The Stress Breath Exercise
Meditation Reverses The Effects Of The Stress Response
In meditation, you journey from activity to silence. You go beyond the noisy thoughts in the mind and enter a state of restful alertness. Youre in a state of deep rest, yet your mind is fully alert and awake. In this state of restful alertness, the body experiences many healing effects that are the opposite of the fight-or-flight response, including:
- More efficient oxygen use by the body
- Decreased inflammation in the body
You dont have to be an advanced meditator to benefit from meditation. A recent study found that after a six-day meditation retreat, new meditators experienced significant reductions in stress and depressive symptoms lasting 10 months after the retreat.
When you meditate on a regular basis, you are giving your body all of the benefits of deep rest, which gradually help to release the accumulated effects of chronic stress and restore your body to its natural state of balance and health.
Mindfulness For Stress Reduction
Would you like to reduce your stress? Very few people would say no to that offer! But what exactly does it mean?
We all have a sense of how stress manifests in our personal life and what we want to change. Many people would say they are looking for relief from the worries that plague them, while others might point to their stiff neck or tight jaw, or mention their headaches. However we experience it personally, stress impacts both our minds and bodies. It is a state of hyper-arousal where our minds and bodies are on alert, our adrenaline is flowing, and we feel a need to do something to protect ourselves.
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When Is It Better To Meditate
There is no particular research concerning the most suitable time for meditation. Most people prefer early morning. After you wake up your mind is fresh and you dont think about tasks and problems. It helps to stay calm and productive during the day. However, if waking up at the break of dawn isnt your forte, you may carve out some time to process your thoughts and feelings after work. It will help you to relieve tension after a long wearing day. There are also people who have no time in the morning and after work. They meditate during their lunch time. It takes only 10 minutes and helps them work more efficiently.
Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain
The meditation-and-the-brain research has been rolling in steadily for a number of years now, with new studies coming out just about every week to illustrate some new benefit of meditation. Or, rather, some ancient benefit that is just now being confirmed with fMRI or EEG. The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the me centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions. Below are some of the most exciting studies to come out in the last few years and show that meditation really does produce measurable changes in our most important organ. Skeptics, of course, may ask what good are a few brain changes if the psychological effects arent simultaneously being illustrated? Luckily, theres good evidence for those as well, with studies reporting that meditation helps relieve our subjective levels of anxiety and depression, and improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being.
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Worth a Try?
How Stress Comes About And Its Effects
Stress is among the global issues affecting human beings. Studies by the American Physiological Association show that the rate at which people get stressed is rising through the years
And some of the main causes according to the study are money and work. Although, many people get stressed by different things and they get affected differently, mentally, physically and emotionally.
Some of the effects of stress include headaches, increased depression, high blood sugar, fatigue, cloudy thinking, low sex drive, insomnia, tensed muscles and even fertility issues, just to mention a few.
Stress occurs when someone feels they cant handle the pressure that various aspects of their lives bring to them.
When this happens, they feel overwhelmed by the issue proving to be too difficult for them to handle together with the other demands of everyday life.
This causes increased production of the stress hormone called Cortisol, which in turn causes the release of cytokines. Cytokines are chemicals that cause inflammation in the body which contribute to the damaging effects of stress.
Life has its own challenges and we cannot avoid that, but we have the ability to better the way we look at the hardships and the way we handle them that may help reduce stress in a huge way.
There are many methods that can help with this including social support, exercising and meditation.
It’s Ok For Your Mind To Wander
If you notice your mind wandering, that’s good. Meditation can be challenging for some people, particularly perfectionists. We sometimes fall into the trap of wanting to do it “right” and becoming frustrated with ourselves when our mind drifts off. The thing to remember is that if you notice this happening, that’s a good thingyou noticed.
Noticing and redirecting your thoughts back to the focus of your meditation is the real point of meditation. It’s virtually impossible to prevent your mind from wandering anyway.
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A Weapon Against Addiction
In itself, this mechanism is meant to help us not only survive but thrive. However, it can also lead to addiction if, for instance, the brain gets stuck in an unhelpful feedback loop with a pleasurable stimulus.
Research shows that meditation and mindfulness techniques can help a person fight back against those unhelpful impulses and gain more self-control. Thus, a study from 2015 found that people who smoked were able to cut down on their smoking after taking up mindfulness training.
Similarly, research published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology in 2017 showed that people who usually engaged in heavy drinking consumed 9.3 fewer units of alcohol, which is the equivalent of around 3 pints of beer, in the week that followed brief mindfulness training.
Mindfulness, research suggests, also helps people who want to lose weight. Mindful eating, as it is called, teaches people to become aware of their eating-related impulses in the moment and to truly become aware of the sensation of every bite.
A study from last year confirmed that participants who attended three or four mindfulness sessions were able to lose about 6.6 pounds , on average, over 6 months, while peers who attended fewer sessions only lost around 2 pounds , on average.
Studies indicate that meditating even 20 minutes per day for a few weeks was already enough to start experiencing the benefits, she explained.
One person told MNT:
Reducing Stress To Improve Brain Health Is Achieved By Lowering The Cortisol
Cortisol is a stress hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter responsible for chemical communications in the brain. The breakdown of chemical signaling in the brain due to excess cortisol results in neurological symptoms such as memory loss, depression, fatigue and insomnia. In addition, a whole host of physical symptoms may be attributed to high cortisol some of which include weight gain, acne, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.
During our evaluation, if we find that elevated cortisol levels are due to underlying disease such as Cushings disease, our experts across Pacific Neuroscience Institutes centers of excellence can provide the appropriate consultation and treatment.
For stress related to everyday living, the Pacific Brain Health Center offers stress reduction techniques that help regulate cortisol levels to achieve emotional equilibrium and prevent brain cell damage. This works by:
- Reduction of cortisol stress hormone
- Reduction of cortisol releasing factor
- Deactivation of the stress response in the body
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A Breath Practice: Relieve The Symptoms Of Stress
This simple yet effective form of deep breathing defuses the stress feedback loop and teaches your brain and body to relax.
We can get in touch with our breath with a simple yet effective form of deep breathing called intentional breathing. Unlike other breathing techniques, the emphasis here is to allow the natural flow of the breath by inhaling from the top down and exhaling from the bottom up.
Becoming More Mindful Through Meditation To Increase Brain Power
Mindfulness training is a widely accessible activity which is deeply rooted in centuries old Buddhist meditation practices. Scientific inquiry into understanding the neuroscience behind this ancient spiritual practice, specifically, Contemplative Neuroscience has applied leading-edge neuroimaging techniques showing that regular, mindfulness meditation practice increases aspects of brain function and structure that tend to decline with normal aging.
This includes areas in the prefrontal cortex, responsible for organization, planning, and attention, as well as the hippocampus, responsible for learning and memory, all of which tend to decline in size and activity over time.
Addional supporting research shows that mindfulness meditation strengthens brain activity and connectivity, psychological well-being, as well as brain volume. These data indicate that meditation can counteract memory issues and general cognitive decline associated with Mild Cognitive Impairment and dementia.
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What Is Mindfulness Meditation
Meditation can be defined in many ways. But a simple way to think of it is training your attention to achieve a mental state of calm concentration and positive emotions.
Mindfulness is one of the most popular meditation techniques. It has two main parts: attention and acceptance.
The attention piece is about tuning into your experiences to focus on what’s happening in the present moment. It typically involves directing your awareness to your breath, your thoughts, the physical sensations in your body and the feelings you are experiencing. The acceptance piece involves observing those feelings and sensations without judgment. Instead of responding or reacting to those thoughts or feelings, you aim to note them and let them go.
Mindfulness classes and mindfulness-based therapies provide the tools to put those concepts into practice. Such programs might include breathing exercises, yoga and guided lessons to help you become aware of your body sensations, thoughts and feelings.
Much of the research on mindfulness has focused on two types of interventions:
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a therapeutic intervention that involves weekly group classes and daily mindfulness exercises to practice at home, over an 8-week period. MBSR teaches people how to increase mindfulness through yoga and meditation.
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is a therapeutic intervention that combines elements of MBSR and cognitive behavioral therapy to treat people with depression.
Can Decrease Blood Pressure
Meditation can also improve physical health by reducing strain on the heart.
Over time, high blood pressure makes the heart work harder to pump blood, which can lead to poor heart function.
High blood pressure also contributes to atherosclerosis, or a narrowing of the arteries, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
A meta-analysis of 12 studies enrolling nearly 1000 participants found that meditation helped reduce blood pressure. This was more effective among older volunteers and those who had higher blood pressure prior to the study (
In part, meditation appears to control blood pressure by relaxing the nerve signals that coordinate heart function, blood vessel tension, and the fight-or-flight response that increases alertness in stressful situations .
Blood pressure decreases not only during meditation but also over time in individuals who meditate regularly. This can reduce strain on the heart and arteries, helping prevent heart disease.
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What Are Some Of The Effects Of Stress
In an aroused state, your body produces an adrenaline rush that increases your heart rate, elevates your respiration, tenses your muscles, and changes your blood flow. While this might be just what you need to complete a task or escape a dangerous situation, it might be not be a useful reaction to the current situation and could be counter-productive.
Under stress, you might find your thoughts racing in cycles you cant escape. You might feel restless and anxious, unable to concentrate. You might become irritable, impulsive, angry, or aggressive. Over time, you might experience insomnia, reduced pain tolerance, and hyper-vigilance.
So it is helpful to know how to shift out of this aroused state to a relaxed state where your mind and body are at rest. Practicing mindfulness can provide that shift.
Meditation Promotes Relaxation And Restful Sleep
Many of us live in a state of chronic sleep deprivation, which increases our stress levels and irritability. Scientific studies have found that meditation is an effective therapy for insomnia and can help you get the restful sleep that is vital to physical and emotional health.
When you meditate, your brain produces more brainwaves that promote deep relaxation, including alpha and theta brainwaves, which are associated with deep relaxation. After a meditation practice, you carry this sense of greater calm with you into your activities, allowing you to stay more centered in the face of lifes inevitable upsets. Then when its time to bed, instead of ruminating about what happened earlier in the day, you are more likely to drift to sleepand stay asleep.
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How Do I Meditate To Reduce Stress
Stress can manifest itself in our bodies as pain in the neck or back, as insomnia or other sleeping-related issues, or as headaches and migraines. Stress affects our ability to focus and concentrate, weakens our immune system and can make us feel tired and weak.
Chronic stress can even increase the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, and exacerbate mental health conditions like depression and personality disorders. The good news is, meditation not only works to relieve stress but also helps us develop the skills needed to cope with and manage stress in our daily lives. So how does it work?
Though there are various techniques within the larger practice of meditation, from simple breathing exercises to the art of mindfulness to mind-body scans, on the whole, meditation is about harnessing the power of the mind through concentration. It involves training your thoughts and attention, being aware of the present moment, and staying in the here and now in order to bring about a calm, focused state of being.
Doing so triggers the body to respond in the exact opposite way it would to stress- by eliciting the bodys relaxation response as opposed to the fight or flight response that stress delivers.
How Much Can Meditation Reduce Stress
- Post published:January 25, 2022
- Post category:Online Meditation Planet Tips and Advice
- Post last modified:January 20, 2022
Meditation is an activity that can have many personal benefits, along with improving your sleep and reducing stress. Increased levels of stress can seriously impact your health, so learning how to manage stress can have a substantial positive impact on your life. Meditation is one of the easiest ways to reduce stress, but many people find it difficult to be disciplined enough to do it.
The efficacy of meditation in reducing stress has been documented in scientific studies. In the 2018 study that relied on the Headspace app, meditation was shown to reduce stress by 14% over just ten days.
Mindfulness-based therapies have shown consistent and clinically significant effects on treating mental disorders. Mindfulness meditation has also shown effective results in stress reduction on first-time meditators as well as advanced meditators. Read on to discover how stress affects the mind and body and how you can use meditation to help alleviate stress.
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Assessment Of Potential Publication Bias
We could not conduct any quantitative tests for publication bias since few studies were available for most outcomes and many were excluded from the meta-analysis due to missing data. We reviewed the clinicaltrials.gov registration database to identify trials completed three or more years ago that prespecified our outcomes of interest and did not publish at all or did not publish all prespecified outcomes. We found five trials that appeared to have been completed before Jan 1, 2010 that did not publish all the outcomes they had prespecified, and found nine trials for which we could not find an associated publication. Since only six outcomes were excluded from the analyses of the relative difference-in-change scores between groups, whereas 16 outcomes were excluded from the meta-analyses, our findings from the primary analyses are less likely to be affected by publication bias than the meta-analyses.
Everything You Should Know About Meditation And Stress
Meditation is a mental exercise with a thousand-year history, which helps to reduce numerous issues and improve mental and physical health. Nowadays, more and more people start meditating because of leading stress-riddled lifestyles. This technique keeps gaining popularity due to its simplicity and effectiveness. Its also equipment-free and time-sparing.
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The Role Of Relaxation
There is an element of more direct physical relaxation involved in meditation as well, obviously, so this double dose of relaxation can really be helpful for shrugging off stress. A greater gain that meditation can bring is the long-term resilience that can come with regular practice.
Research has shown that those who practice meditation regularly begin to experience changes in their response to stress that allow them to recover from stressful situations more easily and experience less stress from the challenges they face in their everyday lives.
Some of this is thought to be the result of the increase in positive mood that can come from meditation research shows that those who experience positive moods more often are more resilient toward stress. Other research has found changes in the brains of regular meditation practitioners that are linked with a decreased reactivity toward stress.
The practice of learning to refocus your thoughts can also help you redirect yourself when you fall into negative thinking patterns, which in itself can help relieve stress. Meditation offers several solutions in one simple activity.