Meditation: A Simple, Effective Way to Ease Stress and Anxiety

Americans work mindfulness meditation deutsch hours, take fewer vacations, and retire later than anyone in the industrialized world. It is no wonder we are among the most stressed-out people on the planet. We also have a bad habit of dealing with the pressure and anxiety we encounter in unhealthy ways. We eat too much and drink too much and pretend we’re in control. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Medication nation

In an effort to deal with agitation and energie management, more and more Americans are turning to prescription pills. Brands like Zoloft, Paxil, and Cymbalta have become household names, with Americans spending tens of billions of dollars each year on drugs designed to treat anxiety and depression. But like all prescription medications, these powerful mood-altering drugs have a laundry list of unpleasant side effects, from nausea and insomnia to fatigue and sexual dysfunction. There must be a better way…

Meditation nation?

The one silver lining in an otherwise ominous sky is the recent rediscovery of an ancient form of stress relief. Whether used for spiritual enlightenment or emotional healing, energiemanagement has been a part of human history for thousands of years. Although it originated in Asia, meditation is now universal, appearing in cultures the world over. With that said, the practice is less popular in the Western world, where it has struggled to gain mainstream acceptance… Until recently, that is.

According to a 2007 U.S. Census Bureau Survey, nearly 10 percent of the adult population practices some form of meditation, up from only 8 percent in 2002. As a result, a growing number of yoga schools and medical centers are opening their doors to the 20-plus million Americans who use meditation on a regular basis.

Research findings

Although Western medicine has long questioned the benefits of meditation, it has been forced to reevaluate its position in recent years as scientific evidence of meditation’s healthfulness has come to light. In one study completed at Johns Hopkins University, researchers found that meditation helped relieve anxiety, pain, and moderate depression in some patients. Another study found a 10 to 20 percent improvement in symptoms of depression for subjects who meditated regularly. Those numbers are similar to the positive effects of antidepressants, with far fewer side effects!

What is meditation?

Most Westerners have only a vague idea of what meditation is and how it works. They might know, for instance, that it involves concentrated focus upon a sound, object, movement, etc. in order to increase awareness of the present moment. While others believe that meditation consists of simply clearing the mind and shutting the world out. And the truth is that both of those opinions are correct. Meditation can involve deep thinking or almost no thinking at all. Some of the most common ways to meditate include:

· Guided meditation: Also known as visualization or guided imagery, this popular method of meditation involves relaxing mental images of places and situations. Practitioners are instructed to incorporate as many of their senses as possible, including sights, smells, sounds, and textures of soothing objects and environments. Because it takes time to paint a comforting mental picture, newcomers may benefit from expert instruction by a teacher or guide.

· Mindfulness meditation: Rather than trying to escape from ourselves or our current predicament, this type of meditation helps us increase our awareness by living in the moment. How? During a mindfulness meditation session, you focus on what you experience, such as your breathing, passing thoughts, or emotions. However, you do not linger on the details of any of them, but rather let them pass without judgment.

· Mantra meditation: Popular in the Buddhist faith, when used for relaxation purposes mantra meditation consists of simply repeating a calming word or phrase to keep distracting thoughts at bay. Although this simple technique can be practiced anytime, anywhere, it can take many months of practice to stop your mind from wandering during mantra recitations. Beginners are instructed to focus intently on the sound of their own voices in order to block out everything else.

· Transcendent meditation: One of the most widely practiced forms of meditation, the transcendent variety also involves mantras. What distinguishes it from the aforementioned technique is that the mantra recitations are not used to block everything out, but rather to slow mental functioning to relaxing levels. At last count, more than 10 million people practiced transcendent around the world.

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