Something to think on before you answer the questions.
“There’s been some real scepticism in the medical community about meditation and mindfulness meditation,” – Dr Elizabeth Hoge, associate professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical Center.
How Are Open Minded You To New Ideas?
- How many of us are sceptics when it comes to new research on alternative treatments for common ailments?
- How many of us would try a treatment after reading the research?
- And how many of us would recommend it to a family member or friend?
- It’s becoming increasingly popular practice.
So researchers are claiming that meditation may ease anxiety and stress. Would you consider learning the techniques of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction if it you an overall general wellbeing?
In simple terms:
Meditation is a simple technique that, if practised for as few as 10 minutes each day, can help you control stress, decrease anxiety, improve cardiovascular health, and achieve a greater capacity for relaxation, plus a whole lot more!
Meditation Is Not New.
In fact, meditation has been practised for thousands of years by many different religions and in various forms.anxiety
In the 1970’s a Harvard doctor called Herbert Benson developed and pioneered a meditative technique called the “relaxation response.” The technique has gained acceptance by physicians and therapists worldwide that meditation may ease anxiety and stress as well as possibly having a positive effect on depression and hypertension.
Related Article: The Telegraph – Science
The Hidden Dangers of Stress.
Stress is a modern day mental nightmare, resulting in nearly half of all Americans been kept up during the night, according to a recent survey from the American Psychological Association. The worrying evidence is that many say they don’t do anything to combat it, yet it takes a toll; stress is linked to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
So What Is Meditation? And What Is Mindfulness?
The best explanation I have found on both can be found on Headspace:
- Meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well.
- Mindfulness is the ability to be present, to rest in the here and now, fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment.
So in layman’s terms, meditation is the practice of focusing your attention on one single point of reference turning your attention away from distracting thoughts and focusing on the present moment. It can be on your breathing, the in and out motion of your breath, on bodily sensations, or on a word or phrase which is known as a mantra.
A brilliant cartoon from The New Yorker sums it up:
Two monks are sitting side by side, meditating. The younger one is giving the older one a quizzical look, to which the older one responds, “Nothing happens next. This is it.”
When We Were Hunters And Gathers.
I suppose we can’t imagine having to hunt and forage for our food and at the same time trying to stay alive in the process. That’s where the “fight or flight” response kicks in. We either stay and fight whatever was in front of us or we would simply run.
We can all experience the same response today, no, not running from a large predator just about to take a chunk out you, more like when we put our bodies and minds into a stressful situation.
Think of it this way, when our bodies are exposed to a sudden stress or threat, we respond with a characteristic “fight or flight” response. The ”adrenaline rush” we experience is a result of the release of the hormones epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. They cause an increase in blood pressure and pulse rate, faster breathing, and increased blood flow to the muscles.
Meditation Does The Complete Opposite.
When Dr Herbert Benson pioneered the, it soon became clear that the relaxation response created the complete opposite bodily reaction from the “fight or flight” response to a state of deep relaxation in which our breathing, pulse rate, blood pressure, and metabolism are decreased.
So, by learning meditation we lower our stress and anxiety levels which then can lead to enhanced mood, lower blood pressure, improved digestion, and a reduction of everyday stress.
So are you becoming more open-minded on the possibility that meditation may ease anxiety and stress?
Meditation and Stress Research.
Now, there’s fresh evidence in favour of mindfulness practices in a new study published in the journal Psychiatry Research, anxious people who took a mindfulness course where they learned several different strategies reacted to stress better and had a lower hormonal and inflammatory response than people who didn’t practice mindfulness.
If you want to know more about these programs a good place to start will be visiting The Mindfulness Institute who run programs in the US as well as in the UK.
Also if you want to try it first hand and get a sense of mindfulness meditation, you can try one of the guided recordings by Dr Ronald Siegel, an assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. They are available for free at www.mindfulness-solution.com.
You may also want to follow up on this article. Stress Test is a series about the science behind our busy lives and how stress affects our bodies. The bi-weekly column uncovers the latest research and explains how to put it to use in a practical way and how meditation may ease anxiety and stress.
Types Of Meditation
There are many types of meditation and relaxation techniques that have meditation components. All share the same goal of achieving inner peace.
This is sometimes called guided imagery or visualization, in this method of meditation, you form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing. You try to use as many senses as possible, such as smells, sights, sounds and textures. You may be led through this process by a guide or teacher.
In this type of meditation, you silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.Mindfulness meditation.
Is based on being mindful or having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment. In mindfulness meditation, you broaden your conscious awareness. You focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgment.
This practice generally combines meditation, relaxation, physical movement and breathing exercises to restore and maintain balance. Qigong (CHEE-gung) is part of traditional Chinese medicine.
This is a form of gentle Chinese martial arts. In tai chi (TIE-CHEE), you perform a self-paced series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner while practising deep breathing.
Transcendental Meditation is a simple, natural technique. In Transcendental Meditation, you silently repeat a personally assigned mantra, such as a word, sound or phrase, in a specific way. This form of meditation may allow your body to settle into a state of profound rest and relaxation and your mind to achieve a state of inner peace, without needing to use concentration or effort.
You perform a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. As you move through poses that require balance and concentration, you’re encouraged to focus less on your busy day and more on the moment.
Benefits of Mindfulness Stress Reduction Exercises.
After a busy day how many of us crash out the couch pour a drink watch a bit of TV or read a book thinking we are relaxing? Sorry to disappoint you it’s not going to produce the physical and psychological benefits of a proper Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction exercise. For that, you’ll need to actively practice the technique.
This is not a case of “one size fits all.”There is no single relaxation technique that is best for everyone. The right relaxation technique is the one that gives the best results and that individual to you, it needs to fit your lifestyle and is able to focus your mind and interrupt your everyday thoughts to produce the relaxation response.
Once you have chosen and mastered your relaxation exercise you may start to see some of the real benefits of meditation:
- Your heart rate slows down.
- Your breathing becomes slower and deeper.
- Your blood pressure drops or stabilizes.
- Your muscles start to relax.
- Your blood flow to the brain increases.
And add to that it’s calming physical effects, the relaxation response also increases your energy and focus, fights off illness, relieves aches and pains, heightens problem-solving abilities, and boosts motivation and productivity.
Anyone can reap these benefits with regular practice.
It just takes an open mind to have a go, it will only cost you 20 minutes a day to start with and its free! Meditation is not for everyone, but there is a growing belief that meditation may ease anxiety and stress and don’t be put off by people who think meditation is a bit of 60’s hippy stuff, the “flower people”.
If done correctly, with an open mind and patience, as it does take time to learn, the emotional benefits of meditation can include:
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
- Building skills to manage your stress
- Increasing self-awareness
- Focusing on the present
- Reducing negative emotions
- Increasing imagination and creativity
- Increasing patience and tolerance
For an idea on exercises, the website www.themindfulword.org provides an excellent outline of some of the most popular Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction exercises.
Additional Resources On Meditation May Ease Anxiety And Stress.