How Does Meditation Reduce Stress?

Often it happens that we get overwhelmed by the problems in our lives. What happens next?

We stress out, we react impulsively or we ignore important things. All of this affects our works, but most importantly, our mental peace. Stress and anxiety have become omnipresent in urban life, directly ravaging our happiness.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to help alleviate stress after just eight weeks of regular practice. Numerous studies have shown that meditation is an effective stress-management tool, ultimately reprogramming the brain to the extent that meditators end up with more capacity to manage stress. Mindfulness techniques ease anxiety because it allows people to distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.

A study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison indicates that the practice of “Open Monitoring Meditation” (such as Vipassana), reduces the grey-matter density in areas of the brain related to anxiety and stress. Meditators were more able to “attend moment-to-moment to the stream of stimuli to which they are exposed and less likely to ‘get stuck’ on anyone stimulus”. Open Monitoring Meditation involves non-reactively monitoring the content of experience from moment-to-moment, primarily as a means to recognize the nature of emotional and cognitive patterns.

Meditation has been proved to induce neuroplasticity, a term that is used to describe the brain changes that occur in response to experience. Mental training of meditation is fundamentally no different than other forms of skill acquisition that can induce plastic changes in the brain.

At those crucial points in our lives, meditation can help provide relief. How? By giving us a better grasp of how to work with situations, a heightened awareness of our emotions, and more space to respond. For example, when we grieve for someone, the more aware we are of everything that is going on in our minds, the better we are able to process our sadness and grief. When we’re not aware, our emotions tend to color our perception and judgment and inflate our sense of what the situation demands of us, so that it is perceived to be beyond what we think we can provide. This is the insidious cycle of stress.

We begin by creating the space in our minds to reduce demands by discerning what is essential. And we train our minds and increase our mental resources. Then, when stressful situations arise, our training will have provided us with the skills we need to work with our emotions. We can deal with stress and anxiety in a more peaceful way using meditation therapies.

Rather than being caught up in our stress, meditation teaches us to become observers of certain mental patterns and, therefore, become less physically affected by them.

Learning from ourselves is the best kind of learning we could provide to our brain. So, wanna bust out stress? A lot of that boils down to how we perceive stress. By altering our mindset, we can lessen the influence on our mental and physical health.

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