Easy Stress Relief – Meditation

Knowing the damaging effects of stress, one of the simplest ways of reducing and managing stress, requiring no expensive equipment or membership, is relaxation. More than sixty studies have found the relaxation procedures can help alleviate headaches, high blood pressure (hypertension), anxiety and insomnia (Stretter & Kupper, 2002). One such study randomly selected hundreds of middle-aged, type-A, heart attack survivors in one of two groups. The first group received standard advice from cardiologists concerning medications, diet and exercise habits. The second group received similar advice plus continuing counseling on modifying their lifestyles: how to slow down and relax by walking, talking, and eating more slowly, by smiling at people and laughing at themselves, by admitting mistakes, by taking time to enjoy life, and by renewing their religious faith. During the following three years, the second group experienced half as many repeat heart attacks as the first group. This finding was “an unprecedented, spectacular reduction in heart attack recurrence” wrote Meyer Friedman, cardiologist.

Cardiac Arrest Deaths Cut in Half

A smaller British study divided heart attack-prone people into control and lifestyle modification groups and got similar results (Eysenck & Grossmarth-Maticek, 1991). During the next 13 years it also found a 50 percent reduction of heart attack deaths among those trained to alter their lifestyles and thinking.

Control Your Blood Pressure

Cardiologists have also become intrigued with meditative relaxation after discovering that experienced meditators could decrease their own blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen consumption and raise their fingertip temperature.

Are We Sitting Comfortably?

You can experience the essence of this simple relaxation technique right now. First, assume a comfortable position. Breathe deeply through your nose. Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth as if you are blowing through a drinking straw. Relax your muscles from your head to your feet, now close your eyes and focus on a single word or phrase. Many people focus on a favorite prayer. Others focus on the sound of ocean waves at the shore. When other thoughts and distractions intrude, just let them drift away as you silently repeat your phrase continually for 10 to 20 minutes.

Diminished Sense of Self

Tibetan Buddhists deep in meditation and Franciscan nuns deep in prayer report a diminished sense of self, space and time. Brain scans during such mystical experiences prove there is less activity than usual in the parietal lobe (part of the cerebral cortex). This decreased activity occurs while frontal lobe activity involved in focusing is more active (Newberg & D’Aquili, 2001). At the same time the left frontal lobe is elevated indicating positive emotions.

Longer Life

Another study followed 73 randomly selected elderly nursing home residents. One group meditated daily, while the other group did not. After 3 years one-fourth of the non-meditators had died, but all of the meditators were alive (Alexander Et al., 1989). A more recent study found hypertension patients, divided into two groups of meditators and non-meditators. Over the following 19-year study period, the meditator group experienced a 30 percent lower cardiovascular death rate (Schneider Et al., 2005).

An Ancient History

Meditation is a modern activity with an ancient history. “Sit down alone and in silence, lower your head, shut your eyes, breathe gently and imagine yourself looking into your own heart. As you breathe out, say “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” Try to put all other thoughts aside. Be calm, be patient and repeat the phrase frequently” (Gregory of Sinai, died 1346).

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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