Mindfulness Meditation Proven to Lower Stress

“post written by Anne Jones”

Anxiety is one of the most common mental conditions on a global scale. There are many types of anxiety, though all involve intense worry about one or more issues, leading to a host of symptoms which can include a racing heart rate, a feeling of dizziness, faintness, fear of death, and hyperventilation. Too often, persons suffering from anxiety are treated with medication, when research has shown that mindfulness-based practices such as yoga, are significantly effective at lowering stress by keeping the mind in the present moment. Controlled breathing, another important component of both yoga and mindfulness meditation, has also been the subject of many studies, and shows very positive results in terms of stress reduction as well.

Patient suffering from stress and anxiety (including persons in recovery from an addiction to substance or alcohol and their families) are often encouraged to take up yoga and mindfulness meditation by health professionals; there is no doubt that Western scientist has firmly embraced these millenary practices. Yoga and meditation have a third important benefit: that of fostering compassion (towards others and towards the self). When we accept ourselves as we are and are kind to ourselves despite our failures, our chances of leading a happy, fulfilling life are greater than when we criticise ourselves constantly.

Scientists at Georgetown University Medical Centre recently published a study which provides physiological evidence that mindfulness meditation combats anxiety. In the past, the benefits of mindfulness had been difficult to prove, because most studies compared meditation groups to untreated control groups. Because the participants were not ‘blinded’ – i.e. they knew if they were receiving the treatment or not, the results were likely to be influenced by the placebo effect.

The researchers noted that this type of study would ever be accepted by the FDA for approval, for instance, of a medication. They therefore sought to test the benefits of meditation in a more mysterious way for participants, assigning some to a meditation group and others to other treatments. None of the participants knew which treatment was being tested for efficiency. The results were measured by monitoring blood-based stress hormone levels and inflammatory proteins. The meditation group showed major drops in stress, indicating that meditation had helped them battle stress in the most natural of ways. The researchers were excited about their findings, and stated that they hoped to carry out more research on the possible benefits of meditation for patients suffering from other psychiatric conditions.

Scientists believe that the power of meditation in battling stress and anxiety, lies in its ability to stop the cycle of worry. Mindfulness does not involve evading painful or negative thoughts; rather, we are encouraged to consider these thoughts then let them go, without acting on them by indulging in self-destructive practices (such as taking drugs, drinking or entering in conflict with a loved one).

Pranayamic breathing, meanwhile, lowers the heart rate and blood pressure.Most importantly for sufferers of anxiety, it lowers the breathing rate. Hyperventilation (when a person feels like they cannot inhale enough air) occurs when we are anxious and we breathe too quickly, flooding our system with oxygen). This is why during hyperventilation, sufferers are immediately given a paper bag- so that their oxygen levels can decrease and they can begin to breathe normally. Those who meditate and practice yoga know how to control their breathing; a panic attack is extremely unlikely to happen to someone who is aware of their breathing rate. Indeed, those who are noticing that they are starting to feel anxious can stop a panic attack in its tracks by immediately taking long, deep breaths, concentrating on the air entering and leaving their body.

In many ways, mindfulness meditation is the exact opposite to succumbing to a panic attack; it involves being in control, being aware of the connection between body and mind, being the master instead of the slave. If you or a loved one suffer from anxiety, consider learning this traditional practice. The bigger the life challenge you and your family are facing – be it addiction, the loss of a family member or tough economic times – the more mindfulness meditation can help you, by giving you a vital sense of grounding and serving as a vital tool to relax and enlighten you throughout your life.

“post written by Anne Jones”