How Mindful Meditation Can Help Improve Your Mood When You’re Stressed
As you may be aware, meditation is the practice of clearing your mind to return to a place of straightforward thinking. But according to a recent study, meditation might also be a great way to improve your mood whenever you’re stressed.
A November 2018 study published in Stress & Health analyzed 134 mildly stressed adults who were either assigned to a six-week mindfulness meditation training program or a waitlist control. So what’s “mindfulness” in this context, exactly? It’s a certain type of meditation that allows people to be totally aware of the present moment — without concern about the past or future — and calmly accept their feelings about the here and the now. Results showed that the participants who learned this type of meditation saw a significant reduction of subjective distress. Specifically, these folks experienced less worry, anxiety, anger, self-criticism, and life dissatisfaction when compared to the people who didn’t take the meditation course.
Researchers said these results suggest that this type of training gives people the chance to observe and experience their reactions to stress with more acceptance and calmness. “In turn, this impartial receptiveness buffers initial threat appraisals, and subsequently, reduces emotional reactivity, potentially leading to greater health,” researchers said in a press release.
As if that didn’t sound promising enough, this new study is just one part of an ever-growing body of research that supports giving meditation a try. If you’re curious about other health benefits of meditation, you’re certainly not alone. Many folks who are new to the idea are wondering if the activity is worth a shot as a way to boost their well-being. Maybe you know a friend who does morning meditation every day and seems to always be the picture of good health. Or maybe you met with a doctor who can’t stop talking about meditation, mindfulness, and the perks that come from focusing on your breathing. But does meditation work as a way to truly improve your wellness, or is that nothing but hype?
Science appears to be on meditation’s side. Several studies have linked the practice to helping with migraine relief, weight loss, better sleep, and improved heart health, among other things. Although meditation is traditionally associated with Eastern philosophies and religions, it has surged in popularity in the United States in recent years as a more secular activity to help people relieve stress. So it’s pretty neat that new meditation daily benefits are being discovered all the time. Scroll below to see more of the best health benefits of meditation.
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Meditation Migraine Relief
Meditation for Migraine Pain
Meditation is all about clearing your head, so it's pretty convenient that it could also help your head if it's in physical pain, too. A 2014 study found that people with migraines who practiced mindfulness-based stress reduction for eight weeks had fewer throbbing headaches afterward than people in the study who didn't participate in the course. Even better news for those who got their "om" on? When their migraines did return, they were shorter and less severe than they were before. Another 2014 study found that folks with migraines who attended just one 20-minute guided meditation session reported a 33 percent decrease in pain and a 43 percent decrease in emotional tension afterward. Yet another study published in 2017 found that people with migraines who participated in spiritual meditation based on the Buddhist "loving kindness" approach were more likely to decrease their use of migraine medication than those who tried secular meditation or muscle relaxation. Wow — we know what we're doing the next time our heads start pounding!
Sleep Guided Meditation
Meditation to Sleep
If you want to catch more Zzz's, meditation might be the perfect bait. Practicing mindful meditation is linked to improved quality of sleep and fewer feelings of fatigue, according to a 2015 study. Researchers found that adults with sleep disturbances who completed a six-week mindful awareness practice intervention (a therapeutic practice approach grounded in mindfulness) saw significantly improved sleep quality compared to those who completed a sleep hygiene education course instead. On top of that, a 2014 study also found that mindful meditation could be a viable treatment option for adults with chronic insomnia. The randomized clinical trial suggested that meditation could provide an alternative to traditional insomnia treatments. So it's little wonder why so many people are turning to tools like sleep meditation music on YouTube — such as the popular video below — and vouching for its success.
Meditation For Weight Loss
Meditation for Weight Loss
Yes, you read that right. Being mindful may actually be linked to having a flatter belly, according to a 2015 study. After researchers studied 400 people's health data and how they practiced mindfulness, they found that those with low mindfulness scores were 34 percent more likely to be obese than participants with the highest scores. This meditation and weight loss research also found that the people with low mindfulness scores were more likely to have an extra pound of fat specifically on their belly. So if you're looking for simple yet effective ways to slim down, there's never been a better time to get into the zen mode and try some meditation weight loss techniques.
Meditation For The Brain
Meditation for Brain Health
Yogis and Buddhists have claimed for thousands of years that meditation strengthens our ability to focus on tasks and helps keep our minds sharp. A May 2018 study by researchers at Trinity College Dublin shows for the first time that there is scientific evidence to back that claim up. The study found that participants who focused well during an attention-consuming task had greater synchronization between their breathing patterns and their attention than the folks who struggled to focus. The research also showed that breathing — a crucial element of meditation — directly affects the levels of noradrenaline, a natural messenger in the brain. Moving forward, the authors believe that breath-control practices could possibly help people pay attention and even boost their overall brain health. Yogis, you told us so!
Meditation And Heart Health
Meditation for Heart Health
Some people might be surprised to hear that meditation may decrease the risk of heart disease, according to a first-of-its-kind statement on the practice by the American Heart Association in September 2017. But this meditation heart health research was extensive: A group of cardiovascular disease experts reviewed a whopping 57 studies that researched common types of sitting meditation and whether the practice had any effect on heart disease. Sitting meditation refers to any meditation that excludes physical activity (so advanced yoga is out). The sitting meditations in the study included practices such as mindful meditation, which involves bringing awareness to what you’re directly experiencing through your senses, and relaxation response, which involves fighting the effects of stress by using the opposite reaction to the fight or flight response. "Overall, studies of meditation suggest a possible benefit on cardiovascular risk, although the overall quality and in some cases quantity of study data is modest," said the AHA in a statement.
Meditation to Move More
We know meditation isn't usually seen as a super physical activity, but according to a May 2018 study, meditation might actually get you more motivated to move after you're done getting your "om" on. The research, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that a meditation and stress-reduction program may be as effective as getting people to move as structured exercise programs. Researchers compared two programs — mindfulness-based stress reduction and aerobic exercise training — and measured changes in participants’ exercise, general physical activity, and sedentary time with another group of people that did neither program. Lead researcher Jacob Meyer, PhD, said in a press release that the folks assigned to both of the two programs were more active than the control group, logging in an extra 75 minutes a week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Considering the fact that exercising can actually prolong your life, this is no small feat to dismiss.
Meditation For Menopause
Meditation for Menopause Symptoms
Who would've guessed that meditation might help keep pesky menopause symptoms at bay? An October 2018 study out of the Mayo Clinic analyzed 1,744 women aged 40 to 65 and found that higher levels of mindfulness were linked to lower scores of menopause symptoms such as hot flashes. Women in the study who practiced this concept not only experienced less severe menopause symptoms, but also lower levels of stress. "Although more research is needed, this study provides a strong signal for the potential role of mindfulness in improving psychological symptoms, emotional response to menopause symptoms, and stress in women during midlife," said lead author Richa Sood, MD, in a press release.