Stress is everywhere, and it manifests itself in our minds and bodies. Stress can cause anxiety and depression. It can even cause physical aches and pains that can even turn into long term health problems.
In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, stress can have a negative effect on your musculoskeletal system, respiratory and cardiovascular systems, as well as your endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous and reproductive systems. So, basically, your entire body is affected by stress.
So, what if there was a cure for all of this stress, or at the very least something that you could do today that would greatly reduce stress and the painful hold it has on you? Well, there is, and it’s called, meditation.
First, what is stress?
Simply put, stress happens when a person worries about past, present or future things, focusing on the perceived negative outcome.
What is meditation?
Meditation is the opposite of stress. Meditation is a state of thoughtless awareness. Meditation truly happens when you clear your mind of your past, present and future worries, and focus on the moment. It is a time when you should think of the good around you and be grateful for what you have. It is a time of reflecting on things you can control, and not worrying about what you can’t. Meditation, when done correctly, removes unnecessary stress.
How can you meditate?
Meditation comes in many forms, and can even be focused on different stressors in your life.
For instance, concentration meditation teaches you how to focus your mind; Heart-centered meditation happens when you quiet the mind and bring the awareness to the heart; Mindfulness meditation is when you to focus on negative thoughts as they move through your mind, so you can achieve a state of calm; Tai chi is a form of meditation that combines physical exercise with breathing and focus.
While there are many different ways to meditate, how you go about doing it, is up to you. If you feel like you meditate best in the lotus position while looking out your third eye, that is awesome! If you find that practicing Yoga while meditating is most effective, that’s fine, too. However, you can also meditate while exercising -- particularly going for a walk, hike or run outside. Doing so can help you refocus your stressful energy on what you are experiencing at the moment, so that you can better face life’s stressors with clarity of mind.
What is the science behind it? Does meditation really work?
Well, according to research published in the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, meditation has been found to relieve pain, reduce blood pressure, treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia to name just a few.
However, one of the biggest benefits is the immediate reduction of stress itself through refocusing your mind. In an article published in Science Magazine, it says that “A wandering mind is an unhealthy mind.” The author cited things such as text messages, IMs, phone calls, and emails causing our minds to wander about 50% of the time, losing focus as a result, and in turn, causing more stress.
In an article published by the Harvard Medical School, Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said that meditation can help people with what she calls, “unproductive worries.”
“If you have unproductive worries, you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently,” Dr. Hodge said. “You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness meditation teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self.”
What about heart health?
As you meditate and refocus your mind, it in turn stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system. This is the the branch of your nervous system that helps your body slow its heart rate down and return to a relaxed state after the threat of danger, or even when daily stressors have passed. When this branch is activated, your body can naturally rebuild itself, helping it grow faster, stronger and healthier.
So, if you are feeling the effects of stress on your mind, body or heart, you might want to take a step back and meditate.