It is widely accepted that meditation can have a positive effect on reducing stress and anxiety. However, it is not very clear why meditation can help to reduce stress. The most likely explanation is that meditation allows your mind to detach from unpleasant thoughts and allow you to focus on pleasant ones. However, the exact mechanisms by which meditation helps to reduce stress is not yet well understood.
What Research Says
Scientific research has confirmed that meditation does reduce the level of cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol is the body’s “fight-or-flight” hormone. When people are stressed, their bodies produce more of this hormone, which can lead to increased blood pressure and an increased heart rate. It is believed that high levels of cortisol in the bloodstream are responsible for the heightened sensitivity to pain that people experience during times of stress. Meditation has been shown to significantly reduce the level of cortisol in the bloodstream.
Another scientific study reported that meditation reduced the perception of pain. This study was conducted by the National Institute of Health. It found that subjects who meditated experienced less pain than those who did not meditate. Because pain is considered to be a serious threat to one’s health, the reduction of pain associated with meditation may have important implications for the treatment of diseases such as cancer.
A third scientific study found that meditation had a significant impact on the immune system. It is well known that the immune system plays a major role in the body’s ability to fight disease. People who suffer from diseases such as diabetes or HIV/AIDS often report that they feel sick more often and that their symptoms are worse than those who do not suffer from such ailments. Scientists believe that this immune system response is the result of increased activity of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. By increasing the number of lymphocytes, meditation could reduce stress and help to prevent illness.
Reduce Stress With Meditation
In addition to the direct effects of meditation on the immune system, some researchers are investigating the possible benefits of meditation on mental health. Increased mental awareness of one’s own body has been described as a stress relief. Other researchers have observed that meditators experience less heart attack and stroke, a reduction in asthma and other conditions associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease, and an improvement in mood. There is also evidence that meditation reduces blood pressure and respiration.
While many people make the mistake of equating too much exercise with being stressed, this is not the case. In fact, exercise can actually reduce stress and improve overall health. For instance, yoga has been shown to reduce stress as well as improving strength, flexibility, and coordination.
Some Other Helpful Exercises
A variety of breathing exercises, muscle relaxation and other techniques can be used to reduce stress. It is recommended that meditation be done at least twenty minutes a day. The best time to begin meditation is in the morning when you are first starting to feel sluggish. Twenty minutes will allow your mind to settle and your body to become still. If you are very stressed out, you could choose an hour or two early to start your meditation.
You should not feel pressure to meditate every time you feel overwhelmed or run down. Meditation should be done as a way of releasing any unwanted or unnecessary thoughts. When you do begin to meditate, try to imagine that you are surrounded by beautiful, tranquil scenery. Imagine that you are floating in air and that each breath is being felt and received. You should also incorporate images in your imagination such as clouds, waterfalls, or other natural scenes.