You don’t have to be a Zen master to benefit from a quieter, more peaceful mind.
Meditation, an ancient mind-body practice, may do wonders to relieve modern-day stress – and enhance overall well-being. In general, meditation involves learning to focus your attention. And, yes, it’s been done for thousands of years. But, research on the benefits of this practice is still ongoing.
It has been shown to produce positive changes in the body. For example, meditation may:
- Produce a calming, relaxing response
- Stimulate “feel-good” areas of the brain
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve blood flow and digestion
- Increase the ability to concentrate during everyday tasks
Some research suggests meditation may be helpful in easing stress and certain conditions, including:
- Anxiety Depression
- Chronic pain
Some people with chronic illnesses – such as cancer and heart disease – also use it to help cope with physical and emotional symptoms. If you’d like to give meditation a try, you can learn forms of it from classes, books, CDs, DVDs or online programs. But, you can also practice mindfulness on your own. Here are some basics for beginners:
- Find a peaceful place. A quiet, distraction-free zone is best.
- Get comfortable. Find a relaxing position. You might avoid lying down – if you think you’ll fall asleep.
- Focus your attention. Some people choose a word, phrase or sound – a mantra, such as om – to repeat aloud or silently. Others just concentrate on their breathing – or visualize a pleasing setting.
- Don’t worry about perfection. It’s normal to be distracted, especially at first. Masters of meditation say the art is in letting your thoughts just come and go – without mulling them over.
- Give it time. You might start small – with five-minute blocks of time, for example. As you become more practiced, work up to longer sessions.
Provided by Arleen Fitzgerald L.I.C.S.W. Arleen Fitzgerald has a master's degree and has been an independently licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist for the past 20 years in public and private practice settings. She works in the field of integrating medical and behavioral health care.