(CARLSBAD, CA) – It’s the end of a stressful, busy day. How do you cope? Do you call a friend? Zone out in front of the television? Reach for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s?
Participants in a recent University of Massachusetts Medical School study tried a new coping strategy – meditation – to mentally manage their stress. During a period of eight weeks, researchers recorded the brain waves of these stressed-out employees, as they began to practice meditation. The results? Researchers noted distinct shifts in brain activity. The changes in brain waves indicated an increased calmness of the mind.
So, how does meditation work, exactly? Meditation decreases heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and the intensity of certain brain waves. These physical responses are exactly the opposite of what occurs during stressful situations. In fact, the benefits of meditation have been known to combat an array of medical conditions: anxiety, arthritis, asthma, chronic pain, depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
If you’re unsure how to start meditation, don’t despair. Meditation takes many forms. You don’t have to light incense and chant Sanskrit sutras, if that isn’t your cup of chai tea. Jazzercise Founder and CEO Judi Sheppard Missett suggests these simple ideas for taking a mental time-out:
• Take five minutes to focus on breathing. Listen to your inhales and exhales as you breathe deeply and slowly through your nostrils. Simply taking time to breathe can be exhilarating.
• Eat at your dining table without reading or watching television. You will find your mealtime to be tranquil and pleasurable. And the mindful eating will keep you from downing excess calories.
• Join a meditation class. The meditation leader will guide you through ways to focus your mind and eliminate distractions. The tools you learn in class can later be used on your own.
• If you practice a personal faith, consider daily prayer. Pray using your own words or read scripted prayers. Either way, these moments will be a blissful retreat from the busyness of your day.
• Try a walking meditation. Combine your daily walk with a mental time-out. Instead of jamming to the tunes on your iPod playlist, focus on the movement of your legs and feet and appreciate the beauty of the scenery around you.
• Drive in silence. Turn off the radio, and simply drive to your destination.
• Attempt a traditional silent meditation. Before starting, write down everything that’s on your mind to rid yourself of distractions. Then, make your mind blank and close your eyes. Start with one minute and slowly work your way toward longer periods of stillness.
Whether you designate a special spot in your home for daily meditation or you simply find five minutes of silence while commuting in traffic, the key is to quiet your mind for a few minutes each day.
Jazzercise, created by Judi Sheppard Missett, is the world's leading dance-fitness program with more than 7,500 instructors teaching 32,000 classes weekly in the U.S. and around the globe. Since 1969, millions of people of all ages and fitness levels have reaped the benefits of this comprehensive program, designed to enhance cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility. For more information on Jazzercise go to jazzercise.com or call (800)FIT-IS-IT or (760)476-1750.