For centuries, cultures around the world have used meditation — not medication — to relax, reduce stress, and find inner peace. Although it is ancient in origin, meditation is still a valuable way to relieve anxiety even in today’s complex world. No special equipment is required to meditate, although it may take a little practice to get it right and integrate it into daily life. Start out with this easy beginner’s guide.
What meditation is all about
According to the Himalayan Institute’s article, “What Meditation Is—and Isn’t,” mediation is an often confusing term. In English dictionaries, where for example, “meditation” and “contemplation” are used to define each other. However, in several far eastern languages such as Japanese, Chinese, Sanskrit and Tibetan, the word “meditation” means “to make the mind free of disturbing thoughts.” So unlike contemplation, meditation is actually the act of thinking less instead of concentrating thought on a particular problem or concern. It is also important to understand that while people of many religions meditate it is not inherent to any religion but can be practiced by anyone of any faith or no faith at all.
What types of meditation are there?
Just Google “types of meditation” and it will quickly become apparent that there is not one strictly defined. Among the easiest to begin with is mindfulness, which has been studied extensively and is thought to help relieve stress, ease depression and boost mood. The Harvard.edu article, “Mindfulness & Mediation” looks in depth at mindfulness and offers steps for using it.
Transcendental meditation (aka TM) is another common type that is best learned from an experienced teacher. According to tm.org, TM has been extensively researched by many well-respected medical institutions to relieve stress and anxiety, generate creativity and awareness, improve heart health, and other studies show it can be effective for people with anxiety, depression, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit disorder, and autism.
For those who just want to unwind and shake off daily stress, a way to meditate is progressive muscle relaxation (aka PMR), a form of meditation where the focus is on tensing and releasing one muscle group at time. This relaxes the muscles and leaves the body tension free.
The positivepsychology.com article, “Progressive Muscle Relaxation: 10 Scripts for Effective PMR,” notes PMR can help with stress and anxiety without any of the side effects of pharmaceuticals. For more ways to meditate check out the healthline.com article, “Which Type of Meditation Is Right for Me?”
How does meditation work to ease anxiety?
The short answer is, “We do not know exactly.” Scientists in many areas, especially neuroscience, are working on it. What we do know, however, is that physical changes do occur in the body during meditation, which are almost the complete opposite of those that occur during stressful times. For example, when meditating the heart rate and levels of the stress hormone go down while when the body is under stress both heart rate and cortisol go up.
Obviously the intricacies of the human brain are involved as well, and research has found that changes in the brain are likely at the root of how meditation works. The gaia.com article, “Harvard Meditation Study: Resilience, Tummo, and Inner Peace,” looks at one study by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital that found meditation can “improve expand and change your brain” resulting in enhanced senses, better decision making. Moreover, in beginners, parts of the brain that regulate a variety of other aspects including learning, cognition, memory, and compassion grew, while areas of the brain that regulate stress, fear and anxiety shrunk.
How to start meditating
There are millions of websites dedicated to ways to meditate as well as YouTube videos and commercial studios that teach a variety of methods. One easy and simple way to try it out is with the AARP article, “Ready to Give Meditation a Try?” that provides a guided meditation designed for anxiety relief.
There are many ways to improve life and meditation can help. So does living in a place like Sonrisa Senior Living, where the lifestyle is carefree and luxurious, and the emphasis is on health and happiness. Contact us to learn more about all we have to offer in housing and amenities.
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