Stress is a reaction to the changes that threaten homeostasis (balance of the body). When the stressor is persistent, long term effects of stress may be harmful for the physical and psychological health (1). Meditation and relaxation have recently been much popular as alternative methods in therapies, treatments, and workplaces to reduce the negative effects of depression, anxiety, stress, and so on, and increase the positive and effective skills in people (2,3,4). Meditation is characterized by deep relaxation (also called hypometabolism) and effort of the person to be aware of their thoughts, emotions, bodies and breaths at the moment by giving attention (5). Also, metabolic level, oxygen consumption, brain activity and activation of the sympathetic nervous system are diminished by meditation practices (3).
Good Stress and Bad Stress
Stress is usually known as bad and harmful; however, it is sometimes necessary, for instance, feeling stress to finish projects, not to be late to work, to prepare good presentations, and so on. Almost all good experiences in our life will bring some stress. The important thing is how we see stressful events. If a person applies negative labels, he or she is more likely to experience both physically and psychologically stressful. Yet, if the person sees the stressor as a way to prepare oneself to life’s challenges, he or she will perceive the stress in more accepting way, and not get a long-term harm from it (6). When the stress becomes chronic, such as, having an unhappy marriage or a stressful work life, it brings physical and emotional damages to oneself because our bodies aren’t designed for chronic stresses (7).
Can Meditation Really Relieve Stress?
Yes! There are a lot of studies showing the benefits of meditation and being mindful to relieve the level of stress. Recently, meditation is known as one of the most effective practices to deal with many psychological disorders and distress. It helps for:
- Reversing the effect of stress response (decreased heart rate, normalization of blood pressure, strengthened immunity, more efficient use of oxygen, deeper breathing, etc.)
- Increasing the neurotransmitter of well-being (dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, etc.)
- Getting relaxed and sleeping better
- Improving attention skills
- Releasing emotional turbulence
- Improving the brain parts of stress-management (insula, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex)
- Finding and understanding true self, and have a greater self-acceptance
- Increasing happiness and peace of mind (8,9)
1. Schneiderman, N., Ironson, G., & Siegel, S. D. (2005). Stress and Health: Psychological, Behavioral, and Biological Determinants. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1(1), 607-628.
2. Barnes, V., Davis, H., Murzynowski, J., & Trieber, F. (2004). Impact of meditation on resting and ambulatory blood pressure and heart rate in youth. Psychosomatic Medicine, 66, 909-914.
3. Pandey, A., Quick, J. C., Rossi, A. M., Nelson, D. L., & Martin, W. (2011). Stress and the Workplace: 10 Years of Science, 1997–2007. In The Handbook of Stress Science (Eds. R. J. Contrada & A. Baum). Springer Publishing Company: New York.
4. Creswell, J. D., Way, B. M., Eisenberger, N. I., & Lieberman, M. D. (2007). Neural correlates of dispositional mindfulness during affect labeling. Psychosomatic Medicine, 69, 560-565.
5. Murata, T., Takahashi, T., Hamada, T., Omori, M., Kosaka, H., Yoshida, H., et al. (2004). Individual trait anxiety levels characterizing the properties of Zen meditation. Neuropsychobiology, 50, 189-194.
6. Headspace. Meditation for Stress. Retrieved from https://www.headspace.com/meditation/stress
7. Scott, E. (2018, Oct 28). When Stress Is Actually Good for You. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-kind-of-stress-is-good-for-you-3145055
8. Salazar, W. (2018, Feb 20). The Benefits of Meditation for Stress Relief. Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/benefits-of-meditation-for-stress-relief-0220185
9. Chopra, D. 7 Ways Meditation Can Help You Reduce and Manage Stress. Retrieved from https://chopra.com/articles/7-ways-meditation-can-help-you-reduce-and-manage-stress