Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, most Americans are suffering from moderate to high stress, with 44% reporting increased stress levels over the past five years.1 In addition to increased levels of stress, many people are experiencing increased levels of anxiety, depression and sleep disorders. While a person may turn to medication to help alleviate these symptoms, one option that should be considered is meditation.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is simply defined as a state of thoughtless awareness. It is a state of deep peace that occurs when the mind is calm and silent, yet completely alert.2 Meditation is a transformation that allows a person to gain control of their state of mind, allowing them to change it for the better.
Mediation has increased in popularity over the years as people discover its amazing health benefits. While many are trying it for the first time, meditation has been practiced for centuries, with records of it being practiced in 1500 BCE.
Health Benefits of Mediation
Studies indicate medication can yield the following benefits:
Decreased depression. Meditation may be as effective as antidepressant medications. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins Medicine found that meditation provided as much relief from anxiety and depression symptoms among 3,515 participants as antidepressant drugs.3
Pain relief. Studies indicate meditation blocks the pain receptors in the brain and can help relieve pain without the use of pain relievers.4
Decreased anxiety. Meditation helps to relieve symptoms of anxiety by increasing activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, (which controls worrying) and decreasing activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (which controls thinking and emotions.5)
Reduce alcohol and substance abuse. Studies indicate stress increases the likelihood of alcohol and drug use as a coping mechanism. Mindful meditation helps a person become aware of (and accept) thoughts and feelings as they arise, and to accept them instead of trying to suppress them. This change in thought process is believed to decrease the tendency of using addictive substances as certain situations arise.6
Improved focus, attention and ability to work under stress. Meditation helps to change the brain’s physical structure. Studies indicate the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula thickness were more pronounced in test subjects who practiced meditation than those who did not. These areas of the brain affect attention, sensory processing and interoception.
Even though mediation has been used for thousands of years, the amazing benefits of this ancient art are still being discovered.
Meditation is the time for a person to become in tune with their own mind. Here are few meditation tips:
Practice daily. Make an effort to meditate daily, preferably at the same time.
Start small. Start out by meditating for two to three minutes in the first week, then gradually increase by two minutes every week thereafter if desired.
Find a perfect location. Choose one spot in the home where you can meditate without interruption or distraction. (This includes removing cell phones, computers and televisions). Dim lights and essential oils such as lavender are a plus. It should be noted that a person can meditate anywhere, but beginners may find it beneficial to find a primary location initially.
Focus on your breath. Breathe slowly and deeply to let the body relax.
Remove all expectations. There are many types of meditation with each yielding several benefits. Not everyone will have the same experiences or results, so the key is to relax and go with the flow.
Let your mind wander. Many will try to stay focused or clear their minds of all thoughts, but sometimes letting the mind wander is beneficial: Dormant thoughts or feelings may arise that could lead to an unexpected, yet important discovery or breakthrough.
Patience is key. Try mediation for at least a month. It can take time to reap the benefits.
Many people become overly focused on how to meditate but in reality, there is no one correct way. The key is to find a method that helps you find calm and inner peace. Here are several mediation techniques:
Basic Medication. Sit in a relaxed, comfortable position. With your eyes closed, breathe slowly and deeply, focusing on each inhale and exhale.
Mindfulness Meditation. Mindfulness meditation consists of becoming fully aware of the present moment only, not thinking about the past or future. There are several ways to perform mindful meditation:
- Concentrate solely on the sounds of your environment. Soft, relaxing music can be used as well.
- Choose a healthy food you like to eat. Close your eyes as you eat it and use your other senses to notice the taste, smell, texture or sound. Take your time eating it, thinking how grateful you are for the blessings and abundance in your life.
- Close your eyes and simply focus on the feelings and sensations in your body.
Activity-Orientated Meditation. Activities like yoga, drawing, yoga, walking or gardening are a few activities ideal for activity meditation. These and other activities that allow a person to get “in the zone” and quiet the mind.
Spiritual Meditation. This type of meditation can be considered a form of prayer, where you talk to a higher power for guidance.
Meditation has been used for centuries as a form of healing and a way to increase a person’s overall well-being. Try meditation today. Your body will thank you.
1 Stressed in America. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/stressed-america.aspx
2Meditation Basics. http://www.freemeditation.com/meditation-basics/
3Meditation for Anxiety and Depression?
4Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: Evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3580050/
5Neural correlates of mindfulness meditation-related anxiety relief. http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/06/03/scan.nst041
6https:/ Mindfulness-Based Therapies for Substance Use Disorders: Part 1. /www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2818765/#!po=30.2632