Increasingly, people around the world take up regular meditative practices primarily because these are effective for inducing calm and relaxation, and also to help minimize the effects of daily stresses.
There are varieties of such practices to choose from, including those that help to cultivate mindful awareness, as well as ones that serve to alter habitual, negative responses to stressful situations, and others that focus on teaching the body to relax, and to restore a sense of vitality.
One widely-practiced meditative exercise is the relaxation response technique. A single or two daily sessions lasting no longer than 10 minutes each can produce immense benefits, including lessening anxiety, and improving cardiovascular functioning.
The technique helps to induce profound relaxation, thereby causing the body’s metabolism, blood pressure, including the breathe, to slow down significantly. Over time, individuals that practice often experience not only a greater sense of ease, well-being, and relaxation during the course of daily life, but also benefit from adopting a better mood, which makes dealing with stressful challenges easier.
In such meditative sessions, a person would typically focus attention on any sound, word, or phrase while sitting in silence with closed eyes for about 10 or 20 minutes. It is best to do so in a spot where there are no, or few, distractions. When feeling at ease and comfortable, and breathing normally through the nose, one would then take the attention and direct it to various parts of the body.
A typical sequence would entail paying attention to sensations in the feet, moving from there to the lower legs, the knees, and progressing up to the face. The only mental effort required is to notice the various sensations, and relaxing the specific body part at the sign of any muscle tension.
Mindful awareness meditative techniques – also referred to as present-focused awareness mental practices – have also become popular. These essentially requires the individual to sit comfortably, pay attention to the natural flow of the breath or any sensation, and to deliberately, yet gently, bring the attention to whatever experience transpires in the present moment. If and when the attention wanders into the past or drifts into the future – as it usually does – it is then only a matter of gently bringing it back to the present moment.
According to Ananta Ishaya who teaches meditation courses in London, “Newcomers may find these exercises challenging at first, but with regular practice, it becomes progressively easier to slip into meditative mode.” So how do we reduce stress with meditation, and gain a lot more in terms of emotional, physical, and spiritual health and wellness?
What’s especially great about this kind of meditative endeavour is that doing it does not require a particular environment, but anyone can do it anywhere, any time, for whatever length of time.
Aside from being an easy-to-learn stress-reducer, it is also great for helping individuals with anxiety-related issues get a handle on the problem. Anxiety sufferers are prone to distracting thoughts, making it difficult to concentrate and focus on daily tasks at home or at the office. After a few sessions of mindfulness, however, the experience of anxiety will become considerably more manageable, or even disappear, as distracting thoughts and wayward feelings will tend to have less of a hold over the person.
Mindfulness also teaches practitioners how to relate differently, and more productively, to one’s thoughts, and thinking processes. Many stress-related experiences are self-induced through negative or repetitive thoughts.
By realizing that thoughts are mental fabrications or inventions over which the thinker has power, it becomes easier to do away with unproductive thoughts, and invent ones that are practically useful, and personally empowering. The ability to stop oneself from getting caught up in thoughts is not just liberating, but good for preventing stressful emotions from manifesting.
Carrying tension in various parts of the body is one of the consequences of not being able to manage stress-producing situations. Tense shoulders, stomach knots, and shallow breathing are common examples of such ailments.
A meditative practice that entails performing mental body scans is thus an especially useful tool to help identify bodily tension, and also to help rid the physique of muscular tenseness and pain. Through body scan sessions, people learn to pinpoint negative, problematic physical feelings, and get to release these though simple awareness and attention.
The increasing popularity of meditative practices the world over shows how effective these are in helping people overcome emotional challenges. The physical, mental, and spiritual benefits are varied, effective, and authentic. It may take the average practitioner some time before the full force of the advantages begin to manifest, but these are sure to follow though daily practice.
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