Meditation and stress

buddha head encased in tree rootsOne of the most common reasons that people cite for wanting to learn meditation is to reduce stress.

Stress is of course unavoidable, and the point of stress reduction and stress management programs is not to eliminate stress from our lives entirely. Life is always going to be full of challenges, and a life without some turmoil is not only impossible but is also undesirable.

Many stress therapists, of course, recognize that regular meditation and relaxation can be of significant help in reducing stress to manageable and healthy levels, and relaxation and meditation exercises are now widely taught. Many therapists and psychiatrists are taking up meditation themselves, not only so that they can teach it more effectively to others but in order to deal with the very stressful demands of their own jobs, which can result in burnout.

A considerable amount of research has shown that meditation has benefits on mental health, including a reduction in proneness to depression, an increase in emotional positivity, and an increased ability to deal with life’s inevitable stresses.

People often think of meditation as being nothing more than relaxation, and there is a famous book on meditation and health entitled “The Relaxation Response.” Meditation, however, not only involves relaxation (the cessation of unnecessary effort) but promotes mindfulness, which helps the stress-sufferer to recognize unhelpful patterns of thought that give rise to the stress response, and also involves the active cultivation of positive mental states such as lovingkindness, compassion, patience, and energy.

This section explores how meditation can help you to deal with your stress, and gives information on a program called “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction”, or MBSR, which is a program developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, and which uses the principles of mindfulness meditation to help long-term pain sufferers learn to deal with their afflictions.