Meditation and Relieving Stress
In 2007, the national government took a survey to see how many people had meditated within the last 12 months and they found that 20 million Americans had practiced meditation at some time. Meditation has been a practice long used in many ancient and spiritual traditions, but recently it has been practiced secularly and non-religiously. Many people find meditation to be anxiety-relieving, to cope with illness or to enhance health and well-being.
For a long time it was unknown exactly what happens to the brain when a person meditates, but a new study claims to have the answers as to what happens when someone regularly engages in meditation. There are several types of meditation practices: mindfulness, mantra and guided meditation. One of the researchers in the study says that all techniques can be put into one of two groups, which are concentrative meditation and nondirective meditation.
Concentrative meditation is when you focus on breathing and concentrating on certain thoughts, thereby blocking out other thoughts. Nondirective meditation is when someone focuses on breathing or on a meditation sound while their mind is allowed to wander. This is typically what occurs in many modern day practices of meditation.
According to the study, “they found that when participants practiced nondirective meditation, they had higher brain activity in areas associated with processing self-related thoughts and feelings than when they were resting. But when subjects practiced concentrative meditation, their brain activity was nearly the same as when they were resting." Nondirective meditation allows the mind to process memories and emotions more clearly than concentrated meditation, but the brain is at its highest activity when we rest.
Meditation can reduce stress, and studies have shown that it may improve mood and sleep quality, especially in teenage cancer patients. A 2012 study found that meditation might improve memory loss in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
If you often feel stressed, anxious or have insomnia, try meditating two times a day. Even if you are not experiencing any of these problems, meditation is a great way to clear your heard. It is important to note that regular exercise and healthy diet have many health benefits too, so a combination of exercise, healthy diet, regular sleep, and meditation can all be very beneficial.