Posted by: RealisticRecovery | May 30, 2009

Stress Relief Through Mindful Meditation

Stress Relief Through Mindful Meditation

by Courtney Young over at CourtneyYoungsBlog

Solutions to relieving every day stress can be as simple as stop, focus and breathe.

After gathering information from the American Institute of Stress, National Center, The Washington Post reported in 2007 that “54 percent of Americans are concerned about the level of stress in their everyday lives and increasing numbers of children, teenagers and college students report feeling under stress.”

Mindfulness, a means of meditation through concentration, relaxation and breathing, is becoming a popular, natural way of cleansing oneself from the chaotic distractions that promote anxiety in one’s life.

According to New York Times writer Judith Warner,  “road to mindfulness is all the rage now in psychotherapy, women’s magazines, even business journals, as a way to stay calm, manage anger and live sanely. By embracing your essential humanness, getting in touch with and accepting your body, sensations, emotions and thoughts, you are supposed to join with, and empathetically connect to, all humanity.”

Mindfulness meditation originated in the teachings of 5th century B.C. Indian prince Siddhartha Gautama, who would later be known as the Buddha.

LSU Asian religions professor Peter Sutherland argues that modern culture makes it difficult for people to engage in the meditation of mindfulness.

“We live in a culture that makes us dispersed, so much is going at once, so much is multi-tasking,” Sutherland said. “Getting involved with mindfulness has to be something you want to do. Buddhists will tell you what to do, but they won’t seek you out.”

On a daily basis, people are routinely devoured by the complexities of the modern world and modern technology. Enjoying a simple cup of coffee can easily be disrupted by the jumbled noises flooding from the television set, the orchestra of outdoor traffic or even the background buzzing of a cell phone. The anticipated peaceful morning before school or work is incomprehensible in present-day society because we live in a culture of distraction.

International relations major Emley Kerry admits that mindful meditation sounds helpful, but has little time for it.

“I always need down-time after a long period of intense concentration or stress,” Kerry said. “Sometimes I find it hard to relax because I am constantly thinking of the next thing that I have to do. I wind down by reading magazines and watching bad TV shows. Sleep is my cure-all.”

New York Times writer Benedict Carey noted in 2008 that the study of mindfulness is becoming a national interest for calming the minds of children and adults.

“At workshops and conferences across the country, students, counselors and psychologists in private practice throng lectures on mindfulness. The National Institutes of Health is financing more than 50 studies testing mindfulness techniques, up from 3 in 2000, to help relieve stress, soothe addictive cravings, improve attention, lift despair and reduce hot flashes.”

But research conducted over the past few decades argues against the healthful and helpful benefits of mindful meditation and therapy. Some studies even showed the adverse effects of meditation against patients in need.

“Finally, in 2000, a group of researchers including Dr. Segal in Toronto, J. Mark G. Williams at the University of Wales and John D. Teasdale at the Medical Research Council in England published a study that found that eight weekly sessions of mindfulness halved the rate of relapse in people with three or more episodes of depression.”

But not everyone seeks out therapy with mindful meditation to ease their stress or emotional anxiety. Others seek the simple practice of yoga which enhances awareness through breathing techniques and specific postures. Yoga helps to promote peaceful concentration and expels unhealthy thoughts from the mind.

Natural resource ecology and management major Danielle Sholly is an advocate of the physical and mental benefits one receives by practicing yoga.

“I think yoga is one of the best stress reducers around,” Sholly said. “From the meditation to the breathing to the good stretches you begin to gain a sense of peace as you follow your movements. There is relaxing music and most of the stretches are fun to try. I definitely noticed that I was more relaxed day to day which was great because waiting tables and going to school full time can really be stressful at times. I especially noticed this during finals last semester because I did not worry as much and seemed to be able to focus better when I studied.”

The  Tao Bao Temple, “a five-acre oasis of peace and serenity just minutes from downtown Baton Rouge, is a place where Buddhists and friends of every religion practice mindfulness meditation and cultivate compassion for all living things.”Every Friday a class if offered in sitting meditation, walking meditation and Buddhist discussions.

The temple’s website outlines the basics of what one can expect with mindful meditation:

“Typically, one begins by sitting in a comfortable position, with the back and neck straight, in a comfortable and peaceful environment. The meditator should breathe naturally, without attempting to change the length or depth of the breath.If the breath is short, the meditator should simply observe that the breath is short. If the breath is long, the meditator should simply observe that the breath is long.

While inhaling and exhaling, the meditator practices:

  • Training the mind to be sensitive to one or more of: the entire body, rapture, pleasure, the mind itself, and mental processes
  • Training the mind to be focused on one or more of: inconstancy, dispassion, cessation, and relinquishment
  • Steadying, satisfying, or releasing the mind.”

Instead of investing in books, medication of therapy to relieve stress, focusing on meditation as a natural source of mental cleansing could be more beneficial for ones mentality and pocket book.

source: Courtney Young over at CourtneyYoungsBlog

about Courtney Young: “Hello– my name is Courtney Young and I’m currently a journalism major at LSU. I’m graduating this May! Please hire me!”

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