It is no secret here at Holistic Pain that we believe in the healing and rejuvenating power of meditation. It is an excellent tool for individuals to reduce the stress they feel in their daily lives. There are multiple forms of meditation and people are free to choose the techniques that work best for them.
Stress relief and meditation
At its most basic level, meditation is a way for you to take a few moments out of your busy schedule to concentrate only on yourself. This action is just one part of the many reasons that meditation is beneficial to relieving stress.
Stress is your body’s natural response to negative stimuli. Not all stress is bad, but it does ignite your brain’s natural fight or flight instinct. In today’s world, where running from woolly mammoths is not the biggest threat, stress has become much more complicated. Pressures at work and issues at home cause stress. It can be brought on by relatively small things, such as your morning commute, to huge life changes such as the death of a spouse. Stress isn’t something that just happens and goes away. Stress can accumulate over time and affect your health long term, even when you’re no longer feeling stressed.
Mindfulness is a practice that helps you ground and center and focus your thoughts and breathing on simply being. This form of meditation has been shown to help people slow down and live in the moment rather than be burdened by life’s most common stress-inducing events.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the studies that have recently been conducted on the correlation between meditation and stress relief.
Only 25 minutes a day
In July of 2014, Carnegie Mellon University published a study indicating that less than a half an hour of meditation just three days a week was enough to reduce stress. The study suggested that mindfulness meditation was most effective when performed on three consecutive days. Participants in the study who were taught mindful meditation techniques reported an overall reduction in their stress levels. The study also acknowledges that initially learning mindful meditation requires significant cognitive thought but over time the meditation becomes easier to perform.
Meditation help for addiction
At the end of 2013, a study by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst suggested that meditation, along with medication and cognitive therapies, offer significant benefits for patients dealing with the effects of addiction. The idea of teaching individuals in recovery meditation-like techniques may lead to different treatments in the future. Theoretical computer scientist Yariv Levy, who compiles other research to determine correlations, looked at the way addiction stresses out the brain’s natural reward system. Mindfulness meditation offers the ability to restore this balance.
Alternatives to psychotherapy
Sweden’s Lund University, in November of 2014, published a report that mindfulness mediation could be as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for patients dealing with depression and anxiety. The study specifically looked at the benefits of group mindfulness as compared with CBT. Head researcher Jan Sundquist said:
“This means that group mindfulness treatment should be considered as an alternative to individual psychotherapy, especially at primary health care centres that can’t offer everyone individual therapy.”
Meditation for better sleep
An article published this February in The JAMA Network Journals showed that mindful meditation could help patients better deal with insomnia. Insomnia and stress often go hand in hand and improving sleep could be one important step in reducing the effects of stress on the body. In a clinical trial, older adults who experienced moderate sleep disturbances were taught mindfulness meditation techniques. This process helped them change their poor sleeping habits and create an effective bedtime routine.
How to meditate effectively
So, now that you know meditation can help you beat stress in your life, improve your mood, and help you sleep, how do you start with a practice that works for you? Learning to meditate is about understanding how your mind works, allowing distractions to dissipate and embracing silence.
Here are some practical tips to get you started.
- Don’t be afraid to use tools: One form of meditation is known as guided meditation. With this practice you sit quietly and listen to a narrator take you on a journey. Sometimes guided meditation is the best way to get started because it gives you something to focus on so you don’t let your mind wander. There are multiple apps available for both iOS and Android platforms that can get you started.
- Create a quiet, comfortable space: Regardless of the type of meditation you choose, one of the best ways to relax is to create a safe space where you feel comfortable. This could be anything from a room in your house decorated with objects to make you feel like you’re in a shrine or your sofa or bed. As long as you have a quiet place free of distractions, you can learn to meditate.
- Focus your attention: Mindfulness is the key to a meditation practice. The idea is to quiet your mind and keep it from wandering toward thoughts that cause you stress. When you feel your mind start to wander, try to pull it back to the here and now. This can be a powerful tool for you to learn even when you’re not actively meditating.
- Concentrate on breathing: The best way to stop your mind from randomly wandering is to concentrate specifically on your breathing. Deep breath in, short hold, deep breath out. Feel yourself breath from your diaphragm. Learning breathing techniques, like mindfulness, can help you in other stressful situations as well.
Have you used meditation to relieve stress in your life?
Image by Harry Koopman via Flickr