Relieving Stress: A Guide to Meditation


Information, news, new ideas, technology, work, personal obligations, marital issues, financial anxieties, etc., are just a few things that are always barraging us. We are conscious of stresses and difficulties while trying to unwind. For the body to perform, it must activate the fight-or-flight stress response and all of the physiological processes that accompany it. Anxiety is like a perpetual alarm system, sending signals of worry for our very survival to our brains and bodies.

As a result, it has become exceedingly difficult for us to connect with our genuine selves, our inner selves. Meditation allows us to achieve mental clarity, control our feelings, release tension, and experience true relaxation.

When we’re under pressure, our bodies prepare us to fight, flee, or avoid the situation. This response can save your life if you’re ever in a life-threatening condition. But if this heightened alertness lasts too long, it can harm the body and the intellect. Contrary to this stress response, meditation has the opposite impact. It aids in cellular repair and restoration and protects against the harmful effects of stress on the body.

The more we meditate, the further we get from the worry, anxiety, and tension that originate in the left brain and contribute to high-tension beta waves. It promotes the dominance of the right brain’s slower alpha waves. When we’re calm, our left and right hemispheres work harmoniously, allowing us to think more clearly and develop novel answers to issues. Meditation, like any new skill, takes time and effort to master, but the more regularly you meditate, the more patient you’ll become.

A flower, a candle, a sound, a word, or even one’s breathing can all be focal points for meditative focus. The number of fleeting ideas gradually decreases with time. More significantly, you gradually become less identified with and attached to these thoughts. Even when meditating for the first time, distracting thoughts will arise; nevertheless, upon becoming aware of their presence, one’s focus is gently guided back to the topic of concentration. Objectless meditation entails doing nothing special beyond sitting, standing, or moving about.

Everyone has different sensations and emotions when they meditate. Most meditating people report feeling more relaxed, attentive, mentally focused, clear, and at peace. However, meditation is a comprehensive method in and of itself. The opportunities and advantages are secondary to the core goal. It would be best if you never meditated with the thought, “Am I doing this right? Will I heal? Will I work harder? Will I earn more money?” or the study, “This is nonsense; I’m wasting my time!” or “People will think I’m a fool!” in mind. Your ideas will seize your attention again, and you will wander off into thought, forgetting that you are supposed to be meditating. Doing so will negate any progress you’ve made in your meditation practice. The ideal mentality is the absence of any expectations. There will soon be a calm, integrated whole where the ego and the inner self coexist, learn from one another, and flourish.

Since meditation entails tuning inward, unpleasant aspects of oneself, such as suppressed but powerful negative emotions, may also surface. Not a problem. Accept who you are and let go of negative thoughts and feelings. Learn about them and talk about them with a friend or mental health professional if required. Use them to your advantage and grow as a person by helping you discover more about yourself. If so, give in, give up, and let go.

It is not necessarily a symptom of improper practice or an inability to concentrate correctly or long enough to be successful at meditation if one does not experience silence, peace of mind, mental clarity, bliss, or any other claimed benefits. Keep in mind that meditation is not something you do to achieve anything. This isn’t your everyday pursuit of excellence, progress, and success. It makes no difference whether or not you feel contentment or pleasure. You should be consistent in your practice, sitting quietly at the same time and in the same place each day and returning your mind gently to your meditation topic whenever it wanders. The left-brained Western mind finds it highly challenging to relax and meditate. It takes a lot of practice to let go of your mind’s chatter for 10-20 minutes every day. Don’t worry; you haven’t lost control of your consciousness. No one or object can hypnotize you or steal your mind.

No single method is universally superior; do what works best for you. Meditation is beneficial regardless of one’s religious affiliation. Meditation, however, has always been an integral aspect of every major religion, both Eastern and Western. It may be worthwhile to join a meditation group if you find it challenging to practice independently or with cassettes or CDs. Groups that practice Transcendental Meditation, visualization, Buddhist retreat centers, etc., may be found in all the major urban areas. Get out there and dig to find a spiritual discipline that speaks to your heart and calms your mind. The traditional Chinese proverb “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear” can help you along the way. Your personal life, connections, and other people and resources can all serve as “teachers.”

Meditation Suggestions:

Maintain a daily routine, ideally at the same time.
It can be done right when you wake up in the morning, at nightfall, or both. Meditating during the workday is helpful for some people.
Don’t blink or close one eye. Wide-open eyes tend to wander, so keep that in mind.
It’s best to do it before a meal rather than after.
Locate a quiet place in your home where you can go to concentrate. Set up your own sacred space with a cozy chair, cushion, or mat; arrange meaningful objects like seashells, crystals, feathers, and a dream catcher; and engage in cleansing and centering rituals like a warm bath with your preferred oils or a pinch of coarse sea salt. Let your mind wander, and your creativity run wild! Make this the one spot you visit specifically to pay respect to your inner self, and may you always find solace in the grace and luxury of being here. You only need a few supportive coworkers, a quiet space, and some imagination to turn your cubicle into a peaceful haven where you may meditate during the workday.
Keep your back straight, chin up, and arms at your sides. You can sit in a comfy chair or cross-legged on the floor with a tiny cushion under your buttocks to elevate them. If you lie down, sleep will come quickly. You can relax here but don’t expect to meditate.
Meditation Techniques
To get started, you need only:

Calm surroundings
A short time frame
openness of thought
* Find a seat that allows you to unwind totally. Sit in a chair or cross-legged on the floor, whichever you like.
* Put your eyes close.
* Pay attention to your breathing, and try to make it slow and deep.
* Feel yourself unwind with each exhalation. Take note of your mind wandering, and watch the thoughts pass like clouds in the sky. Do your best to disengage from your thoughts. The most challenging aspect of meditating is learning to silence the left brain’s constant monkey chatter.
* Do this at least five minutes every morning and night if possible. The goal should be to work out for 20 minutes twice a day.
* Remember the 3 P’s: persistence, patience, and practice. Figure out how to be content with doing nothing.

Regular meditation has positive effects on health.

Muscle relaxation, reduced stress hormones, and other stress chemicals, increased levels of oxygen and nutrients delivered to all cells and systems, and enhanced clearance of toxins, debris, and cellular waste all result from complete relaxation.
Slower Metabolism
elevated levels of oxygen and nutrients in the blood reaching the brain
Stress hormone levels (particularly cortisol, which tends to rise in response to chronic stress) are decreased.
A weakening of the muscles (as opposed to the stress-induced tightening of the muscles).
Whole-brain thinking takes into account both hemispheres. Establishing brand-new lines of neural communication between your right- and left-brain hemispheres to achieve a state of mental and emotional equilibrium. Feelings of contentment, joy, and other good emotions are triggered in parts of the brain. The result is a more organized mind that can better draw on its latent creativity, problem-solving prowess, and productiveness. In addition, one’s value-based decision-making skills improve, and one experiences a boost in energy and vitality and a calm, focused mental awareness that makes learning a breeze.
Boost your intelligence, focus, memory, intuition, creativity, perception, and capacity to concentrate and think clearly by a considerable margin!
Relaxation of the heart and lungs

Enhanced immunity due to increased antibody production.
Improved self-awareness and emotional regulation
Increased levels of feel-good neurotransmitters (such as endorphins and serotonin) that contribute to a long, healthy, happy life with a high quality of living
Even more positive outcomes from regular meditation practice include lower medical expenses, reduced prescription drug use, and fewer outpatient and emergency room visits.

Reduction in the prevalence of significant risk factors for disease, including hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking, alcohol use, drug addiction, obesity, the cardiovascular system’s sensitivity to stress, depression, and hostility.
Increased awareness of variables that protect health, such as job satisfaction, happiness, and social support
The second piece in this series will explore various forms of meditation.

Doctor Arien van der Merwe is the author of Stress Solutions, a relaxation CD titled “Relax & Unwind,” Health & Happiness, and Training manuals on Wellness/Peer Education, Stress Management, and Workplace Wellness.

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