Stress: all the benefits of meditation

Each and every one of us is exposed to stress in our lifetime, but we do not all react in the same way. For some, stress can become chronic, turn into generalized anxiety disorder…

Among the natural methods to get rid of it, or at least limit it, the meditation showed good results. Long viewed with suspicion, this ancestral practice has been rehabilitated by scientists for several years thanks to various publications demonstrating its positive effects on stress.

In the Laroussemeditation is defined asthe act of reflecting, of thinking deeply about a subject, of achieving something (…)” or like “the attitude of to become absorbed in deep thought : immerse yourself in meditation”.

Contemplative meditation designates a mental practice of Eastern origin, which generally consists of pay close attention on a certain object, sound or anything else capable of making us to let go, to surrender, to let your emotions and negative thoughts flow without having any more control over them.

In a study published in the journal ScienceAdvance, a team of scientists demonstrates that meditation can change the structure of our brain to make us more attentive and empathetic (Source 1). But meditation not only boosts our brain function, it also helps alleviate obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and reduce stress.

Stress is a state felt by all human beings in certain everyday situations. It is when it is chronic that it can become burdensome, even disabling. “The state of stress is not a disease in itself but when it is intense and lastshe can have serious effects on physical and mental health (…)“, notes the National Institute for Research and Security (INRS) (Source 2).

Since the 2000s, several publications have shown that meditation, if practiced regularly (a session of about 45 minutes a day) has many benefits for stress and anxiety management. In particular, it improves the cortisol secretion, the hormone responsible for stress, facilitates our adaptation to stress and reduces its perceived level.

People who practice meditation would see their ability manage pain improve. This practice is also said to promote cardiovascular health and immunity.

Mindfulness meditation to reduce stress and anxiety

Our brain is constantly stimulated. We are constantly learning new things, more or less useful. But sometimes we can feel overflowing, information overload. Mindfulness meditation is an excellent technique for learn to empty and open ourselves up to new experiences in a serene way. 20 minutes of mindful meditation for three consecutive days could reduce stress, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (Source 3).

She permits to improve concentration, open-mindedness, curiosity, recognition and humility.

In 2021, researchers from Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences published a study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicinein which they show that the amount of cortisol in the hair subjects who completed a 9-month meditation training program decreased by 25% (Source 4).

Good news : this type of meditation can be practicedAll day long, while we read, write or listen to what is happening around us. It can be practiced while we read, write, or listen to what surrounds us. Here are some exercises to practice without moderation.

Nowadays, reading, whether on screen or in print, is more often a race to finish the text than a search for meaning. Meditative reading is a radically different technique, recalls the site Mindful (Source 5). The goal : slow down and engage the attention and letting go to improve understanding of the text.

Before reading, sit quietly for a few minutes. Bring your attention to your breath, observe your thoughts and feelings, come back to your breath again and again. Start reading. Try to notice if you read with more concentration and enjoyment. When you’re done, sit again for a few minutes, focusing on your breath. At the end of your practice, write down what you learned from the reading.

It is not only reading that can be practiced in full consciousness. Among the few activities that allow you to live in the present moment, the‘writing comes among the first. And in the context of meditation, we will speak of meditative writing.

In fact, it helps see and hear things as they are, to bear witness to life, not to judge others and oneself, and to open one’s mind. It can serve as a spiritual quest, introspection…

Keep a diary is one of the oldest methods ofself expression. Once a day, write a page in your notebook. Add a drawing or photo. Diaries, like mindfulness, help us appreciate the fact that every moment of our life brings something new and different. Just notice it.

When we listen carefully, we are fully present without trying to control or judge. Often we don’t have a clear understanding of listening as an active process that we can control, but conscious listening can be worked through with practice.

When you wake up, instead of turning on the TV, your iPhone or your computer, stand still and listen. As the thoughts come to life, gently detach and come back to the noise.

During the day, listen carefully to the people who talk to you. stop doing something else, breathe naturally and open your ears. If thoughts of other things arise, let them go slowly and come back to the words of the person talking to you.

What meditation to prepare for a stressful period?

In terms of stress management and prevention, mindful meditation has the wind in its sails. This tool would improve our relationships, soothe pain and better experience our emotions when we practice it regularly. However, there is confusion between different types of meditations : focus on breathing, on benevolence, on detachment from thoughts… are there any differences in terms of the benefits?

This is what researchers from the University of Wisconsin, in the United States, tried to understand. In a study cited by Greater Good Magazine (Source 6), the team led by Matthew Hirshberg tried to compare practices in the face of a very stressful event. 156 students were randomly assigned to receive one of four trainings: breath awareness, loving-kindness, a practice of gratitude or caring. While scientists had staked everything on the practice of gratitude as the best anti-stress tool, they were surprised to notice otherwise.

People who practiced gratitude found stressors harder to cope with, felt more negative emotions, and were less likely to volunteer. Indeed, the positive feelings engendered by the regular practice of gratitude would make the contrast with the stress too difficult to manage. “Just inducing a positive effect makes stressful experiences more stressful, rather than helping to protect against them,” explains Matthew Hirshberg. To improve our tolerance to stress, it is therefore not enough to increase our positive feelings.

So what should be done? The practice of loving kindness and work on the breath gave better results. Without wanting to discourage the practice of gratitude, whose beneficial effects over the long term have been proven by other studies, the researchers suggest turning to more contemplative forms of meditation for a stressful event.

How to meditate to relax: an anti-stress walking meditation exercise

  • Stand up, steady yourself and become aware of your position. Focus your attention on the breath;
  • join handsin front or behind, and forget them;
  • Bring your attention to your right foot, raise it, move it forward, put it down gently, feeling each muscle, each sensation;
  • Gently chain the left foot with the same attention and concentration;
  • When you notice that your attention has left the step, gently bring it back to it;
  • Gradually incorporate breath awareness into walking and sync them to the pace most comfortable for you;
  • stop slowly. Stabilize your position. Return to the breath.

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Stress: all the benefits of meditation

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