Imagine yourself as a person overloaded with work, scrambling to meet a deadline or else stuck in traffic. In such situations, your muscles tense, your breathing becomes shallow, you start to sweat, your heart races and your blood pressure rises. Most of the time we may not be able to fight or flee – the two most natural responses to stress – such as in the case of traffic jam. So we remain chronically tense. Unfortunately, it is next to impossible to live in 21st century and not ever be in a stressful situation.
According to the American Institute of Stress, nearly half of all American workers suffer from symptoms of burnout, a disabling reaction to stress on the job. Stress can adversely affect every part of our body and mind. Therefore it is really important for all of us to know how to calm down and increase our threshold for stress. One of the ways is Meditation! I have been meditating since I was 11 years old and it has made me a more balanced person than I would have ever been. Hence today I’m here to persuade each one of you that each one of you should meditate to keep yourselves healthy in mind and body. In order to convince you, I’m going to inform you about the nature of the problem of over-stressed life and how it can affect us and then show you that the solution is Meditation and lastly the advantages of Meditation.
Now let me start by telling you that in the 21st century, one of our major problems is over-stressed life and its effect on our health and mind. To know the nature of this problem, let us look at some statistics. According to American Institute of Stress:
- 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects due to stress.
- 75-90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints or disorders.
- Stress has been linked to all the leading causes of death, including heart disease, accidents, suicide, and a host of diseases linked to immune system disorder, ranging from the common cold and herpes, to arthritis, cancer, and AIDS.
- According to US Dept of Health and Human Services, about 1 in 20 Americans (over 11 million people) get depressed every year and one of the major causes of depression is stress.
Now how does it affect us? Well, these statistics tell us that these problems are common and tomorrow anyone of us can be victim of stress, if we aren’t already. As students, we already know the stress of exams or of giving a speech. We have already experienced stress as a teenager. Now, we are facing stress on the job. Unfortunately, there is a big possibility of stress resulting in some kind of health disease or mental unhappiness, if we don’t learn how to relax ourselves and increase our threshold for stress.
The solution is: Meditation!
To understand how meditation is going to solve our problem of stress, let me first tell you what meditation is. Ramesh Manocha in the journal, Australian Family Physician, describes meditation as discrete and well-defined experience of the state of thoughtless awareness. According to him, this is the state when the excessive and stress producing activity of the mind is neutralized without reducing alertness and effectiveness. In order to try to explain the idea visually, I’ve created this graph of thoughts.
Normally when we sit down to relax, our mind keeps working and we keep having thoughts as shown in this graph. But as we learn to meditate, our thoughts slow down and there is a gap between the two thoughts that keeps widening. This is the gap when we don’t think and our mind relaxes. This is when we are in the state of meditation. This is like watching sunrise or sunset when we just enjoy the moment without any thoughts in our mind. According to the recent edition of Time Magazine, Herbert Benson – heart doctor from Harvard showed that meditation could trigger a relaxation response that reduces stress hormones and helps you heal. Hence, meditation reduces stress!
Now, having understood that mediation reduces stress, let me tell you that meditation is advantageous in all stress related health and mental problems.
Firstly, let me tell how it helps in the treatment of certain health problems: when we meditate certain metabolic and physiological changes occur in our body. For example, according to the study published in International Journal of Neuroscience: meditation can result in reduced blood pressure; decreased thyroid hormones and stress hormones such as cortisol. These metabolic and physiological changes caused by meditation helps in the treatment of many diseases. For example: Bronchial Asthma (Rai, 1993); Epilepsy (Panjwani et al., 1995); HIV patients (Taylor, 1995); Heart attacks (according to American Heart Association).
Now let me tell you how meditation helps in the treatment of many mental problems. For example, Depression (Teasdale et al., 1995). Also, a study published in International Journal of Psychosomatics found that 88% of her research subjects (n = 27) reported greater happiness and joy, positive thinking, increased self-confidence, effectiveness (getting things done), and better problem-solving skills.
To summarize, I informed you about the pervasiveness of over-stressed life and its effect on our health and mind. The solution is Meditation. It reduces stress and helps in the treatment of health and mental problems. In order to take the first step towards meditation, I would suggest: read more on this subject and either try it yourself or join some organization that can teach you meditation. But I should warn you that there are many organizations that are there just to rip you. So use your discretion before choosing. Personally, I have followed Sahaja Yoga and I have had exceptionally wonderful experiences. It has helped me incredibly to face adverse situations of my life with maturity and calmness. If you are interested, please visit this Web site: www.sahajayoga.org. Hence I implore each one of you that if you care for yourself then MEDITATE for a healthy life! Meditation will help you to become a balanced person who can think rationally and positively and reach your optimum potential. Meditation is an effective means to avoid being a victim of over-stressed life!
Book: One Authors
Rai, Umesh C. Medical Science Enlightened. The Life Eternal Trust, 1993.
Journals: Article with Author(s) Provided
Manocha, Ramesh. Why Meditation? Australian Family Physician, Vol. 29, No. 12, December 2000.
Panjawani, U. et al. Effect of Sahaja Yoga Practice on Stress Management in Patients of Epilepsy, Indian Journal Physiological Pharmacology, Vol. 39, Issue 2, 1995.
Shapiro, D.H. Adverse Effects of Meditation: A Preliminary Investigation of Long-Term Meditators. International Journal of Psychosomatics, Vol. 39, 1992.
Taylor, D.N. Effects of a Behavioral Stress-Management Program on Anxiety, Mood, Self-Esteem and T-cell Count in HIV Positive Men. Psychol Rep, Vol. 76, Issue 2, 1995.
Teasdale, J.D.; Segal, Z.; Williams, M.G. How Does Cognitive Therapy Prevent Depressive Relapse And Why Should Attentional Control (Mindfulness) Training Help? Behavior Research Therapy, Vol. 33, 1995.
Travis, F.T.; Orme-John, D.W. Field Model of Consciousness: EEG Coherence Changes as Indicators of Field Effects, International Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 49, 1989.
Magazine: Article with Author Provided
Davis, Kellye. Mind Body Soul. Essence, Vol. 31, Issue 12, April 2001.
Magazines: Article without Author Provided
Alternative Medicine: A Whole New Breed of Healers. Time, Vol. 157, No. 15, April 16, 2001.
Meditation May Lessen Circulatory Health Risks. Nationâ€™s Health, Vol. 30, Issue 4, May 2000.
The Internet: Organization (No Author)
American Institute of Stress. “Stress- America’s #1 Health Problem.” http://www.stress.org/
[April 26, 2001]