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Meditation and Health

Meditation may help with managing stress. It may also help ease symptoms of some health conditions.

woman resting her head in her hands

If you’re like most Americans, you probably experience some level of stress every day. It’s important to know how to manage that stress. Although it may seem difficult to take time for yourself, doing so can help ease your mind and body. One way to do that is through meditation.

Meditation may invoke images of a someone sitting cross legged and repeating “ommm” over and over, but it’s more than that. It’s easy to do and it may offer many medical benefits.

What is meditation?

Meditation is a group of techniques for focusing attention and letting other thoughts go. The intent is to become more aware of yourself and your emotions. This may help you manage stress and release physical tension.

Health benefits

Meditation can do more than help manage stress. Many people use it to enhance their sense of well-being. Others use it as a part of their medical treatment. Research about meditation is ongoing, but has shown that it may be helpful for conditions including:

  • Certain types of pain, whether recent or ongoing chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Attention and concentration difficulties

How it’s done

Most styles of meditation ask you to:

  • Find a quiet location. This will help prevent outside distractions. If you live in a noisy place or it is difficult to find a quiet place, it may help to use ear plugs.
  • Assume a comfortable posture. You may sit, lie down or stand, depending on your practice. Some methods include walking or other movement.
  • Focus your attention. You may focus on a mantra (a word or phrase), an object or your breathing. While many people use the word “om,” find the one word mantra that works best for you. Or you may focus on whatever’s on your mind.
  • Have an open mind. Let thoughts come and go without letting them distract you. Don’t suppress or judge them. Don’t critize yourself for having these interrupting thoughts. It takes a long time to reach the point of  having full attention. Just bring your attention back to your focal point.

Precautions

Meditation is considered safe for most healthy people. But some movements or positions could be difficult if you have physical limitations.

  • Let your doctor know you meditate. This will help ensure coordinated and safe medical care.
  • Don’t use meditation in place of medical care. Talk to your doctor first about any health concerns.
  • Find a qualified teacher. Be sure they are trained in your particular style. It’s especially important to do movements correctly to avoid injury. Find out from your doctor if you need to modify any positions and be sure your teacher pays attention to this. They should help you with modifications based on your physical state.
  • Look for published studies. Ask your doctor about research related to your health condition.
  • If you meditate while moving, such as when doing yoga or Tai Chi, be mindful of your environment to ensure safety.

If you’re pregnant, have been physically inactive or have a health condition such as arthritis, diabetes or heart disease, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program or increasing your activity level. He or she can tell you what types and amounts of activities are safe for you

By Emily A. King, Contributing Writer

Sources
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Meditation: In depth. Accessed: April 25, 2017.
American Psychological Association. Five tips to help manage stress. Accessed: April 25, 2017.
Helpguide.org. Relaxation techniques for stress relief: Mindfulness meditation. Accessed: April 25, 2017.

Last Updated: April 28, 2017