Sitting still can be a moving experience. Meditation is a popular form of mindfulness-based stress reduction. In fact, 14.2% of American adults experimented with meditation in 2017.
One reason why meditation has become so popular is increased stress. More psychiatrists are recommending to people that they should try meditation in order to reduce stress and improve mental and physical health. But before you start meditating, it’s important to know the essentials before you sit down.
How does meditation reduce stress and anxiety? What are the different types of meditation you can experiment with? How can you create a routine for your meditation?
Answer these questions and you may be able to combat your anxiety through simple measures. Here is your quick guide to meditation.
How Meditation Can Reduce Stress
When a person’s brain perceives a threat, it triggers the adrenal glands to release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol allows the heart to beat faster, encouraging a person to run for a long distance from a threat.
Cortisol is a necessary hormone. Low amounts of it are healthy and permissible. But when cortisol levels are high for long periods of time, they can contribute to stress and anxiety.
A 2017 study examined cortisol rates in people who participated in a meditation retreat. It found that meditation allows people to handle higher rates of cortisol, channeling their hormones into productive activities. People can train their minds to focus on their internal condition, removing themselves from their stressors.
Participants in the meditation study reported lower rates of stress and anxiety, as well as less inflammation. Inflammation can cause stress through chronic pain, so reduced inflammation will help mitigate stress.
Common signs of stress include physical symptoms like dizziness. Meditation can be grounding to the present moment and help reduce physical symptoms of stress, and even lower blood pressure. However, meditation is not a cure-all, especially with physical symptoms. It should be one component of a portfolio of treatments for stress.
Types of Meditation
There are many types of meditation that you can pursue. You may even want to experiment with several of them to determine what you find most suitable for managing stress.
Guided imagery meditation is what many people think of when they hear about meditation. It involves focusing your mind on a particular place or situation you find comforting.
There are different variants of guided imagery meditation. Some people like to close their eyes and imagine a place inside their minds. Other people like to look at relaxing photographs.
You can listen to an audio track describing a location while you meditate. The track can give you a range of sensory details to imagine, making the location seem more real.
Mindfulness meditation enhances mindfulness. It allows you to have an increased awareness of yourself and the world around you. This makes it helpful for people with depression or diagnosed anxiety disorders.
During mindfulness meditation, you focus on your own experience. You take note of your breathing and heart rates. You can observe if you are in any physical pain, but you try to move your mind to other things.
It is okay to have wandering thoughts as you meditate. The goal is to take note of the thoughts and then let them pass.
After you meditate, you can write down what you thought and talk it over with someone. Do not judge yourself for any thoughts you have, regardless of what they are.
Mantra meditation focuses on words, not images or thoughts. As you meditate, you repeat a word or sentence in your head or aloud. This gives you something concrete to focus on.
Many mantras are religious in nature. Though the term comes from Eastern religion, you can find mantras for any religion. You can take a prayer you recite in church and use it as a mantra.
You can also come up with your own mantra. “You can do this” and “believe in yourself” are two popular ones.
As with mindfulness meditation, you may notice that you have other thoughts during your practice. Take note of them, and then return to your mantra. As time goes on, you may notice that you are able to focus on your mantra more easily.
Qi gong is a meditation style from traditional Chinese medicine. It is a good option for people who want to move while they meditate.
During a session, you will perform short choreographed movements. You will then hold positions for long periods of time, including while seated. You can chant mantras, focus on your breath, and reflect on religious ideas.
The point of qi gong is to improve focus inside of the mind. You learn how to execute precise movements with your body and remain still during select moments.
How to Develop a Meditation Routine
Meditation works best when you do it often or every day. There is no time of day that works best for everyone. You should meditate whenever it is most convenient for you.
First, find a place where you can meditate in peace. This could be either a yoga or meditation studio, in the comfort of your own home, or even someplace outside if you prefer to meditate in nature.
Try performing a winddown exercise to prepare you for meditation. You can read, write in a journal, or drink a glass of water. Deep breathing exercises are an effective stress reduction technique and help to slow down racing thoughts.
Start meditating only when you feel ready. Try to commit to at least 15 minutes of meditation and build up your practice to longer periods.
While the regular practice of meditation can relieve stress and anxiety, meditation may not eliminate chronic stress, anxiety, or depression. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is a good resource for those whose anxiety symptoms are persistent.
Combat Stress Through Comprehensive Measures
In closing, meditation may be a great tool to manage stress, decrease anxiety, cultivate a positive mood, and sense of well-being. It helps a person process the cortisol in their body, mitigating the symptoms of anxiety.
There are several kinds of meditation, and each person should practice meditation in the way they feel most comfortable. Guided imagery and mindfulness meditation let you remain seated. Mantra meditation lets you pray while qi gong lets you stay active.
If less stress and an improved mood peak your interest, research suggests that just a few minutes of daily practice can help to achieve many mental and physical health benefits.
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