Cochin Cardiac Club

Health Blog by Dr.Uday Nair


Throughout the day, when we experience stress, our bodies automatically react in ways that prepare us to fight or run. In some cases of extreme danger, this physical response is helpful. However, a prolonged state of such agitation can cause physical damage to every part of the body. Meditation affects the body in exactly the opposite ways that stress does, restoring the body to a calm state, helping the body to repair itself, and preventing new damage due to the physical effects of stress.
The Benefits of Meditation:
The benefits of meditation are manifold because it can reverse your stress response, thereby shielding you from the effects of chronic stress. When practicing meditation, your heart rate and breathing slow down, your blood pressure normalizes, you use oxygen more efficiently, and you sweat less. Your adrenal glands produce less cortisol, your mind ages at a slower rate, and your immune function improves. Your mind also clears and your creativity increases. People who meditate regularly find it easier to give up life-damaging habits like smoking, drinking and drugs. Meditation research is still new, but promising.
How Meditation Works:

Meditation involves sitting in a relaxed position and clearing your mind. You may focus on a sound, like "ooommm," or on your own breathing, or on nothing at all. It’s necessary to have at least 5 to 20 distraction-free minutes to spend. (Longer meditation sessions bring greater benefits, but sometimes starting slowly can help you maintain the practice long-term.) It’s helpful to have silence and privacy, but more practiced meditators can practice medtation anywhere. Many practitioners of meditation attach a spiritual component to it, but it can also be a secular exercise.
Pros Of Meditation:

Meditation is wonderful in that it’s free, always available, and amazingly effective in short-term stress reduction and long-term health. Benefits can be felt in just one session. An experienced teacher can be helpful, but isn't absolutely necessary; you can learn many effective meditation techniques from a book or from the meditation resources on  sites.
The Cons of Meditation:
It does take some practice, however, and some people find it difficult to "get it" in the beginning. It also requires a little patience, and may be difficult for people with little free time (like some stay-at-home mothers who get little privacy from small children). However, the time and effort it takes to learn and practice is well worth it in terms of the benefits it provides.
How Does It Compare To Other Stress Reduction Methods?
Unlike some medications and herbal therapies, meditation has no potential side effects. People with physical limitations may find it easier to practice than strenuous physical exercise for stress relief, plus, no special equipment is required. Unlike enlisting the help of a professional, meditation is free. However, it does take discipline and commitment, so some people may find it more difficult to maintain as a habit than methods that enlist the help of someone or something outside themselves for added motivation. Also, some people may find it more difficult to free their minds of the thoughts of the day, and thus find it more difficult than methods like journaling that involve focusing on these events, or methods that in themselves are distracting, like physical exercise or the use of humor.

Get Started With Meditation

There are many forms of meditation that bring these fantastic benefits. Here's a sampling of meditation techniques to try.
Types of Meditation Techniques:

Researchers generally classify meditation techniques into two different categories: concentrative, and non-concentrative. Concentrative techniques involve focusing on a particular object that's generally outside of oneself: a candle's flame, the sound of an instrument, or a particular mantra. Non-concentrative meditation, on the other hand, can include a broader focus: the sounds in one's environment as well as internal body states and one's own breathing. There can be overlap with these techniques, however; one meditation technique can be both concentrative and non-concentrative.
There are many, many different ways to meditate. Here I’ll mention some basic categories of meditation techniques so you can understand some of the main options and how they differ from one another. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it can give you some ideas.
  • Basic Meditation Techniques: This involves sitting in a comfortable position and just trying to quiet your mind by thinking of nothing. It’s not always easy to do this if you don’t have practice with it. But a good way to begin is to think of yourself as an ‘observer of your thoughts,’ just noticing what the narrative voice in your head says, but not engaging it. As thoughts materialize in your mind, just let them go. That’s the basic idea.
  • Focused Meditation Techniques: With this technique, you focus on something intently, but don’t engage your thoughts about it. You can focus on something visual, like a statue; something auditory, like a metronome or tape of ocean waves; something constant, like your own breathing; or a simple concept, like ‘unconditional compassion’. Some people find it easier to do this than to focus on nothing, but the idea is the same -- staying in the present moment and circumventing the constant stream of commentary from your conscious mind, and allowing yourself to slip into an altered state of consciousness.

  • Activity-Oriented Meditation Techniques: With this type of meditation, you engage in a repetitive activity, or one where you can get ‘in the zone’ and experience ‘flow.’ Again, this quiets the mind, and allows your brain to shift. Activities like gardening, creating artwork, or practicing yoga can all be effective forms of meditation.

  • Mindfulness Techniques: Mindfulness can be a form of meditation that, like activity-oriented meditation, doesn’t really look like meditation. It simply involved staying in the present moment rather than thinking about the future or the past. (Again, this is more difficult than it seems!) Focusing on sensations you feel in your body is one way to stay ‘in the now;’ focusing on emotions and where you feel them in your body (not examining why you feel them, but just experiencing them as sensations) is another.
  • Spiritual Meditating: Meditation can also be a spiritual practice. (It does not have to be, and certainly isn't specific to any one religion, but can be used as a spiritual experience.) Many people experience meditation as a form of prayer -- the form where God 'speaks,' rather than just listening. That’s right, many people experience ‘guidance’ or inner wisdom once the mind is quiet, and meditate for this purpose. You can meditate on a singular question until an answer comes (though some would say this is engaging your thinking mind too much), or meditate to clear their mind and accept whatever comes that day.
Whichever meditative techniques you use, the potential benefits are clear and numerous, making it one of the more commonly recommended stress management practices

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