Relaxation Techniques: Meditation

Sandi Anders, MDiv, CSC

Relaxation Techniques Like Meditation Help You Reduce Stress

Relaxation techniques such as meditation can train your mind and help you to become less responsive to stress. With the practice of relaxation it is possible to regain a sense of balance in your life; this can result in increased inner contentment and tranquility. With more serenity, you may find it easier to deal with daily challenges.

Meditation -- A Relaxation Technique with Proven Benefits

Research indicates that relaxation techniques like meditation have a number of positive effects on health and wellness. Some of these benefits are:

  • Slower heart rate
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Slower breathing rate
  • Increase of blood flow to muscles and skin
  • Reduction of muscle tension

Other physical benefits can include greater vitality, superior concentration, improved capacity to manage difficulties.

Types of Meditation

There are several forms of meditation. Most meditation practice is either "concentration" meditation -- which includes transcendental meditation -- or "insight" meditation -- like mindfulness. Although many assume meditation is complicated, most people can easily learn how to meditate with a little practice.

Concentration Meditation

When you are practicing concentration meditation, you bring your attention and focus on your breath, a word, a phrase, a sound, a symbol, a comforting image or the dancing flame of a candle. For example, you choose a word or phrase that has meaning for you -- such as "peace", or "calm", or perhaps "deep" -- and then silently repeat that word each time you exhale.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness or present-moment awareness is another advantageous form of meditation. To practice mindfulness meditation you focus your awareness on whatever is happening in the present instant, attending to any sensations you perceive, such as sound, taste, touch, smell or sight.

Mindfulness: Formal and Informal Ways of Practice

Mindfulness can be practiced in a formal way, setting aside a certain time each day to focus your awareness. It can also be practiced as you go through your day in a more informal way by being fully engaged in whatever is happening in the present moment. This meditation can be incorporated into a variety of activities in everyday life, from sitting at your desk to taking a shower, driving or walking.

Meditation Can Reduce the Harmful Effects of Chronic Stress

With the practice of meditation, you have the ability to create the relaxation response in your body. With that response, you promote well-being and improved health as well as reduce a number of the health risks linked to chronic stress.

Next article in this series: Relaxation Techniques: Guided Meditation and Visualization »