Stress is killing us – it’s linked to the six major causes of death: cancer, lung ailments, heart disease, accidents, suicide and cirrhosis of the liver. And over 75 percent of all visits to the doctor’s office are for stress-related complaints and ailments.
What self-care solutions are available to reduce this harmful distress? Several easy and simple mindfulness meditation techniques can help. You can even do some standing in a checkout line, awaiting the doctor or while sitting in traffic. Along with yoga and repetitive prayer, mindful practices are known to evoke the “relaxation response”, which is the counterpart to the stress response. Meditators enjoy greater emotional clarity and mental resilience, and meditation can actually increase the amount of gray matter in your brain (which is a good thing!)
What is Modern Meditation?
In today’s relentless hyper-speed world of soundbites and snapchats, traditional practices like sitting and meditating for an hour in a quiet room are no longer practical. Modern Meditation reaches more people by adapting traditional meditation techniques to suit the needs and lifestyles of people today.
Science Backed Results
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University examined almost 19,000 meditation studies and found 47 trials on stress and anxiety which they deemed well-designed studies.1 The results of this meta-study were published in The Journal of the American Medical Association’s Internal Medicine, and suggest that mindful meditation brings calming benefits to psychological stresses like depression, anxiety, and pain. Meditation has been demonstrated to reduce insomnia and help lower blood pressure. The benefits of the relaxation response have also been shown to increase mitochondrial resiliency, which may reduce vulnerability to disease.2
In another study at the University of Maryland, 63 rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients used mindfulness meditation.3 They reported a 35% reduction in psychological distress and increased sense of well-being after an eight week period of mindfulness.
In the field of psychoneuroimmunology (the study of how the mind affects health and the body’s resistance to disease), research is showing that thoughts influence the immune system, and stress makes you sick.4 If that’s compelling enough to motivate you, why not launch a new healthy habit of mindfulness and meditation?
Prime Time Meditators
Katy Perry, Sir Paul McCartney, Clint Eastwood, Jerry Seinfeld, Kobe Bryant, Derek Jeter and LeBron James are just a few of the famous athletes, actors and musicians who have a meditation practice. Fortune 500 corporations like Google, Ford, Apple, Target, Deutsche Bank, Aetna, Adobe and Goldman Sachs now offer meditation classes to their employees. House Representative Tim Ryan has been hosting meditation sessions for staffers and members of Congress for years.
East Meets West
One does not have to sit in a full lotus pose on a Nepalese mountain to meditate or be mindful. Modern Meditation delivers a new approach to meditation based on scientific research by combining Eastern philosophy with Western science. As little as 5 to 10 minutes per day can deliver benefits. Although some meditation techniques, like Transcendental Meditation®, have specific routines – there are no set rules for meditating. The aim is simply to develop present moment awareness.
A variety of meditation apps make it easy, by blending user-friendly technology with meditation techniques. They feature deep breathing or guided imagery to help relax your mind. Using an app for mindfulness makes the process simple, is completely portable and keeps you on track with your practice. One app company, Headspace, is now seeking FDA approval as the first prescription meditation app with clinically validated meditation programs. Its rollout date is 2020.
No time to be mindful?
Let’s keep it really simple and focus on one form of mindfulness: breathing. Respiration is actually the only automatic body function we can voluntarily control. You can shift into a present moment state of calm quickly and easily by intentionally focusing on your breath. Breath work is the fastest state-changer available, it can soothe your nervous system and deliberately move you from fear to calm.
Spiritual teacher and bestselling author Eckhart Tolle says, “One conscious breath in and out is a meditation.” Simple and easy breath techniques require no equipment, and can be used while waiting for an important meeting, preparing for public speaking or any other anxiety producing situation. Nobody will even know you’re doing it. Here are a few to try: The 4-7-8 breathing exercise can be done anywhere and is fast and simple.5 Equal breathing can calm the nervous system, increase focus, and reduce stress.6 Soft belly breathing relaxes the sympathetic nervous system and awakens the parasympathetic nervous system, creating a feeling of calm in the mind and body.7
Get Addicted To the Healthy Med!
Get hooked on meditation, not social media or medication! If you spend a chunk of time immersed in social media feeds every day, why not shift some of that time to receive positive benefits of meditation? Or, the next time you have difficulty sleeping or feel anxious, try five minutes of relaxing breath work to see if that helps. It’s easy to get started by adding present moment awareness to your life. Building a mindful breathing practice into a meditation practice can be a simple as establishing a small, manageable routine and expanding it as you become comfortable.