Meditation and Health
This mindfulness technique can help ease stress.
Since early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and has put Americans under huge amounts of stress- stress that continues for many. When anxiety and uncertainty are part of daily life for extended periods of time, they can lead to health problems like heart disease, obesity, and depression. It may feel difficult to take time for yourself, but carving a few minutes out during the day to manage your stress can counter the risk of those conditions – and boost your overall well-being. One way to do that is through meditation.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a group of techniques for slowing down the mind, focusing attention and letting other thoughts go. By becoming more aware of your thoughts and emotions, you can start to ease stress and release tension.
Meditation can do more than help manage stress. Many people use it to enhance their sense of well-being. Others use it as a part of their medical treatment. Research about meditation is ongoing, but has shown that it may be helpful for conditions including:
- Certain types of pain, whether recent or ongoing chronic pain
- Attention and concentration difficulties
How it’s done
Most styles of meditation ask you to:
- Find a quiet location. This will help prevent outside distractions. If you live in a noisy place or it is difficult to find a quiet place, it may help to use ear plugs.
- Assume a comfortable posture. Depending on your practice, you may sit, lie down or stand. Some methods include walking or other movement.
- Focus your attention. You may focus on a mantra (a word or phrase), an object, your breathing, or whatever is on your mind.
- Have an open mind. Let thoughts come and go without letting them distract you. Don’t suppress or judge them. Don’t criticize yourself for having these interrupting thoughts. It may take a long time to reach the point of having full attention, but that time isn’t wasted - it’s part of the learning process. So if your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your focal point.
Meditation is considered safe for most healthy people. But it’s good to follow a couple of guidelines:
- Let your doctor know you meditate. This will help ensure coordinated and safe medical care.
- Don’t use meditation in place of medical care. Talk to your doctor first about any health concerns.
If you’re pregnant, have been physically inactive or have a health condition such as arthritis, diabetes or heart disease, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program or increasing your activity level. They can tell you what types and amounts of activities are safe for you.
By Emily A. King, Contributing Writer
American Psychological Association. Stress in America 2020. Accessed July 19, 2021.
Mayo Clinic. Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress. Accessed August 9, 2021.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Manage stress. Accessed August 9, 2021.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Whole health library: Meditation. Accessed August 11, 2021.
Last Updated: July 19, 2021