Seunga (Jasmine) Han, PharmD Candidate
How Do You Cope with Your Stress?
We live in a world where everyone is on-the-go, everything is instant, and we’re all struggling to get somewhere. It’s only natural for us to feel stressed out. In today’s article, we’re going to discuss meditation and its benefits associated with both mental and physical health.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) used by many North Americans and is an umbrella term for a number of different methods.1 Among many options available, mindfulness meditation is a practice where an individual develops awareness and attention to their own experience and emotions, and this will be our focus today as it has the most studies on its benefits.
Originally, meditation was thought to induce states of relaxation; however, recent findings looking at imaging of brain activities showed that meditation is associated with active states of consciousness involving cognitive restructuring, learning, and changes in the brain structure.1
What Are the Benefits?
In fact, many studies have shown that 20 minutes of daily meditation for eight weeks was associated with improved mental and physical health.2
One study looking into the effects of meditation on emotional intelligence found that meditation can enhance emotional intelligence of an individual.2 Emotional intelligence refers to one’s ability to recognize, understand, and manage emotions of their own and others.3 Higher emotional intelligence was not only associated with better health and well-being, but with less perceived stress.
Further studies showed positive effects of meditation on cognitive and emotional functioning. These included enhanced ability to socialize, empathize, have tolerance, and embrace positive thinking.2
In addition to effects on cognitive function, it was associated with improved mental health such as decreased stress, anger, depression, and anxiety.2
Some clinical trials have also shown some benefits in heart health, pain management, menopausal symptoms, memory, and trauma. Additionally, more studies are being performed to determine the benefits of meditation in other areas.
So Now What?
Now that we’ve covered the benefits associated with meditation, you may be wondering what you can do to practice mindfulness meditation. The following is one of many techniques you can use to easily approach meditation as part of your daily routine.2
- Sit upright, in a comfortable position, and close your eyes
- Breathe through your nose and pay close attention to your breathing as a focal point for several minutes
- For the next five minutes, count your breaths to focus on the process of breathing
- Then for the rest of the 20 minutes, carry out silent meditation without counting your breaths. During this time, if you find your focus starts to wander, draw your attention back to your breathing and continue your meditation.
The Bottom line
Nowadays, it’s quite common to see individuals with a packed schedule on a daily basis. 20 minutes a day may seem like a time commitment, but whether it be meditation or a workout, it’s important to give yourself some time in a day to relax. Try it out, and let us know what you think!
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- Horowitz S. Health Benefits of Meditation: What the Newest Research Shows. Alternative & Complementary Therapies [serial on the Internet]. (2010, Aug), [cited April 8, 2018]; 16(4): 223-228. Available from: Academic Search Complete.
- Chu L. The benefits of meditation vis-à-vis emotional intelligence, perceived stress and negative mental health. Stress & Health: Journal Of The International Society For The Investigation Of Stress [serial on the Internet]. (2010, Apr), [cited April 7, 2018]; 26(2): 169-180. Available from: SPORTDiscus with Full Text.
- Institute for Health and Human Potential