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Meditation Proven to Decrease Stress and Reduce Inflammation

10 June 2013

UCLA’s Department of Psychiatry and Bio-behavioral Sciences conducted a recent study that demonstrated once again that even relatively short meditations, when practiced consistently, have numerous significant and positive effects on both the body and the mind. This particular study evaluated 49 caregivers who were tending to patients with Alzheimer’s and various other forms of dementia. Nearly 50% of the caregivers in this study experience clinical depression, plus they are also twice as likely as the general population to report elevated levels of stress.

This research study divided the caregivers (ranging in ages from 45 to 91) into two groups: one that practiced a 12-minute meditation daily for 8 weeks, and one that spent 12 minutes each day for 8 weeks relaxing while listening to a musical relaxation CD.

The meditation group showed several benefits over the group that listened to the music:

• Significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms

• Improvements in reported mental health

• Improvements in cognitive functioning

• Increased telomerase activity in the blood (an indication of decreased cellular aging)

• Significant decreases in blood proteins associated with inflammation.

Think about it, all of these benefits from only 12 minutes of meditation a day!

This specific study examined a chanting meditation practice called Kirtan Kriya, but many other, prior studies on meditation have shown similar body-mind benefits, even with a variety of meditations. In short, most any meditation practice you do for at least 10 minutes or more daily is likely to achieve similar results to these.

The meditation that follows (Simple Counting) has been used in various other studies related to meditation’s “relaxation response.” But remember, the most effective meditation practice is one you feel comfortable with and will actually practice. Hundreds (perhaps thousands) of meditation techniques exist and are easily found on the web. Experiment and find the one that is best fit for you.

A Simple Counting Meditation:

• Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and imagine the crown of your head floating up
to the ceiling.

• Allow your eyes to close, and notice your breath – without intentionally trying to
change it. Bring your attention to the warmth and coolness of the breath
at the tip of your nostrils.

• After 2 to 3 minutes (or whenever you feel you are ready) start counting each exhalation.
For example, when you exhale the first time, mentally count “one.” The next time you exhale, count “two.” Keep counting silently to yourself, until you get to ten. After you reach ten, then start over again from “one.”

• You’ll know when your mind has wandered because you’ll lose count or notice that you’re thinking about something else. When that happens, (and it will!) do your best not to get frustrated. Instead, simply start over again by counting from “one.” Without judgment or criticism, notice how often you need to restart counting. The goal isn’t necessarily to get to 10, but to keep refocusing whenever you catch your mind wandering.

• Continue this meditation for at least 10 minutes, the longer the better depending on your time restraints.

Keep in mind that there’s no need to worry about “being good” at mediation; just by the act of meditating you are inherently good at it no matter how often your mind wanders as long as you keep bringing it back.

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