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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
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.
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
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