Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Meditation Helps Lower Stress

By Michelle Bernard / Good Medicine

Syracuse, N.Y. -- Dr. David Humphrey had back problems, an abnormal heart rate and a sleep disorder-- all symptoms of stress.

To relieve his symptoms Humphrey, a retired doctor from Syracuse, started going to Dr. Bill Cross's conscious stress reduction class which teaches meditation and mindfulness, or a cultivated awareness of your own body and feelings.

By combining mindfulness and western medicine, Humphrey's back pains have gone away and his heart rate has returned to normal.

“I reduced that stress and sleep better now. That's one of the things,” says Cross. “I've become more aware of the tension in my back and able to relax it.”

What is Meditation?
Meditation comes in many forms, but all share the following elements:
•A quiet location
•A specific, comfortable posture
•A Focus of attention (usually on your breath)
• An Open Attitude

Sanghyeon Chun has been practicing meditation for thirteen years and leads a meditation class at Syracuse University.

“Basically I put my awareness on lower abdomen, and breath, sometimes I just observe myself, without specific focal points, if some thought arrives, I just notice it,” he says. “That is meditation practice.”

Sanghyeon says that meditation helps you to be relaxed, and teaches skills to cope with daily stress.

There are many kinds of exercises for relaxation and stress, listening to music, watching TV or movies, but a distinctive point of meditation is that it trains our attention he says.

Put it into Practice

It works for Humphrey and Sanghyeon, but how can others achieve the same results?

Through practice says Sanghyeon, who is also a doctoral student in instructional design at Syracuse University.

“When you go to the gym, you need regular practice to make a good shape of your muscles,” says Sanghyeon. “Meditation is the same thing.”

Most students don't know what to expect when going to the sessions, but are often happy with its results. SU student Morgan Salvan recently attended his first meditation session and would recommend it to others looking for stress relief.

“The experience I had was a relaxing one,” says Salvan. “It made me focus on things that were much more rudimentary than a lot of things that are going on in my everyday life.”

A National Trend
An increasing number of Americans are starting to meditation sessions just like the one offered here at the university.

A recent government survey found that 9.4 percent of U.S. adults had used meditation to treat anxiety, depression and stress in the past 12 months.

Tips for Meditating
If you're one of the many Americans interested in meditation make sure to follow these guidelines from the National Institutes of Health.

•Do not use meditation as a replacement for conventional care or as a reason to postpone seeing a doctor about a medical problem.

•Ask about the training and experience of the meditation instructor you are considering.

•Look for published research studies on meditation for the health condition in which you are interested.

•Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

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