For many years, meditation against stress has increasingly been called the most powerful weapon against stress, not only in Buddhism, but also in science. It has the stress-reducing ability to put the body and mind into a relaxation mode.
What does neuroscience have to say about meditation?
Neuroscientists explain that amazing changes can be seen in the brain when you engage with your mind. This can even go as far as changing the biology of the brain. This is proven by comparative studies conducted before and after a meditation study or mediation course with 22 subjects using electroencephalographs and magnetic resonance imaging at Freie Universität and Charité Berlin under the direction of psychologist Vladimir Bostanov and psychologist Philipp Keune.
The electroencephalogram measurement curves show that many who meditate are finally able to think more clearly and control their own attention better. The result: they lose themselves less in negative thoughts.
Studies on the vagus nerve
Studies on the vagus nerve, which extends from the brain stem along the neck through the thoracic cavity into the intestines and many branches, have been carried out by the American psychologist Bethany Kok. This vagus nerve supplies not only the external auditory canals and the pharynx and larynx, but also the lungs, stomach, intestines and, last but not least, the heart.
In comparison to the control group, psychologist Kok and her team were able to demonstrate that the vagotonus of the meditators increased significantly. A high tone helps with orgasm and enables regulated digestion. Furthermore, this nerve promotes social skills. Especially by means of eye contact, smiling, etc.
You can read the studies in the journal “Psychological Science” and in “Psychiatry Research”.
Out of the esoteric corner
The fact that the results became neurologically measurable has led to meditation in general, as well as meditation against stress, finding its place in medicine out of the esoteric corner. Medical specialists and psychologists from many university hospitals are beginning to combine meditation techniques from Hinduism and Buddhism with modern medicine. In this context, it is now no longer unusual for monks and yogis to explain the path to nirvana in terms of treating illnesses.
That this is so is also proven by studies at the Massachusetts General Hospital. 15 women and men who suffered from sleep disorders, tension and anxiety used their minds like medicine. Diagnosis: Generalized anxiety disorder.
Meditation works against anxiety
After eight weeks of mindfulness meditation, the participants were able to sleep better and also cope better with their anxiety. The reason was revealed in functional magnetic resonance imaging. Parts of the prefrontal cortex (part of the frontal cortex) had a stronger blood supply. And it is precisely this part that is responsible for regulating emotions. Also, the connection between the prefrontal cortex just mentioned and the amygdala (the fear center in the brain) appeared more pronounced than with comparison subjects who had not participated in meditation.
Britta Hölzl, a psychologist and trained yoga teacher, was able to track in the brain scanner how meditation ultimately dispels anxiety (also caused by stress). It is assumed that even in the hippocampus (the learning area) additional nerve cells can mature with great probability.
Connection between body and mind
And the fact that body and mind are closely connected has also been confirmed by a group led by physician Robert Schneider of Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield. More than 200 women and men with constrictions of the coronary arteries were divided into two groups. One group learned Transcendental Meditation. The result: this group suffered fewer heart attacks andstrokes and lived longer.
Meditation expands consciousness
One example is at the Bender Institute of Neuroimaging at the University of Giessen Mr. Ulrich Ott. He expresses that neither yoga nor qigong nor tai chi nor the mindfulness practices can be limited to the religious context. He has even published a book called “Meditation for Skeptics”. In it, he explains the path to the self and says that meditation can expand consciousness while enabling the detachment from ingrained behaviors and thought patterns.
It is therefore fair to say that meditation against stress has nothing to do with the often mentioned placebo effect or even with voodoo magic.
Which type of meditation is best, especially for stress, cannot be said at this time. In most cases, the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR for short, is prescribed.
What are the first steps you need to take when you decide to meditate for stress?
First and foremost is the meditation location. Find a quiet place that is as free of noise as possible. Alternatively, you can meditate with special music.
In the second place, you should adopt a pleasant posture. It does not have to be the classic meditation seat (lotus seat). You can also lie down comfortably or sit differently. A meditation cushion helps many meditators, especially in the beginning, to sit comfortably on the floor.
It is very important to breathe correctly. It must be deep and regular. This is how your body calms down. After a few really deep breaths into your belly, you can continue breathing normally with chest breathing. But always inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
The mindfulness meditation
Now comes the meditation exercise. For the basic exercise associated with mindfulness meditation, focus on something specific. Clear your mind of all distractions that cause you stress. This is the only way your mind and body can get the time out they need. So bring your thoughts back when they wander away. Because it is this bringing back that makes mindfulness meditation so successful in the end.
The goal of mindfulness meditation
The goal is for your body to learn not to be thrown off course by emotions or thoughts.
And already you are approaching your goal. And that is to develop a different attitude towards stress. A negative spiral is created when you feel suffering or pain in situations with (a lot of) stress. Rather be curious and recognize stress as stress and pause. How does the feeling (gut feeling) feel to you? Can you feel your breathing and feel your heartbeat? Live more and more consciously, more and more attentively.
Finally, we turn to the different forms of meditation!
The Vipassana Meditation
Vipassana = Pali = word for insight ( Pali: language in India at Buddha’s time)
The meditation form wants to achieve insight into nature and one’s own reality. For this it uses concentration as a tool. The process is long, continuous and can last for many years. In the process, mindfulness of the moment as well as of reality is trained again and again. Once you have achieved the insight, it is a permanent state. Most popular in Vipassana is the concentration on your own breathing, which is as flowing as possible. Your attention to the smallest sensations is trained. This leads to a better recognition of emotional and physical changes in you. In India, Vipassana meditation was taught about 2,500 years ago.
The counterpart to Vipassana is Samatha (Pali word for concentration). Here you concentrate on a certain light, prayer or even a religious image. At the same time you block out your thoughts.
This form of meditation is considered the gentle helper against stress and burn-out. Step by step you learn to perceive yourself with new mindfulness. Your senses for the moment are sharpened. At the same time you learn to unfold your potential and to feel happiness inside. This form of meditation against stress is a spiritual technique detached from any religious system. And yet it also belongs to those of the historical Buddha.
You are looking for more inner balance, a sustainable stress reduction and ultimately a life with more mindfulness; then Zen meditation should be right for you.
If stress has already led you to burnout, Zen meditation can also help you. This is because the external control that you have experienced falls away from you. You finally hold the reins in your own hands again. You recharge your batteries, deal with stress consciously and find your inner balance again. From a physiological point of view, your breathing becomes deeper again. At the same time, tensions are released and your self-healing powers are activated again.
The MBSR Meditation
The meditation “based stress reduction meditation” is still relatively new. This meditation against stress was invented by Jon Kobat-Zinn in the 70s and is used in therapy for chronic pain as well as mental illness. However, it can and should also be practiced by healthy people as a preventive measure. It is easy to integrate into everyday life, can prevent stress, improve your mood and increase your energy.
Kundalini Yoga and meditative breathing exercises, also called consciousness yoga, can rebalance your “selenium balance”. At the same time your hormonal and nervous system will be strengthened. Stress and anxiety can be reduced. The exercises are subject to constant repetition without artful knotting that almost requires acrobatic skill. In Kundalini Yoga, the full power unfolds through the targeted use of breath.
No matter which meditation against stress you decide on
Make sure you relax more and more physically and especially psychologically. Listen to your inner self and get to know the micro and macro pigments of your soul. Only in this way will you manage to strip the stress from you and come to rest. Thus, meditation against stress is definitely a good companion to achieve the goal of inner peace again.