During meditation, there is a physiological shift called ‘the relaxation response’ (RR). This response is exactly opposite the stress response that so many of us have a hard time avoiding in our daily lives. You may think you have lots of ways to relax—sleeping, watching TV, reading—but these activities do not produce the same physiological changes that happen when you meditate.

In addition to changes in brain waves, heart rate and respiration rate, meditation results in disengaging from the thinking process. You become a detached observer of the clutter that fills your mind and learn to let go of it all, one breath, one moment at time. Your troubles won’t magically disappear, but your perspective about them will shift, even if you meditate just a few days a week.

How does Meditation work?
When you are stressed, your body releases hormones that can have a negative effect on your health. Research shows having stress hormones (e.g., cortisol) circulating through your body for prolonged periods is associated with certain diseases. Meditation brings about the RR and reduces the levels of stress hormones. Now, your immune system is better able protect you from illness, recover quickly, and restore optimal wellbeing.

What can Meditation Do For You? A Lot!
Reduces tension-related pain
Strengthens the immune system
Improves quality of sleep
Strengthens neural pathways
Improves emotional stability
Enhances creativity
Boosts brain chemicals associated with mood, memory and learning

Start a Meditation Practice
Begin with 5 minutes a day and progress to 20 minutes at least 3-4 times a week. Use sounds of nature, music, a candle, or a guided imagery to help you get started. Meditation is often done seated or lying down. Use cushions or a chair to support your posture. Eyes closed or open is up to you.

You’ll soon discover that meditation is a state of mind involving awareness and acceptance, that you can do in the midst of any activity.

 

Resources
Meditation: A Simple, Fast Way to Reduce Stress. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858

Types of Meditation. Spirituality and Health Online. http://www.spiritual-healing-for-you.com/types-of-meditation.html

Resources for Learning about Meditation: Institute for Noetic Sciences http://noetic.org/meditation

The Relaxation Revolution: Enhancing Health through Mind-Body Medicine. Dr. Benson speaks to a small group about the role of the relaxation response in enhancing personal health with mind-body techniques. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZ7JfC3_Zgc

Kabat-Zinn, J. Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness (Delta Trade Paperbacks, 1990).

Mehrmann, Craid S., “Meditation: Classifications, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications” in Naturopathic Doctor News & Review 11:1, (January 2014), 1; 6-9

What is Mind-body Medicine? University of Maryland Medical Center http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/treatment/mindbody-medicine#ixzz3rCoMN2ST

Tang, YY, et al., “The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation.” Nat Rev Neurosci. 2015 Apr;16(4):213-25. doi: 10.1038/nrn3916. Epub 2015 Mar 18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25783612

Morgan, Nani et al. “The Effects of Mind-Body Therapies on the Immune System: Meta-Analysis.” Ed. Reury F. P. Bacurau. PLoS ONE 9.7 (2014): e100903. PMC. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4079606/

Joseph E. & Murray, Michael T. (eds.) Textbook of Natural Medicine (4th ed). (Churchill Livingstone. 2013.

Chiessa, A. and Serretti, A. “Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: a review and meta-analysis.” J Altern Complement Med. 2009 May; 15(5):593-600. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0028310/

Boccia, Maddalena, Laura Piccardi, and Paola Guariglia. “The Meditative Mind: A Comprehensive Meta-Analysis of MRI Studies.” BioMed Research International 2015 (2015): 419808. PMC. Web. 11 Nov. 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4471247/

Anderson JW, Liu C, Kryscio RJ. “Blood pressure response to transcendental meditation: a meta-analysis.” Am J Hypertens. 2008;21:310-316.

Ospina, M. B. et al. “Meditation practices for health: state of the research.” Evid. Rep. Technol. Assess. (Full Rep.) 155, 1–263 (2007).

Epel E, Daubenmier J, Moskowitz JT, Folkman S, Blackburn E. “Can meditation slow rate of cellular aging? Cognitive stress, mindfulness, and telomeres.” Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Aug; 1172:34-53.

Vitetta L, Anton B, Cortizo F, Sali A. “Mind-body medicine: stress and its impact on overall health and longevity.” Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005;1057:492-505.

Xiong GL, Doraiswamy PM. “Does meditation enhance cognition and brain plasticity?” Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Aug;1172:63-9.

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