The 24-hour news cycle can be a source of anxiety for many people. The inability to completely switch off from the events that are going on around the world can be a major cause of stress.
And, while the world grapples with a pandemic, there has never been such an emphasis on staying healthy. But, avoiding stress, which can suppress the immune system, is increasingly difficult at a time like this.
Finding a way to manage your stress is key and a great way to do this is through meditation. While meditation and mindfulness can get a bad rap for being “hippy dippy”, the results are far from that.
Meditation for stress reduction
“While there are many forms of meditation, all provide for an interplay with the inner world of thoughts and feelings,” she said on the Black Dog Institue website. “Commonly, meditation seeks to bring focused attention to the present moment with self-compassion and without judgement.”
The physiological effects of meditation are also just as encouraging, with the ability to slash stress hormones within your body.
“Meditation can bring the brain into a restful, restorative state,” Joyce said. “During meditation, levels of the stress chemical cortisone can drop, and individuals may experience other physiological changes such as reduced blood pressure.”
This reduction in stress is key and studies have begun to find similar positive links between a stronger immune response and meditation.
A combined study from researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the University of California at San Francisco and Harvard Medical School studied the effect of meditation on 94 women, as reported by Forbes.
The study, which was published in 2016, split the participants into two groups. One went for a six-day vacation retreat, while the others went to a six-day meditation retreat. The two groups had no experience with meditation, so the researchers also studied a group of 30 experienced meditators who were also at the retreat.
The researchers took blood samples from all of the participants before and after the retreats as well as one month after and then again 10 months later. All of the participants’ genes showed a positive shift in responses to stress, inflammation and wound healing. And, the experienced meditators also experienced a gene shift in relation to their ability to fight viral infection.
While more research is needed in this area, it’s heartening to see that meditation had an effect at a cellular level for the participants of the study, especially when it came to the body’s response to healing and infection-fighting.
How to begin incorporating meditation and mindfulness
For those new to meditation, starting on your own can be daunting, so using an app or attending a guided meditation class could be easier for you.
A meditation app that we love is Headspace. It offers a plethora of different guided meditation sessions that you simply listen to via the app. And, it teaches you how to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life and uses examples and situations that are easy to relate to. There is also nothing quite as relaxing and dreamy as the voice of Headspace narrator Andy.
Spotify also offers a variety of guided meditation playlists that you might also like to try and you don’t need a subscription to access these playlists.
If you’d prefer to experience meditation in a group capacity, many yoga studios offer meditation classes, so look into your local yoga studio to see if this is the case. But don’t worry, you don’t have to look like a cross-legged yogi to meditate effectively. It can honestly be as simple as sitting on your bed with your back against the wall and listening to an app.
The current health crisis is evolving rapidly. If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.