Meditation to aid stress relief

Does meditation reduce stress?

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Mention the word meditation and you are likely to get a range of opinions from 'just a load of tree hugging rubbish,' to 'it's a fantastic way to relax and prepare for the busy day ahead.'

So, let's look at the facts about meditation.

What does it mean?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Meditation as the process of ‘focusing one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting.’  Although associated with religious or spiritual ‘growth,’ meditation is often used as a method of relaxation and many believe it can provide real benefits for reducing stress levels, health and happiness levels.

What happens?

During meditation, your body begins to shift into a state of restfulness that is much deeper than deep sleep, and yet you are awake.  Blood pressure and heart rate decreases, breathing slows and muscle tension is reduced. 

A more restful state is induced, not because you have forced yourself to, but because the process of meditation allows this to take place.  Our Autonomic Nervous System takes care of both our ‘Fight or Flight Response’ (via the Sympathetic Nervous System) and our relaxation response (via the Parasympathetic Nervous System).

Stress management, writer's block, creativity

For those well practised in meditation, there is evidence of changes to the neurology of the brain, particularly those areas responsible for attention, sensory processing and bodily functions.

For those new to meditation and out of the habit of relaxation, this can take time and develop.

The benefits of Meditation

Given our hectic pace of life and the constant challenges and demands, the act of stopping and finding a space within our day to meditate and slow down can be very beneficial in taking the edge of our stress levels in the short term.

By encouraging relaxation and the engagement of the parasympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system this ‘time out’ aspect of meditation can remind our body and mind how to actually relax.  This relaxation can slow our heart rate and breathing and lower blood pressure.  Our adrenal glands will reduce the production of cortisol which is a key ingredient in stress.

In the medium to long term, meditation can lead to improved immune function and counteract the negative effects of chronic stress such as developing of depression, heart conditions, hypertension, and negative thinking.

Researchers are still learning how and why meditation is beneficial, but the evidence is clear - it is both physically and psychologically positive for us.

Next week I'll provide you with some tips on how to start incorporating meditation into your daily life.

For now...

Keep an eye out for the next blog.

Dave Algeo

Motivational Speaker on resilience and men's mental health. 

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