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Behavioral Health

Meditate Your Way to Less Stress

Americans are overwhelmed by stress. The American Psychological Association (APA) has called it a “national mental health crisis.”

According to the APA, 27% of Americans experience such intense stress that it impacts their ability to function. Common stressors include inflation, violence, crime, and politics. Meditation is a free and extremely effective way to get your stress in check and put yourself on a path to better physical and mental health.

Inside Blog Meditation

Meditation Basics

Meditation has been around for thousands of years. It was originally seen as a way to gain a deeper understanding of the spiritual forces in people’s lives. Today, it’s most often used to reduce stress and relax.

Meditation can help people focus their thoughts to gain perspective on what may be causing them stress. Identifying stressors can then lead to reducing the effect those stressors have on you.

The emotional benefits of meditation can include:

  • Building stress-management skills
  • Fewer negative emotions
  • Focusing on the present
  • Getting perspective on stressful situations
  • Increased creativity
  • Increased patience
  • Increased self-awareness
Meditating Under a Tree

Types of Meditation

The goal of meditation is to help you relax. It can be as simple as sitting in a quiet place and listening to your breath. Other forms can be a little more involved. Here are some examples:

  • Guided meditation — Use your imagination to see places or situations that are relaxing. Try to involve as many senses as you can. There are apps that can help with this form of meditation.
  • Mantra meditation — Repeat, in your mind, a calming word or thought to help you focus.
  • Loving-kindness meditation — Open your mind to feelings of love and compassion both to others and yourself. Try to let go of anger you’ve been holding.
  • Visualization — Try to imagine a scene that invokes happiness and relaxation. Use all five senses to make the visual as real as possible.
  • Movement meditation — Unlike many forms of meditation that rely on stillness, movement meditation is about making small movements at a slow pace, while keeping your mind calm. 
  • Body scan meditation — Try scanning your body for sources of discomfort, tension, or pain. By concentrating on physical areas, you’ll feel more connected to your entire self – not just your mind. 
  • Focus meditation — Devote 100% of your attention on a feeling, a sound, or even an object. Stay present but try to calm your inner thoughts and let the sensations of whatever you’ve chosen to focus on take over.
  • Qi gong — Pronounced CHEE-gung, this form of traditional Chinese medicine combines breathing exercises with movement, meditation, and relaxation. Talk to your doctor before doing any meditation that involves movement.
  • Tai chi — This is a Chinese martial art that combines slow, graceful movement with deep breathing.

Common Elements of Meditation

Each form of meditation has different features however, these are some common elements across all types of meditation:

  • A quiet setting
  • A comfortable position
  • Focused attention
  • Relaxed breathing
  • An open attitude
Grass Meditation

Health Benefits of Meditation

There has been extensive research into the health benefits of meditation. It has been shown to help people dealing with a number of different issues including anxiety, depression, and sleep disruptions.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, here are some health-related topics that include studies on the benefits of meditation.

  1. For cancer patients and survivors — The Society for Integrative Oncology recommends meditation as one way to help reduce the anxiety and stress for people suffering from cancer symptoms and treatment side effects.
  2. Blood pressure — The American Heart Association supports using meditation as a complement to standard treatment to lower blood pressure.
  3. Menopause — Yoga, tai chi, and other meditation techniques have been shown to reduce the frequency of hot flashes, stress, muscle and joint pain, sleep disturbances, and mood changes.
  4. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — Research shows that meditation may help reduce the pain that patients with IBS patients experience.

Meditation vs. Mindfulness

While meditation is a tool that can be used to calm down and improve emotional balance, the root of meditation is mindfulness. Mindfulness – separate from meditation – is about living in the ‘now’, rather than dwelling on the future or past. Practicing mindfulness keeps you in the present and helps you accept the emotions or sensations that arise.

Add Meditation to Your Health Regimen

Meditation can be another part of your routine to stay healthy. Add it to your activities, just like you would exercise or eating right. AltaMed can support you in those efforts. We’re here to meet the health needs of you and your entire family — both inside and out.

AltaMed Behavioral Health Services is also there to help you find healthy ways to manage the stress that surrounds us. Call us at (855) 425-1777.

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Meditate Your Way to Less Stress