Meditation- it's all in your head!


| 6 Comments
After my last blog post on heart disease I found that meditation and yoga play essential roles in helping the body become more relaxed and lower stress levels. Stress is an issue that can worsen almost every unwanted emotion , health condition, and painful experience. I wanted to learn more on how , and why meditation specifically helps lower stress levels that lead you to have a much more healthier life. 
First things first : what is meditation ? Contrary to belief meditation is not just sitting pretzel style and closing your eyes really hard. True meditation is being in the state of "thoughtless awareness." Meaning you are thinking about nothing but your breathing. When meditating you simply forget about the world and focus in on nothing but being self aware. There are many ways people can meditate. One very popular way is to participate in Yoga, swimming , church services , even coloring. Meditation is anything you do , to get yourself into a silent and a thoughtless state.  
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Its a common phrase we hear all the time: meditation makes you feel better. If we are in a tense exchanging of words with someone they are often to blurt out : "why don't you go meditate somewhere and chill out !" Thinking on a more serious note : could this really help you lower your stress levels? Dr. Hedy Kober of Yale University said that meditation did more for the mind than just exercise. You can take a lot out of this TED Talk she gave earlier this year ! In the TED Talk she explains how meditation is a very successful method to use after a beak-up or intense reaction to any situation in your life. It is more effective that comfort foods and crying. 

What does meditation do?
Meditation changes our brain, through out our lives our brains are making new schemas or (mental molds) that shape how we store information and how we do different tasks that we learned from through experiences. We use our neurons and brain cells to connect these schemas. Through new experiences or stimuli we can "edit" these schemas and make new ones as time goes on. With meditation you are changing the way you view these experiences because your brain has Neuroplasticity, meaning it is resilient in changing its internal information.  It effects the neural circuits in your brain and helps you reintroduce experiences and help you to live a calmer life and how we react to things in our life. 

A study conducted by Stanford University , found that Meditation was the leading technique in reducing Psychological Stress. The meta analysis of a combined 146 independent studies of measuring stress levels and the technique of stress reliving showed that Meditation was the queen. It actually showed to be twice as effective in reducing stress when compared to concentration Reference the chart below for more information!  . - Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45 (1989): 957-974.    
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Many studies show that meditation can make improvement in many physiological areas. For example meditation can help with anxiety , addiction , eating disorders , and depression. Other areas that showed improvement with meditation are eating disorders , cognitive function, reducing blood pressure and pain response. Other emotional benefits of meditation to relieve stress are : gaining new perspectives on stressful situations , increasing self awareness, and reduced negative emotions! 


6 Comments

Hi Cara! I found your post to be very insightful. Prior to reading your post I never really knew what mediation was other than sitting pretzel style with your eyes closed as mentioned in your post. I definitely plan on implementing this technique into my daily routine to help with the stresses of college life. I found an article that I thought you would appreciate, it gives 20 practical tips to help quite the mind and prepare for meditation. This technique will hopefully prove to be very helpful as I finish up pledging at my fraternity and get through finals week, I will be sure to implement it. Thanks for the insight!

I really enjoyed your article Cara! You made sure to cover all the different areas of meditation and even highlight experiments where the effects of meditation were studied. I have practiced meditation before in dance class (or should I say was forced into it by my teachers), and struggled with being told to "not think". The whole concept of someone telling me to meditate disturbed me, how can you force someone into a state of that being? Isn't it a little contradictory? It even relates with hypnosis! I had a Psych teacher before who tried to hypnotize the entire class, yet I failed to be influenced. It was bizarre, I can't just simply "fall asleep" as the hypnotist would command. So this got me thinking...why am I not able to fall under the influence of meditation or hypnosis. One study conducted at the Stanford University School of Medicine focused primarily on hypnosis and why certain people are unaffected by it. Their hypothesis: "the areas of the brain associated with executive control and attention tend to have less activity in people who cannot be put into a hypnotic trance." (Brandt,Stanford). The study was done analyzing 24 participants; 12 adults with high hypnotizability and 12 adults with low hypnotizability. They studied the participants brain activity with MRI scans and came to the conclusion that those with higher hypnotizability had more "co-activation". These studies make me look like a dud who sits in the classroom, when really I am rather attentive. So I don't know if I agree with the study or not. You decide! Check out the experiment at: http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2012/october/hypnotize.html

I've been wanting to get into meditating for awhile now, so I found your post intriguing. I knew that it was beneficial to both your mental and physical health but didn't know if it'd be something I'd be able to adopt into my daily routine. I love yoga but struggle with turning my mind off during class so I don't know if with meditating, I'd truly be able to adopt the state of mindlessness. In this article by the Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ed-and-deb-shapiro/why-we-find-it-hard-to-me_b_792182.html, it talks about this reservation that many people feel when it comes to mediation. It offers various tips on how to make it work for you if you are hesitant such as finding a different position to meditate in. My favorite part was how it discussed that meditating was not turning your mind completely off sine that is impossible, but rather being present and in the moment. Something I believe many of us could work a little harder at.

Cara, great posts i enjoyed reading it. I knew meditation help with stress but I had no clue what the emotional benefits were until now. I feel like all colleges should offer a mandatory class that everyone has to take just to chill out or "meditate". I personally believe college can be very stressful at times; 17-22 year olds in school stressing everyday is not healthy; I believe if we had a class that helped students than there would be less stress going around, I personally know a few 20 year olds that are losing hair follicles and they look 40; I feel like college yes should be challenging but at the same time it shouldn't take a serious toll on your health to the point where by the time you leave you look middle age.


This was really interesting to read! When I think of meditation I just picture someone trying to calm themselves into a state of total relaxation, but I never had really thought about the actual effect of meditation on your mind and body. I've never tried meditation before, but after reading about how helpful in stress relief it can be, it's definitely something that I want to take a shot at. When you think about it, people our age experience so many stressful situations on a daily basis, and we continue to let our bodies take the hit for it without stopping to rest. Obviously sleep is helpful, but even then our minds are at work. I truly think that more people should consider meditation as a means of "recharging their batteries," especially after seeing just how effective it is.

I was one of those people who thought meditation was sitting with your legs crossed while you hummed so thanks for the awesome post because now I know more about the topic. I am a big believer in the power of your mental state. You say that "with meditation you are changing the way you view these experiences" in life. I think that thinking a certain way or believing in something can really have outcomes in life. I blogged about positive mental attitude and personally use PMA in my life and it really does have an effect on me.

I may consider also meditating thanks to this blog and also because of this study by Harvard Medical School that was published by PLoS One.

Here is a little summary of it:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-22/harvard-yoga-scientists-find-proof-of-meditation-benefit.html

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