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Benefits of Meditation for Stress Management

The Benefits of MeditationsBy Elizabeth Scott, M.S.

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Overview of Meditation:
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.
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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.
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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.
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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 this site.
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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.
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How Does It Compare To Other Stress Reduction Methods?:
Unlike most medications, 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.
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How To Stop Punishing Yourself For The Past

How often do we overlook the above aphorism as we repeatedly revisit past mistakes, injuries, and confrontations?  There are times I lie sleepless and recall arguments I had with college sweethearts, high school teachers, and even the grade school bully.  What do I get for my trouble?  Sometimes I experience that all-too-familiar wave of panic, other times an uneasy stomach or a rapidly beating heart; that feeling is almost always accompanied by guilt, resentment, or both.  The experience never benefits me and I’ve reached the point in my life where I need to stop it.

The Problem of Repunishment

We’ve been conditioned from birth to retain our flaws and mistakes in two ways: by example and through confrontation.  The first form of conditioning is by example; we see and hear our parents do it every day.  Your dad forgets to take the trash out after dinner; your mom gets angry and calls him on it.  But instead of saying: “Dear, your forgot the trash”, she says: “You forgot the trash again!  You NEVER remember to take it out!” Now your dad doesn’t deal with the current situation, rather he relives every time he forgot.  He feels guilt and frustration well up, he becomes defensive, and the argument begins.  The second form of conditioning is more direct; someone will be displeased and say: “How many times do I have to tell you…” Then we relive each of our past mistakes and feel the guilt, the pain, and the frustration.

By the time we’re in high school (if not long before), we’ve become so conditioned that we put ourselves through the ringer.  We don’t need anyone else to do it to us; we start repunishing ourselves.  You run late for work after school, again.  Instead of focusing on today’s tardiness, you relive each time you have been late.  The panic and guilt start to build, and build, and build as you revisit each transgression.  When you finally get to work you have rehashed every time you have been late to work, and you re-experience all of the negative energy from each time.

The worst part of the situation, however, is that we don’t let anything go.  We retain all of this emotional poison and add the new stuff.  Then, the NEXT time something happens, we get to revisit it all AGAIN.  And the cycle continues, because we have great memories and consciences.  We make a mistake, we judge ourselves, we find our selves guilty, and we punish ourselves.  No wonder we go through our lives feeling defensive, guilty, and uncertain.

Taking Control Of Our Lives

However, we can take control of our lives and stop this painful cycle.  The process isn’t difficult, but it will be unsettling at first and require some adjustment.  We experience this discomfort as we rebel against what we’ve learned and become accustomed to our entire lives.  The more ingrained our solution becomes, however, the more comfort it provides as we adapt to the new standard.  I’ve outlined below the process I have been using to stop this self punishment.

1. Acknowledge and own the mistake. This not only calms us but gives us some power over the situation.  If something “isn’t our fault”, then how can we take action to correct the situation?  We can’t.  By accepting responsibility for a situation, we make ourselves “response able” (thanks to Steven Covey for this phrase).

2. Identify the mistake. Analyze the situation and see just exactly what caused the undesired outcome.  It could have been a simple typo, it could have been procrastination, it could have been a misunderstanding, it could have been an omission, etc.  Whatever the source of the problem, we need to identify it as clearly and completely as possible.

3. Correct the problem. Implement a new system to avoid omissions, determine where our scheduling technique broke down, etc.  Make sure that, to the best of our ability, that we have implemented a solution that should prevent the same (or a very similar) mistake from recurring.  Be proud of this accomplishment – it enables us to let go of our disappointment, guilt, frustration, fear, anger, etc.

4. Move on. Obviously this is harder than it sounds.  However, our preparation above has led us to a position where we can honestly tell ourselves that we know what happened, we don’t like what happened, and we have fixed the problem that led to it occurring.  By taking both responsibility and action, we create a powerful combination that allows us, with a bit of discipline, to live in the present and not rehash the past.

Final Thoughts

If we find ourselves trying to rehash a past mistake, it is important to STOP.  Observe what we are doing, identify the problem triggering this response, and remind ourselves of the solution we implemented to stop that problem from repeating.  Then focus on our solution and a couple of instances where our solution has led to positive outcomes.  As we train ourselves to make this part of our process, we’ll be pleasantly surprised to find this easier and easier to accomplish.

About the author: this post was written by Forrest McDonald.

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For more tips on relieving emotional pain from the past please visit our Emotional Wellness Page or click on this link http://www.celestialhealing.net/emotional_stress_therapy.htm

Happiness and Optimistic Attitudes Important in Preventing Breast Cancer

Want to lower your risk of getting breast cancer? Recent research in Israel published in the British journal BMC Cancer has given us one more thing to take note of.

Breast Cancer Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after non-melanoma skin cancer, cancer of the breast is the next one which most commonly afflicts American women. In 2004 alone, over 185,000 women and more than 1,800 men were diagnosed with the disease, while almost 41,000 women and 362 men actually died because of breast cancer.

Overall, in that year, breast cancer was the number five killer of American women, while being their number two cancer killer. For Hispanic women, breast cancer was also the type of cancer which caused the most deaths.

These numbers do not make for good reading at all. What actually causes breast cancer, and what can we do to stave it off?

Possible Causes of Breast Cancer

Those who are familiar with natural health and healing will know that breast cancer, like all other forms of cancer, can be prevented and even treated using powerful dietary and lifestyle choices, such as consuming enough fiber, exercising regularly, as well as getting enough sunshine and vitamin D.

What is also clear is that breast cancer, again like all forms of cancer, is a multi-factorial disease which needs to be tackled from various angles.

Recent research at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel has given us one more piece of the jigsaw – it seems that happiness and optimistic attitudes may reduce one’s risk of contracting the disease. On the flip side, adverse life events may increase one’s susceptibility to it.

Details of the Study

For the study, 622 women aged between 25 and 45 were asked about their life experiences, and researchers then assessed their levels of optimism, happiness, anxiety and depression before diagnosis. This information was then used to draw a link between life events, psychological distress and the occurrence of breast cancer. Of the participants, 255 were breast cancer patients, while the other 367 had never had cancer.

According to Professor Ronit Peled, the leader of the study, its findings “showed a clear link between outlook and risk of breast cancer, with optimists 25 percent less likely to have developed the disease”.

On the other hand, women who had been through two or more traumatic events in their lives had a 62 percent higher risk of contracting the disease.

The Emotion-Health Connection

Generally speaking, there have been other studies which have drawn a link between positive mental and emotional states and better health. For example, some studies have shown that positive emotions cause the body to produce more immune cells, while negative ones have the effect of suppressing one’s immune system.

But exactly and specifically how attitudes contribute to health, is something which we cannot say we know very well. One theory is that the body’s immune system is influenced by brain chemistry, which is in turn affected by one’s emotional experiences.

“The mechanism in which the central nervous, hormonal and immune systems interact and how behaviour and external events modulate these three systems is not fully understood,” said Peled. “The relationship between happiness and health should be examined in future studies and relevant preventative initiatives should be developed.”

One thing we do know, though, is that emotions such as happiness, stress, anger, anxiety and fear affect the human at a biochemical level. In other words, when our emotions change, our bodies also become chemically different.

What Next For Us

One thing that must be noted about the study is that the women were in fact interviewed after their cancer diagnosis, could very well affect their recollection of their emotional state in the past. When a person is going through a crisis, it would perhaps be a natural tendency to view events in the past more negatively.

Despite this, and although the “how” is still uncertain, Peled is convinced that the link between emotional events and health exists. He feels that “we can carefully say that experiencing more than one severe and/or mild to moderate life event is a risk factor for breast cancer among young women. On the other hand, a general feeling of happiness and optimism can play a protective role”.

According to him, young women who have gone through a number of adverse life events should be identified as being ‘at-risk’ for breast cancer and then be treated as necessary.

Most of us wish to find a specific solution for every health problem. The truth is, many degenerative diseases, and most certainly cancer, have their roots in multiple causes. That being the case, many factors would contribute to one’s risk profile, and a multi-pronged approach in preventing and dealing with the disease is almost always necessary.

What we now know, being happy and optimistic forms are an important part of such an approach.

And if you have been through some tough events in life, you may want to seek some help to address unresolved issues, either through professional counseling or otherwise. Leaving these issues lingering would just be adding more ammunition to the potential cancer time bomb.

Article by: Reuben Chow

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For more tips on relieving emotional stress or depression please visit our Emotional Wellness Page or click on this link http://www.celestialhealing.net/emotional_stress_therapy.htm

The harmfull effects of stress on the body

We never seem to have enough time to get done in one day that which needs to get done. Sound familiar? It is this perception of not having enough time that leads us to believe we are not getting anywhere. And it is this perception of not getting anywhere in our life which causes us to become anxious and stressed-out.

For some this is only happens occasionally but for others this thought process and feeling happens on a daily basis, year in and year out. The effects this kind of stress has on the body is dangerous and can lead to serious illness.

Effects of stress on the mind
While the effects of stress on the body are generally thought of in the physical sense, they can also result in mental strain. Symptoms of stress on the mind could be impaired judgment and indecisiveness. Forgetfulness and memory lapses are also common and on the extreme end depression. The mental effects of stress can be frightening.

Effects of stress on the body
Symptoms of stress can sometimes result in chest pains, insomnia or a person losing or gaining weight drastically. Other physical effects of stress on the body people can experience are (but not limited to):

  • High blood pressure
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Constant Headaches and Migraines
  • Stomach ulcers and digestive problems (nausea and diarrhea)
  • Loss of sex drive

Over an extended period of time the effects of stress can include more frequent illness due to a reduction in the efficiency of the immune system. More concerning though that prolonged stress on the body can lead to anxiety and panic attacks and in extreme cases, heart attacks. 

What you can do to combat the effects of a stressful lifestyle
Well, whether you like it or not there are no surprises here when it comes to taking care of the incredible vehicle we all tend to take for granted. One of the best ways to keep the physical symptoms of stress at bay is to adhere to a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables which are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help to repair the damage stress can cause on the body and the added benefits are more energy and mental clarity.

Daily exercise is another good way to manage the muscle tension and mental effects of stress on the body. Just thirty minutes of walking, biking or swimming can make a huge difference on how you cope with the strain and pressures of modern day living.

You don’t have to let the negative effects of stress on the body ruin your life. Develop a consistent healthy lifestyle. Exercise your mind and body effectively so you can adapt better to challenging situations and enjoy the benefits of all your hard work.

More Helpful Tips On Relieving Stress

Visualization can be a powerful tool to help you improve your life circumstances, but it can also serve as a handy technique for transforming stress and anxiety into peace, happiness and confidence!

Stress and anxiety can quickly become a vicious cycle that keep you feeling powerless and frightened. The more stressed you get, the more your thoughts and emotions will move toward the negative side, which only makes you feel more stressed!

Using visualization to transform these feelings can stop the cycle by switching your focus to something more positive and uplifting.

First and foremost, it’s helpful if you can remove yourself from the stressful environment and engage in some relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing before you begin your visualization, because your mind will be more receptive if you’re calm and centered.

Once you’ve moved yourself into a more relaxed state, bring to mind a scene that soothes and calms you. You can choose a natural setting like a beach or forest, or imagine a place that is representative of relaxation such as a spa or temple. Imagine yourself being in this place, feeling balanced and calm.

Rather than simply “seeing” the images in your mind, make an effort to mentally transport yourself to this calm setting and engage as many of your senses as you can. Imagine that you can smell the fresh air or incense in the temple; imagine that you can feel the rich earth beneath your feet, hear the roar of ocean waves or bird song, and feel the cool breeze moving through your hair. The more you can involve your senses, the more “real” the scene will seem to you, and the more effective it will be in calming you.

One of the more fascinating measures taken for stress relief can be had with an art therapy. With so many different forms of therapy today it’s tough to know which are the most effective for which condition, but art therapy enjoys great success in helping people suffering from a collection of conditions that are both physical and mental. If you are looking for an exciting method for relieving stress, art therapy is a good option.

An art therapy session will help you show others how art can lead to self awareness and understanding, as well as how soothing it can be to engage in the creative process. Taking the time to focus on a piece of art alone can make a tremendous difference in how we live and think and can reduce stress amazingly. Art therapy also helps people to discover things about themselves based on what they draw.

www.healingpowerhour.com

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