Meditation and City Living: How Meditation Can Relieve Stress

Stress is a word we commonly hear in today's society. It seems that almost everyone is stressed. You may have also heard about the benefits of meditation for stress reduction and long-term health. But what exactly is stress? What is meditation? How can meditation relieve stress?

Stress is anything that throws your body out of balance. The causes can vary greatly and can be anything from environmental toxins to famine to running from something that is chasing you to relationships, divorce, a demanding boss or even public speaking. The effects of stress are cumulative and if ignored, over time, can lead to health problems.

The body responds to stress by increasing the production of hormones, increasing blood pressure and muscle tension among many other things. The only way to undo this is to relax. So how do we relax? One way is through meditation. It can reverse your stress response.

To relax, the mind needs to focus on something repetitive such as sound, breath or movement. There must be an attempt or conscious effort to let go of other thoughts. This is where meditation comes in. It is one very effective way to quiet the mind and take full conscious breaths. With repetition and a constant redirecting of the mind away from intrusive thoughts we can begin to relax and completely change our energy. Not only is breath awareness a meditative practice in itself but once focus is put on the breath, breathing begins to slow and the other involuntary functions also change. Blood pressure lowers, heart rate slows, and stress hormones are reduced. Breath is the only involuntary function of the body that we can control. One we learn to lengthen the breath and breathe consciously, the other functions follow.

While we cannot control a lot of things that happen in the world, we can affect, to a certain extent, how we respond to them. So much of our stress is created by the story we tell ourselves about what is happening. When practiced regularly, meditation can change the way we see things by giving us space from all the illusions and stories the mind creates. It gives us some distance. From that space we find clarity. Benefits can be felt immediately, but they are also cumulative. Meditation allows you to connect to something beyond the mind and many claim it to be the source of their healing and inspiration. The best part is it's free, and it can be done anywhere at any time.

Emily Schreter recently returned home to New York City after 8 months of travel abroad in South America and Europe. She is currently pursuing her passion for yoga and is enrolled in the 200 hour yoga teacher training at ISHTA yoga in NYC. In addition to yoga and travel, Emily enjoys writing, painting, walking, reading memoirs, live music, and food.

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