Can Meditation Make Us Healthier?

The Health Benefits of Meditation

There is now a good deal of scientific evidence that the positive thoughts and emotions that result from meditation practice can help make life longer and healthier.   It’s important to remember that in order to produce these health benefits of meditation and the positive thought patterns that result from meditation, the practice needs to be experienced over the long term.

In other words, thinking positively and feeling optimistic for a week long vacation when you already have heart disease will certainly not cure the disease.  We do, however, know that lowering stress levels over a period of years coupled with a positive outlook (two of the benefits of meditation) can most definitely reduce the risk of health problems.

Just How Does Meditation Make Us Healthier?

Going beyond relaxation and stress management, the obvious benefits of meditation, there are two other significant health benefits of meditation:

Engaging Fully: For decades, researchers have explored people’s satisfaction in their everyday activities. What they found was that people reported the greatest satisfaction when they were totally immersed in and concentrating on what they are doing. They dubbed this state of intense absorption “flow.”

Interestingly enough, when people describe the experience of meditating, they describe a state that sounds very similar to what athletes call “the zone”.  The scattered, easily distracted mind gets to experience a blissful state of focus.

With meditation, moving into this memorable state does not need to be haphazard.  Steps can be learned to achieve this state and to replicate it.

Doing Good: Those who meditate often describe a deeper sense of connection with others. Many of us serve others in our families and in our communities.  Even though volunteering our time is admirable, we may, at the same time, find ourselves resenting those that we serve or the demands of our service.

Because of a deeper sense of connection with others, those who meditate overwhelmingly report being able to serve without resentment.  When this is the case, serving others becomes fulfilling rather than just another chore.

Researchers have found that both of these pathways individually contributed significantly to life satisfaction and impacted positively on creating physically healthier and happier individuals.  If you’re ready to start reaping the health benefits of meditation, it’s time to get started.  

Five Proven Steps for Stress Management

Still

 

In our Stress Management program, we teach five simple steps that can make a dramatic difference in your life:

1. Avoid Hassles-  It may seem logical but sometimes, in order to manage stress, we need to be reminded to think outside the box.  If a daily commute is making you overly anxious, maybe car-pooling or taking public transportation might be a better option.

2. Sleep Questions about sleep patterns are some of the most important questions that we ask clients who are experiencing chronic stress.  Many well-meaning individuals fall into the trap of thinking that they can get more accomplished by sleeping less.

Of course, that’s not true.  We need to recognize that sleeping isn’t optional, and we can’t reduce stress by skimping on it.

3. Breathe- Even in an office, deep breathing is the easiest relaxation technique to incorporate into our day.  We can do this at our desk or standing near a window.

Just place you hands on your stomach.  Inhale, expanding your stomach.  Then exhale slowly.  Repeat this about 8-10 times.

4. Stretch- Become aware of where your muscles tense during the day.  Learn to do simple stretches of the areas that hold most of their tension- your back, neck or maybe your upper body.

If you haven’t learned to stretch before, consider taking a yoga class.  You will learn to stretch every part of your body!

5. Centering The Mind- It’s very important to have a practice to relax your mind deeply so that you will be able to really unwind and feel centered.  (When we’re in stress overload even seemingly relaxing activities, like vacationing, might not work).  A consistent, daily practice is the best tool to use to feel good consistently.

In all of our Corporate Wellness Programs, including our Stress Management Program, we incorporate a relaxing guided meditation.   Our dynamic meditation is designed to be easy to learn and easy to practice. 

As Thich Nhat Hanh has said about meditation practice, “When we sit down peacefully, breathing and smiling with awareness, we develop sovereignty over ourselves”.  We like to add that with sovereignty over ourselves, we can easily incorporate stress management into our lives.

 

 

From Our Stress Management Seminar: How Much Stress Are You Under?

How Much Stress Are You Really Under?

If you are curious about how much stress you are really under, take this test from our Stress Management Seminar  The results may really surprise you.

How Much Stress Are You Under?
For every “Yes” that applies, give yourself the points as listed. Upon completion, total the score below.Life Events That Have Occured In The Last 12 Months 
 Answer  Points
Death of Spouse YES or NO 100
Divorce YES or NO 73
Marital Separation YES or NO 65
Jail Term YES or NO 63
Death of Close Family Member YES or NO 63
Personal Injury or Illness YES or NO 53
Marriage YES or NO 50
Fired from Work YES or NO 47
Marital Reconciliation YES or NO 45
Retirement YES or NO 45
Change in Family Members Health YES or NO 44
Pregnancy YES or NO 40
Sex Difficulties YES or NO 39
Addition to Family YES or NO 39
Business Readjustment YES or NO 39
Change in Financial Status YES or NO 38
Death of Close Friend YES or NO 37
Change in Line of Work YES or NO 36
Change in # of Marital Arguments YES or NO 35
Mortgage or Loan Over $10,000 YES or NO 31
Foreclosure of Mortgage or Loan YES or NO 30
Change in Work Responsibilities YES or NO 29
Son or Daughter Leaving Home YES or NO 29
Trouble with In‐laws YES or NO 29
Outstanding Personal Achievement YES or NO 28
Spouse Begins or Stops Work YES or NO 26
Starting or Finishing School YES or NO 26
Change in Living Conditions YES or NO 25
Revision of Personal Habits YES or NO 24
Trouble with Boss YES or NO 23
Change in Work Hours, Conditions YES or NO 20
Change in Residence YES or NO 20
Change in Schools YES or NO 20
Change in Recreational Habits YES or NO 19
Mortgage or Loan Under $10,000 YES or NO 18
Change in Sleeping Habits YES or NO 16
Change in Eating Habits YES or NO 15
Vacation YES or NO 13

 

What Now?

After you have calculated your stress score, send us an email and we’ll give you and idea of what the numbers mean:   customerservice@stanfordmethod.com.

If you would like more information about our Stress Management Seminar, private coaching for Stress Management or any of our Corporate Wellness Programs, please call the Stanford Method at 516.827-0200.

 

Meditation To Develop A Relaxed Nature

A Teaching Tale

 

A Wonderful Teaching Tale About Meditation

I recently heard a powerful teaching tale about meditation.   In this tale, the we learn how Isabella learns to develop a relaxed nature. 

Throughout history the allegory, the novel and the teaching tale have been used very effectively to teach truths and to make these truths clearly recognizable.

This myth is about a woman and her dog.  Isabella, we learn, was a very creative woman.  She wasn’t one to waste her time or her talents so she took it upon herself to weave a wonderful new world into existence.

She and her canine companion lived a very simple life.  For sustenance, she cooked the same kind of stew each day on a fire outside of her cave.  Things went along very nicely until she left her weaving to stir the stew pot.  At that point, every day without fail, the dog would unravel a large part of what Isabella had woven.  She would then return to the cave and feel very disheartened.

After a few minutes, she would remember to meditate on the situation and after her meditation practice she would begin to weave again.  Every time this happened and every time she rewove a segment, it became a much more beautiful piece of work.  Isabella would end her day feeling very contented.

What a wonderful story for our time!  Life these days is not easy- far from it.

Sometimes, when things seem to be going well, there may suddenly be setbacks and disappointments.  Progress, happiness and contentment might seem to be very elusive.

We can learn a lot from this lovely little tale.  We, too, must learn to stop when we are discouraged and regroup.  Moreover, we need to make sure that we are practicing techniques every day that will bring us to a place of peace and quiet.  Then, when we are feeling centered and resourceful again, we go on to make our lives richer.   Like Isabella, we will then be able to develop a much more relaxed nature and find contentment with the beauty that we can weave after we center ourselves with meditation.

The Stanford Method Wellness and Addictions Programs

Socrates Quote: Building the New

 

The Stanford Method for Habit Control and Addictions

 

Overcoming Addictions:   Many of the clients that we see at all of the Stanford Method wellness programs have issues with habit control and addictions.  Most of those individuals feel helpless recognizing that they’ve developed some seriously dysfunctional habits and don’t seem able to do anything about them.

Without question, we recognize that people who feel content and empowered consistently make better decisions than those who constantly find themselves in the throws of negativity and depression. Unfortunately, maintaining this positive mental state of mind takes practice.  Barriers to taking the actions you know that you need to take may crop up.  Old beliefs and programs that exist at a deep level may not support you and very often sabotage your best efforts.

For example, if you have attempted to lose weight, but keep gaining back what you just lost — it may be that you have mental programming reinforcing that you are not worthy of looking and feeling your best.  Or, it could be that your stress levels are very high and food is your “anti-anxiety” drug of choice.

If even the thought of stopping smoking makes you anxious and uncomfortable, chances are that you have strong mental programming reinforcing that addiction.  Once again, you may find yourself slipping after a successfully stopping for a time.

Mind Control Techniques That Work:   Fortunately, there are powerful ways to stay strong in the face of the ever present obstacles. 

One of the most powerful mind control techniques is to simply close your eyes and picture a time in the future when you expect things will be much better. Visualize events in your life going the way you want them to go instead of rehearsing the worst case scenario.

It is even more powerful to use visualization to mentally rehearse things unfolding ideally and at the same time emotionally connecting to how good you will feel once they do.  As you spend a few minutes , “watching this inner movie” and paying attention to how success feels, positive emotions will flow very naturally.   (We routinely do visualizations with the participants in our Stanford Method programs  and have witnessed immediate positive changes in many of our clients’ emotional states.)

Using these technique can help to consistently facilitate remarkable changes. Before long, these visualized goals begin to alter outdated beliefs and programs. Staying strongly anchored to this positive vision of the future, using the Stanford Method wellness programs,  can make all of the difference.  These and other techniques help our clients to finally conquer their addictions.

 

Meditation: A Natural Remedy for Stress and Anxiety

Meditation

Practicing Meditation for Stress Management

“We are troubled only by the fears which we, and not our nature, give ourselves.”  -Blaise Pascal

 

Confusion can sometimes set in as we search for a natural remedy for stress and anxiety.  We may think that a week away or a trip to the spa will do it and those experiences, while pleasurable, only are effective at stress management temporarily.

As I recently wrote, whenever we are experiencing too much stress, we are prone to distorting everyday events and even routine interactions with others.    Fortunately, we can break this cycle of anxiety by learning to think more rationally and by practicing meditation.

Sometimes just one setback (even a small one) can trigger thoughts of never-ending defeat and anxiety.  Psychologists refer to this as “catastrophizing”.  “Should I have said that?  She probably wants to fire me now.”  “My throat hurts.  I probably have swine flu.”

The healthier habit to develop is to learn to “challenge irrational thoughts” whenever they occur. We commonly refer to this kind of thinking as “making molehills into mountains”. When we are in doubt about our interpretation of a certain situation, we can ask ourselves some simple questions.  “Am I being realistic?”  “Am I being rational?”  “Am I being reasonable?” or as Byron Katie likes to ask “Is this true?” Asking ourselves these questions often helps us to clarify our thinking and may help to shed light on the positive aspects of a situation. 

We may recognize that we may be reacting negatively when there are not facts to support our conclusions. We can train ourselves to be more aware of distorted thinking by taking note of the times when we are feeling regret, guilt or self-doubt.  Many times spending time with certain family members and friends may reinforce negative thinking patterns that create more stress and anxiety.  If certain people trigger irrational thinking, speak to them honestly about your anxiety.  If they seem reluctant to help you to change, avoid these people when you can.

Learning Meditation:

Learning meditation will help you to increase your ability to focus on the present moment, increase your ability to think rationally and give you greater peace of mind.  As Thich Nhat Hanh said, “With just a few minutes of sitting meditation, we can restore ourselves fully”.  I agree but let me add that learning  and practicing meditation along with rational thinking will help us to not only restore ourselves and but can be a natural way of remedying the effects of chronic stress and anxiety.

Is There a Natural Solution for Chronic Stress?

An Effective Natural Solution for Chronic Stress

As chronic stress becomes more prevalent, more and more people are searching for a natural solutions.  The heavier the demands on the individual and the longer the situation continues the more serious the symptoms will be and the more we need to know about this condition.

The Mayo Clinic has outlined these effects of chronic stress:

  • Gaining Weight or Losing Weight
  • Headache
  • Muscle Pain
  • Panic Attacks
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Depression
  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption
  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Use of Non-Prescription Drugs
  • Inappropriately Angry or Negative
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal Upset
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Tooth Grinding
  • Pounding Heart
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Back Pain
  • Irritability
  • Worry

 

What happens when we’re experiencing these symptoms is that a visit to the doctor seems logical.  We can almost predict the outcome here.  Traditionally trained doctors will invariably opt to treat stress symptoms by prescribing an anti-anxiety medication.  Unfortunately, many of these drugs have incredibly long lists of side effects and can be highly addictive- creating serious withdrawal symptoms when patients try to stop using them.

Creating Empowering Thoughts

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right!”    -Henry Ford

The good news is that we can choose to create new habits that support a healthier way of handling the demands of life.  The first thing that we can do is to choose to consciously create empowering thoughts.  Arguably, the most important key to natural stress management is using what we call “positive self-talk”.  If we put a negative spin on our thoughts, constantly focusing on problems or potential problems, we will end up thinking irrationally, not sleeping well and generally obsessing about what’s wrong and everything else that can go wrong.

Many of us learned how to think this way as far back as childhood.  In early childhood, we absorb these messages very easily and these become long-held beliefs.  As you think about it, did you hear messages like “Life is difficult” or “Nothing ever goes right for me”?   These limiting beliefs can effect us detrimentally throughout our lives in very unexpected ways.

Using simple mind control techniques, we can learn to replace  old dysfunctional beliefs with calm, empowering thoughts.  We can become more aware of the negativity and begin to replace old thoughts with a new kind of inner dialogue. 

Starting every day with new thoughts, “I am going to have a really good day today”…”I believe in myself”… “I’m sure that things will work out well”….There’s more to come on Stress Management, and more on a natural solution for chronic stress but changing our thinking is a great place to start.