As beautiful and joyous as life can be, it can also be plain ol’ stressful. Between hefty mortgage payments, killer commutes, and bosses who don’t give us the credit we deserve, stress is everywhere. That’s why many seek out answers to their questions regarding the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.
Surveys have uncovered some pretty disturbing statistics about stress. 33% of people feel they live with extreme stress. 48% believe the stress in their lives has increased over the past five years. A whopping 77% of people surveyed said they experience physical symptoms caused by stress.
What are some of these physical symptoms linked to chronic stress?
- Pain of any kind
- Sleep problems
- Autoimmune diseases
- Digestive problems
- Skin conditions, such as eczema
- Heart disease
- Weight problems
- Reproductive issues
- Thinking and memory issues
How Meditation Can Help
There is now scientific evidence that meditation is effective against the physical symptoms of stress. This includes IBS, high blood pressure, and ulcerative colitis.
Some of the many benefits of mindfulness and meditation include:
- Improved immune response
- Reduction in pain sensitivity
- A shift from negativity to positivity.
Further, research has shown that meditation may physically alter the brain. It may be able to change everything about how we are able to cope with chronic stress.
But what exactly is meditation? When many people hear that word, they have instant visions of people sitting in lotus position chanting, “Ohmmm.”
Mindful meditation is simply the practice of harnessing our attention to quiet our chattering minds. Instead of letting our brains run rampant like energetic puppies, sniffing one thought after another, mindfulness focuses our attention in the now.
The problem is because mediation is so deceptively simple, many people either feel it can’t possibly work in general, or they specifically won’t see the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.
And because we live in a society that seems to promote instant gratification, other people expect that after their first 20 minutes of meditating, all of their problems will magically dissolve.
But meditation is called a “practice” for a reason. Like anything else that is beneficial to your mind and body (sound nutrition and exercise), it takes commitment to reap those benefits.
Tips for Beginner Meditators
If you are interested in trying meditation, here are a few ways to start:
- Get comfortable – you don’t have to sit in the lotus pose. You can sit in a comfy chair or even lie down. The trick is to be comfortable enough that your body sensations don’t distract you, but not so comfortable that you fall asleep.
- Don’t try and control your breath, instead, just breathe naturally, simply staying aware of your breath.
- Start with just a few minutes and build from there. Three to five minutes of meditation is a great starting point.
- Perfection does not exist in meditation. There is no perfection in life or meditation, so just keep practicing every day and take notice of how more and more comfortable you feel with it.
If you find after you’ve been meditating for a little while that you could use some extra help dealing with the stress in your life, get in touch with us to learn more about Mind-Body Connection For Trauma and Anxiety – we would love to help you learn more.
About the author(s)
Karen is the founder and Clinical Director of Cohesive Therapy NYC. She earned a Masters in Social Work from New York University and has extensive training in Hypnosis, Anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Brainspotting, and DGBI. She is a member of the Institute of Certified Anxiety Treatment Professionals, The Rome Foundation, the National Association of Social Workers, The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, and the American Social of Clinical Hypnosis.