 25 percent of people who regularly meditate have had a ‘particularly unpleasant’ psychological experience related to the practice. This includes feeling fearful and distorted.

This is according a University College London led study.

The research also found that those who had attended a meditation retreat, those who only practised deconstructive types of meditation, such as Vipassana (insight) and Koan practice (used in Zen Buddhism), and those with higher levels of repetitive negative thinking, were more likely to report a ‘particularly unpleasant’ meditation-related experience.

The study included over 1 200 people

However, the study, which comprised an international online survey of 1 232 people who had at least two months’ meditation experience, found female participants and those with a religious belief were less likely to have had a ‘particularly unpleasant’ experience.

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“These findings point to the importance of widening the public and scientific understanding of meditation beyond that of a health-promoting technique,” says lead author, researcher Marco Schlosser (UCL Division of Psychiatry).

“Very little is known about why, when, and how such meditation-related difficulties can occur: more research is now needed to understand the nature of these experiences.

“When are unpleasant experiences important elements of meditative development, and when are they merely negative effects to be avoided?”

Of the 1 232 study participants, 25,6% indicated that they had previously encountered particularly unpleasant meditation-related experiences.

More male participants, 28,5%, experienced a particularly unpleasant experience, compared to 23% of female participants.

30,6% of those who did not have a religious belief had a particularly unpleasant experience, compared to 22% of those who had a religious belief.

We need more research on meditation

“Most research on meditation has focused on its benefits, however, the range of meditative experiences studied by scientists needs to be expanded. It is important at this point not to draw premature conclusions about the potentially negative effects of meditation,” says Marco Schlosser

“Longitudinal studies will help to learn when, for whom, and under what circumstances these unpleasant experiences arise, and whether they can have long-term effects. This future research could inform clinical guidelines, mindfulness manuals, and meditation teacher training.”

Source: University College London via