Meditation for Stress

Meditation for Stress: One of the Best Ways to Reduce Stress

Meditation for Stress

Meditation is a great way to reduce stress.

-It can give you a calmer outlook on life.

-You feel more relaxed and rested.

-You have more energy and endurance, so daily activities become easier to handle.

These benefits make meditation an attractive alternative or addition to other stress management techniques such as yoga or regular exercise since they may not always be available when you need them most.

“When we meditate, we enter a world that’s different from the one we live in every day,” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction programs at the University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society and author of “Wherever You Go, There You Are.” 

“It’s a world where we can learn to relate differently to our experience — where we can be aware of our thoughts and not carried away by them. It’s a world where the mind is clearer, less cluttered. When we meditate regularly, it becomes easier to live in that world more of the time.”

Meditation also yields a variety of mental and physical health benefits, including:

The ability to increase your capacity for attention and concentration. The present moment holds far more detail than our minds normally process — think of how crisp and vivid an image looks when you hold it up to your eye compared with how that same image appears when you stand back from it. Regular meditation increases awareness of this fine-grained dimension of experience.

Meditation is a powerful tool for altering your state of mind,” says Herbert Benson, M.D., president of the Mind/Body Medical Institute in Boston and author of “The Relaxation Response.” “It can be as effective as prescription medication for certain conditions, both psychological and physiological.”

Reduced stress. Research shows that meditation lowers levels of cortisol, the hormone linked to stress. It also leads to increased activity in brain areas related to lower levels of anxiety. These changes may help explain why people who meditate feel calmer, more relaxed and less anxious during stressful events.

Improved coping skills. A recent study found that advanced breast cancer patients who practised meditation could better manage the stress and fatigue related to their illness. Other research suggests that meditation may help lessen symptoms of many physical conditions, including asthma, high blood pressure and irritable bowel syndrome — and the more you practice, the stronger the benefits.

Improved immunity. Studies show that daily meditation boosts your immune system, helping it fight disease better.

“When you’re stressed out or tired, your immune system is less effective,” Benson says. “Meditation helps you get rid of those negatives.”

Enhanced emotional balance. Practising mindfulness can allow you to step back from automatic pilot and become aware of unhelpful patterns in your life — like getting angry at a traffic jam when somebody else caused it — so you make wiser choices about how to respond. “It’s like a ‘pause’ button,” Kabat-Zinn says.

Improved interpersonal relationships. Practising mindfulness meditation encourages you to focus on the present — to be aware of your thoughts and feelings without dwelling on them, trying to change them or anticipating the future. This state of openhearted attentiveness makes it easier to connect with others because you’re more likely to see situations from their perspective as well as your own.

Heart attack recovery. Research shows that transcendental meditation leads to changes in heart rate, blood pressure and breathing patterns that help protect against another heart attack and speed recovery after one occurs.

“People who meditate experience a deep rest,” Benson says. “That rest has direct benefits for how we handle challenges.”

Improved concentration and performance. Meditation can make you more attentive to tasks at hand, helping you perform them better. It’s also been found to sharpen your memory and improve your ability to concentrate. More research is needed on this topic; however, some studies suggest that parts of the brain linked with improved memory may grow larger in people who meditate regularly.

Trouble sleeping? Meditating should help. A study by Harvard Medical School researchers found that meditation reduced the time it took to fall asleep, and the number of nighttime awakenings people experienced during sleep studies conducted at their lab.

Some other simple ways to experience the health benefits of mindfulness include:

Taking a mindful walk — focusing on sensations like sounds, smells, and the wind on your face — can relax and refresh you.

Taking time to appreciate everyday things, such as a flower or tree, can help you see the beauty in life’s seemingly small moments.

Try observing your thoughts as if they were leaves floating by on a stream: Notice them pass, but don’t grab onto them or push them away. Just let them float along. This exercise encourages acceptance of things as they are, which is an essential aspect of mindfulness meditation.

When meditating, focus your mind by counting your breaths from 1 to 10, then starting back at one again. It might take a while before you’re able to clear out distracting thoughts and stay focused for more than a few seconds at a time; that’s okay. “Be patient,” Benson says. “With practice, you’ll get better.”

As a form of relaxation and stress management, meditation is safe for most people. It can help reduce symptoms of physical conditions such as high blood pressure and asthma by reducing the stress that exacerbates them. And although rare side effects have been reported among meditators — including lightheadedness and fainting in some cases — these effects are generally minor and temporary. But if you’re thinking about trying meditation for stress relief or other health reasons, make sure to consult your doctor first. This will ensure that reflection is right for you, particularly if you have an existing medical condition or take medicine regularly.

Meditation and Illness

One of the most common reasons people consider meditation is for stress relief. However, meditation has been shown to help with many different conditions and illnesses as well. Some research suggests that it can improve symptoms of diseases such as:

Anxiety, asthma, cancer, chronic pain, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, diabetes mellitus type 2, hypertension (high blood pressure), infertility disorders.

Meditation may also be useful if you have a medical condition or are recovering from surgery or an illness. It may also be beneficial to meditate before treatment so you’ll feel more in control of the situation.

Meditation might not be appropriate if your condition requires emergency medical procedures or treatment within a short time frame because meditation involves a level of concentration that may make it unsafe for you to drive. If this applies to you, talk with your doctor about whether meditation is right for you.

In most cases, if you meditate daily and have a chronic illness or medical condition, do so at the same time every day. If you have a flare-up in symptoms or your condition changes, consult your doctor before continuing with daily meditation.

Meditation might not be appropriate if your condition requires emergency medical procedures or treatment within a short time frame because meditation involves a level of concentration that may make it unsafe for you to drive. If this applies to you, talk with your doctor about whether meditation is right for you.

Types of Meditation

Meditation is an umbrella term for the many ways to a relaxed state of being. There are many types of meditation and relaxation techniques that have meditation components. All share the same goal of achieving inner peace.

Guided meditation

The guided meditation process is exactly like any other meditation; it is done while listening to a prerecorded audio track with instructions and visualizations. The person meditating can either listen to the education or follow along on their own, but having the guide on the audio simplifies the process for beginners who may be intimidated by trying to meditate on their own. While they may still be new to the technique, listening to someone else explain how to meditate can help them relax and focus.

Mantra meditation

Mantra meditation is a type of meditation that uses a word or series of words to block the rest of the world from your mind. This process leaves you with a feeling of relaxation and peace. It can be a word, phrase, or sound.

Practice mantra meditation for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness has become a popular topic in recent years, and there are more apps and books than you can count on to help you incorporate it into your daily routine. Many focus on reducing stress through mindfulness meditation: You sit or lie down and try to clear your head of all the thoughts whizzing around inside. Mindfulness meditation is often relatively short—you might spend just 10 minutes at a time trying to be “at the moment.”

Transcendental Meditation

When you focus your mind using a mantra to achieve inner peace, this is taught through multiple channels, including group classes at senior community centres.

Bonus points for making mediation a part of everyday life:

1) Breathe deeply throughout the day to help slow down your heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduce stress levels, and improve circulation. Deep breathing also helps clear the mind of doubts and worries.

2) Scan your body to release any tension that builds up during the day. To imagine yourself constantly releasing stress, take a deep breath and scan each part of your body from head to toe, concentrating on the places where you are holding the most tension. Then slowly breathe out as if your exhale is carrying away all negative energy with it.

3) Repeat a mantra throughout the day to help build concentration, focus, and clarity for meditation practice. You might choose one word or short phrase that sums up what you wish for yourself or others.

4) Walk and meditate by incorporating movement into your daily meditation session. For example, I start my morning by walking around my neighbourhood while repeating my favourite bloggers’ quotes in my head; the physical act of walking and repeating the words helps reinforce their messages.

5) Meditate at a busy time of day to build concentration and focus. Make it a daily routine to sit without distractions for five minutes before work or class. As you continue, you might find yourself able to meditate with more stimuli around you—without being too distracted by them—as your mind becomes used to concentrating on one thing at a time.

6) Pick up a meditation aid from the store, such as an aromatherapy necklace from Aveda that reminds me of zen gardens filled with flowers or AromaWorks’ Sweet Hart diffuser that fills my home with sweet scents of lavender and vanilla, which ultimately relaxes the mind and body.

You might choose a phrase from a spiritual text or philosophy that best suits you, such as “peace” or “abundance.”

7) Find a mantra to start your day with positive energy. Say it out loud as you get ready for the day—even as you drive to work—to set the tone for an optimistic mindset. In the evening, repeat the same words before going to bed to help release any worries of your day and prepare yourself for a deep slumber.

8) Commit to practicing meditation every day, even if only for five minutes just before going to sleep each night. This will help slow down your heart rate and reduce anxiety so that you have a better chance of sleeping soundly through the night.

9) Listen to a meditation CD before you go to sleep each night. Many albums feature gentle or instrumental music that will help slow your breathing and heart rate—and clear your mind of any stress from the day—so that you can drift off to sleep more peacefully.

10) Stick with it! It takes time to make meditation an effective habit in your life, so remain patient and consistent when starting out and during bumps along the road.

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