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Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress By Mayo Clinic staff

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    Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress Meditation can wipe away the day s stress, bringing with it inner peace. See how you can easily learn to
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 15, 2011
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      Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress

      Meditation can wipe away the day's stress, bringing
      with it inner peace. See how you can easily learn
      to practice meditation whenever you need it most.
      By Mayo Clinic staff

      If stress has you anxious, tense and worried,
      consider trying meditation. Spending even a few
      minutes in meditation can restore your
      calm and inner peace.

      Anyone can practice meditation. It's simple and
      inexpensive, and it doesn't require any special
      equipment. And you can practice meditation
      wherever you are — whether you're out for a walk,
      riding the bus, waiting at the doctor's office or
      even in the middle of a difficult business meeting.

      Understanding meditation
      Meditation has been practiced for thousands of
      years. Meditation originally was meant to help
      deepen understanding of the sacred and
      mystical forces of life. These days, meditation
      is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction.

      Meditation is considered a type of mind-body
      complementary medicine. Meditation produces a
      deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind.
      During meditation, you focus your attention
      and eliminate the stream of
      jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your
      mind and causing stress. This process results
      in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.

      Benefits of meditation
      Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace
      and balance that benefits both your emotional
      well-being and your overall health. And
      these benefits don't end when your meditation
      session ends. Meditation can help carry you more
      calmly through your day and can even improve
      certain medical conditions.

      Meditation and emotional well-being
      When you meditate, you clear away the information overload that builds
      up every day and contributes to your stress.
      The emotional benefits of meditation include:
      ● Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
      ● Building skills to manage your stress
      ● Increasing self-awareness
      ● Focusing on the present
      ● Reducing negative emotions

      Meditation and illness
      Meditation also might be useful if you have a
      medical condition, especially one that may be
      worsened by stress. While a growing body of
      scientific research supports the health benefits
      of meditation, some researchers believe it's not
      yet possible to draw conclusions about the
      possible benefits of meditation.

      With that in mind, some research suggests that
      meditation may help such conditions as:
      ● Allergies
      ● Anxiety disorders
      ● Asthma
      ● Binge eating
      ● Cancer
      ● Depression
      ● Fatigue
      ● Heart disease
      ● High blood pressure
      ● Pain
      ● Sleep problems
      ● Substance abuse
      Be sure to talk to your health care provider
      about the pros and cons of using meditation if
      you have any of these conditions or other health
      problems. In some cases, meditation can worsen
      symptoms associated with certain mental health
      conditions. Meditation isn't a replacement for
      traditional medical treatment. But it may be
      a useful addition to your other treatment.

      Types of meditation
      Meditation is an umbrella term for the many
      ways to a relaxed state of being. There are many
      types of meditation and relaxation techniques that
      have meditation components. All share the same
      goal of achieving inner peace.

      Ways to meditate can include:
      ● Guided meditation. Sometimes called
      guided imagery or visualization, with this method
      of meditation you form mental images of
      places or situations you find relaxing. You try
      to use as many senses as possible, such as smells,
      sights, sounds and textures. You may be led
      through this process by a guide or teacher.
      ● Mantra meditation. In this type of meditation,
      you silently repeat a calming word, thought or
      phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
      ● Mindfulness meditation. This type of
      meditation is based on being mindful, or having
      an increased awareness and acceptance of living
      in the present moment. You broaden your conscious
      awareness. You focus on what you experience during
      meditation, such as the flow of your
      breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions
      but let them passwithout judgment.
      ● Qi gong. This practice generally combines
      meditation relaxation, physical movement and
      breathing exercises to restore and
      maintain balance. Qi gong (CHEE-gung) is part
      of traditional Chinese medicine.
      ● Tai chi. This is a form of gentle Chinese
      martial arts. In tai chi (TIE-chee), you perform
      a self-paced series of postures or movements
      in a slow, graceful manner while practicing deep breathing.
      ● Transcendental meditation. You use a
      mantra, such as a word, sound or phrase repeatedly
      silently, to narrow your conscious awareness
      and eliminate all thoughts from your mind. You focus
      exclusively on your mantra to achieve a state of
      perfect stillness and consciousness.
      ● Yoga. You perform a series of postures
      and controlled breathing exercises to promote a
      more flexible body and a calm mind. As you move
      through poses that require balance and concentration,
      you're encouraged to focus less on your busy day and
      more on the moment.

      Elements of meditation
      Different types of meditation may include different
      features to help you meditate. These may vary
      depending on whose guidance you follow or
      who's teaching a class. Some of the most common
      features in meditation include:
      ● Focused attention. Focusing your attention
      is generally one of the most important elements of meditation. Focusing your attention is what helps free your mind
      from the many distractions that cause stress
      and worry. You can focus your attention on such
      things as a specific object, an image, a mantra, or even your breathing.
      ● Relaxed breathing. This technique involves
      deep, even-paced breathing using the diaphragm muscle
      to expand your lungs. The purpose is to slow your
      breathing, take in more oxygen, and reduce the use of
      shoulder, neck and upper chest muscles while breathing
      so that you breathe more efficiently.
      ● A quiet setting. If you're a beginner,
      practicing meditation may be easier if you're in
      a quiet spot with few distractions — no
      television, radios or cellphones. As you get
      more skilled at meditation, you may be able to do it anywhere, especially in high-stress situations where you benefit
      the most from meditation, such as a traffic jam, a
      stressful work meeting or a long line at the grocery store.
      ● A comfortable position. You can practice
      meditation whether you're sitting, lying down, walking
      or in other positions or activities.
      Just try to be comfortable so that you can get
      the most out of your meditation.

      Everyday ways to practice meditation
      Don't let the thought of meditating the "right" way
      add to your stress. Sure, you can attend special
      meditation centers or group classes led by
      trained instructors. But you also can practice
      meditation easily on your own. And you can make
      meditation as formal or informal as you like —
      whatever suits your lifestyle and situation. Some
      people build meditation into their daily routine. For
      example, they may start and end each day with
      an hour of meditation. But all you really need is a few
      minutes of quality time for meditation.
      Here are some ways you can practice meditation
      on your own, whenever you choose:
      ● Breathe deeply. This technique is good
      for beginners because breathing is a natural function.
      Focus all attention on your breathing.
      Concentrate on feeling and listening as you inhale
      and exhale through your nostrils. Breathe deeply
      and slowly. When your attention wanders,
      gently return your focus to your breathing.
      ● Scan your body. When using this technique,
      focus attention on different parts of your body.
      Become aware of your body's various
      sensations, whether that's pain, tension,
      warmth or relaxation. Combine body scanning with
      breathing exercises and imagine breathing heat or
      relaxation into and out of different parts of your body.
      ● Repeat a mantra. You can create your
      own mantra, whether it's religious or secular.
      Examples of religious mantras include the Jesus
      Prayer in the Christian tradition, the holy name
      of God in Judaism, or the om mantra of Hinduism,
      Buddhism and other Eastern religions.
      ● Walk and meditate. Combining a walk with
      meditation is an efficient and healthy way to relax. You can us
      e this technique anywhere you're walking — in a
      tranquil forest, on a city sidewalk or at the
      mall. When you use this method, slow down the pace
      of walking so that you can focus on each movement
      of your legs or feet. Don't focus on a
      particular destination. Concentrate on your legs
      and feet, repeating action words in your mind such
      as lifting, moving and placing as you
      lift each foot, move your leg forward and place
      your foot on the ground.
      ● Engage in prayer. Prayer is the best known a
      d most widely practiced example of meditation.
      Spoken and written prayers are found in
      most faith traditions. You can pray using your
      own words or read prayers written by others. Check
      the self-help or 12-step-recovery section of
      your local bookstore for examples. Talk with your rabbi, priest, pastor or other spiritual leader about resources.
      ● Read and reflect. Many people report
      that they benefit from reading poems or sacred
      texts, and taking a few moments to quietly
      reflect on their meaning. You also can listen to
      sacred music, spoken words or any music you
      find relaxing or inspiring. You may want to write
      your reflections in a journal or discuss them with
      a friend or spiritual leader.
      ● Focus your love and gratitude. In this
      type of meditation, you focus your attention on
      a sacred object or being, weaving feelings of
      love and gratitude into your thoughts. You can
      also close your eyes and use your imagination
      or gaze at representations of the object.

      Building your meditation skills
      Don't judge your meditation skills, which may
      only increase your stress. Meditation takes
      practice. Keep in mind, for instance, that it's
      common for your mind to wander during meditation,
      no matter how long you've been practicing meditation.
      If you're meditating to calm your
      mind and your attention wanders, slowly return to the object, sensation or movement you're focusing on.
      Experiment, and you'll likely find out what types
      of meditation work best for you and what you
      enjoy doing. Adapt meditation to your needs at
      the moment. Remember, there's no right way or
      wrong way to meditate. What matters is that meditation
      helps you with stress reduction and feeling better overall.
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