Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Meditate to Reduce Stress

During the day our mind spins.  We are thinking about work, our health, the interaction with the grocery store clerk, the person who cut you off in traffic, our family and friends, financial concerns.  This continuous internal dialogue and the emotions triggered are often a significant source of stress. Most of us aren’t even aware of this dialogue or the stress it causes.  Meditation is a wonderful tool to quiet the mind and decrease this stress.

So just what is meditation?  Meditation is a state of thoughtful awareness.   The practice of meditation brings clarity.  It clears the fog, quiets the brain and promotes mindfulness allowing us to be in the present moment rather than worrying about the future or lost in the past.  The goal of meditation is not to make your mind devoid of thought.  Simply try not to linger on any particular thought or follow it off on a tangent.  Acknowledge any thoughts or images and then allow them to fade away. 

Meditation has many research proven benefits.  These include:

  • Decreased blood pressure and hypertension
  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Decreased production of stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline
  • Improved immune function
  • Decreased anxiety, depression and insomnia
  • Enhanced concentration and memory

Meditation isn’t difficult.  Guided meditation MP3s or CD can be a great tool for beginners.  These meditations provide step by step instructions that are easy to follow.  When learning to meditate it does help to practice consistently.   Research has shown that it takes 30 days to create new neural pathways in the brain and establish a new habit. Try meditating for 15 minutes a day either in the morning or evening before bed and commit to practicing for a month before evaluating the effects or deciding meditation isn’t for you. 

I enjoy being outside and using my natural surroundings as a focus for meditation.   You can focus only on sound or bring your awareness to everything that you experience in your surroundings including smells, the temperature of the air, the breeze, the feeling of the sun on your skin. Below is a basic listening meditation.  Why not give it a try.

Bird Song Meditation

  • Go outdoors and find a place away from car and mechanical noises.  Make sure it is a place where you will not be disturbed.  Practicing this meditation in the early morning or evening works best.
  • Turn off your cell phone
  • Find a comfortable position either sitting or lying down
  • Take a few deep belly breaths to help you relax and center
  • Now close your eyes and focus your attention on the bird songs and calls.  Don’t try to identify or visualize the birds that you hear, just enjoy the varied sounds both near and far.
  • Gently bring your attention back to the bird songs when your mind begins to wander.


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