Less Stress

Where To Meditate: 11 Surprising Places To Find Some Zen

Where To Meditate: 11 Surprising Places To Find Some Zen

In search of simple, quick and cheap stress relief? Meditation is what you’re after.

Often associated with Eastern-world practices, meditation has been making headlines and infiltrating the West. It’s no mystery as to why: Just 20 minutes has been shown to decrease stress, help with depression and even lower blood pressure.

Best of all, there’s no catch: Meditation is free, and you can take it anywhere (all you need is your head). We were curious where you take your meditation; while we might typically think it’s a practice for stillness and silence, it turns out there’s no place too loud or exclusive to find peace of mind.

We asked on Facebook the strangest place you’ve found yourself practicing, and from your answers it’s clear: Meditation can happen in motion, and is often helpful in times we anticipate feeling tense. Check out some creative and brilliant places to meditate below, then tell us in the comments where else you like to clear your head.
“In a tree.” — Marty Daymunde
118632982

“In the middle of a rock concert.” — Jane Sayre
129152718

“On the NYC subway!” — Lauren Loma Calixte
on subway

“On a plane.” — Sandrine Laurent
200506275

“In the car.” — Heather Hunter
171586360

“Public restroom!” — Jane Sayre
bathroom stall

“While running on a treadmill.” — Travis H Heinrich
171580814

“While in an MRI. It helped keep me calm in the tube.” — Katherine Nobles
171159778

“In the middle of the airport.” — Sky Can Horn
dv1139030

“In the dentist’s chair.” — Sean Mac An Ultaigh
170619118

“In a bar.” — Denise Helberg Snider
148931910

For more on meditation, click here.

Where To Meditate: 11 Surprising Places To Find Some Zen.

Work Stress: An Email Meditation To Reduce Tension At Your Desk

Checking your overflowing Gmail inbox — or sending out a message to an important business contact — is a pretty surefire way to make your pulse quicken and your mind start racing with worries about deadlines and obligations. In fact, one study actually found that checking and sending email at work can increase your blood pressure and heart rate, and cause levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body to spike.

“People expect us to respond within 24 hours … just handling the amount of email we get can be stressful,” Dr. Lillian Cheung, mindfulness expert and editorial director of The Nutrition Source at Harvard, tells the Huffington Post. “But instead of getting stressed and overwhelmed with emails, I think it’s an opportunity for us to refresh and restore ourselves.”

Taking a moment to perform a short meditation before sending an email can be an easy way to lower your stress levels and integrate mindfulness into your everyday work life. Before sending out your next message, try a simple breathing exercise outlined by Cheung and zen master Thich Nhat Hahn in their book “Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life.”

After writing an email, stop and take three deep breathes, focusing on each inhale and exhale. You can repeat to yourself, “Breathing in, I thank the power of the Internet. Breathing out, I am fully conscious of my current email actions.” Then, input your recipient and cc-recipient addresses, and click send on the email.

“Not only are you helping yourself to calm down, but you’re also preventing yourself from making mistakes,” says Cheung. “It’s just a moment of pause and it doesn’t take long.”

Read the original instructions from “Savor,” and click here for more ways to de-stress at your desk.

via Work Stress: An Email Meditation To Reduce Tension At Your Desk.

 

Bill George: The Tipping Point for Mindfulness

The Tipping Point for Mindfulness

Posted: 06/21/2013 8:32 am

Mindfulness practices like meditation have been in existence for thousands of years, but only now are they reaching the tipping point in the Western world. Today’s pace and stress are so great that people are searching for new practices to find resilience in the midst of chaos, and mindfulness programs are helping them find better ways to live.

Mindfulness, the practice of self-observation without judgment, encompasses an array of activities in which we focus inward on our minds and our inner voices. New research studies are demonstrating conclusively that meditation and mindfulness are good for your health — and for your soul. This is why each of us should consider balancing the fast-paced nature of our lives with individual practices that cultivate mindfulness.

My Experiences with Meditation

I began meditating thirty-seven years ago after my wife Penny dragged me “kicking and screaming” to a weekend training program in transcendental meditation at the University of Minnesota. I started meditating twenty minutes, twice a day, and stayed with the practice because I felt better and was more effective at work and at home. Meditation helps me relieve the stress of the day, gain clarity about what’s important, open up creative ideas, and find added energy and a deep sense of well-being. For a practice that costs nothing and doesn’t involve medication, that’s a good bargain.

For years I was reluctant to talk about meditating, as it sounded too “new age,” especially to the media. Today, mindfulness is becoming mainstream, no longer confined to closed-door meditation circles and therapy sessions. Public interest in mindfulness is increasing, as evidenced by the proliferation of literature on the subject; an Amazon search for “mindfulness” brings up 4,006 books.

Let me describe how meditation works in my daily life. When I open my emails, I am bombarded with requests and information. There are packages to read from the boards on which I serve, messages from Harvard colleagues, inquiries about speaking, and an unending stream of requests. Meanwhile, the phone is ringing, people are stopping by my office with questions, and I am trying to prepare to teach my next class. Navigating through these issues requires constant context shifting, which can leave me mentally drained.

After I meditate, I feel calm and centered, having slowed my mind from the adrenalin-fueled, frenetic workday pace. Consequently, I am able to focus deeply on the big questions and do my most productive thinking. The clarity that comes with meditation enables me to escape from my never-ending “to do” list and concentrate on my most important priorities, not letting them be overtaken by the urgent, less important tasks that can be delegated. The self-awareness that comes from meditation helps me understand how others perceive me and how to empower them.

The Science of Meditation

Research has shown that meditation is powerful enough to alter the makeup of the human mind. Thanks to the personal dedication of the Dalai Lama and the Mind and Life Institute he founded in the U.S., neuro science researchers are studying mindfulness meditation. Breakthrough research using fMRI technology conducted by Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison have demonstrated the correlation between mindfulness and changes in the regions of the brain related to learning, memory, and emotion. Other studies have shown that mindfulness is as effective for treating depression as antidepressant drugs.

A Massachusetts General Hospital study discovered that meditation has the ability to change one’s gene expression (which genes are turned “on” or “off”) in as little as six weeks, based on blood samples before and after meditation. Genes associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance were enhanced while genes linked to inflammatory response and stress-related pathways were reduced. Another Massachusetts General Hospital study showed that eight weeks of meditation shrunk the amygdala, the portion of the brain modulating response to fear and stress.

Meditation and its Applications

In a recent Huffington Post article, my wife Penny highlighted the importance of mindfulness in integrative medicine in connecting the mind, body, and spirit. Integrative medicine encourages patients to practice inexpensive and non-toxic activities such as yoga, massage, healthy eating, and mindfulness meditation in combination with conventional Western medicine. Mindfulness is also practiced by health professionals in order to cope with the immense stress of their work. Allina Health, the largest health system in Minnesota, offers resilience-training programs for employees that encourage mindfulness, nutrition, and exercise to manage anxiety and depression.

Most leaders do everything they can to shape their enterprises, but if they don’t step back from constant action, they lose perspective and their sense of priority, as well as their ability to create original solutions. That’s why many companies like Walt Disney, General Mills, and Google have made mindfulness an important element of their company cultures by offering it to their employees.

Thirty years ago, Disney brought in Ron Alexander, a meditation teacher, to teach seminars to inspire their creative teams. Following the meditation seminars, Disney’s teams dreamed up Tokyo Disney, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland. Today, the company incorporates meditative practice into its workplace and is regarded as one of the world’s most innovative companies.

For the past seven years, General Mills employees have engaged in meditation, yoga, and mindfulness practices while at work. General Mills reports that 80 percent of employees practicing mindfulness were able to make better decisions with greater clarity and 89 percent reported enhanced ability in listening to others. Marturano recently formed the Institute for Mindful Leadership to bring mindfulness training to corporate executives.

In April 2012, Google announced a new program titled “Search Inside Yourself,” a free course for employees designed to teach emotional intelligence through the practice of meditation. The program was designed by Chade-Meng Tan, a Google engineer looking for a way to ease the burden of Google’s fast-paced, demanding environment. Mr. Tan’s program is very popular among employees, generating a waiting list each time it’s offered.

Cultivating mindfulness takes daily practice. Mindfulness allows us to live in the present, bringing a deeper understanding of what is happening and how we respond to it. I urge you to give it a try. You will be glad you did, and so will those around you.

Bill George is professor of management practice at Harvard Business School and author of True North and Authentic Leadership. He is the former chair and CEO of Medtronic. Read more at www.BillGeorge.org, or follow him on Twitter @Bill_George.

Bill George: The Tipping Point for Mindfulness.

 

Michelle Noehren: What I Know About Motherhood Now That I Practice Meditation

Nine months ago a seed was planted. Ok people, not THAT kind of seed. I didn’t do any baby making, but I did start a journey that has changed my life for the better, similar to how becoming a mom made me see the world a bit differently.

Back in September of 2012 I took my first meditation class at a local center in my town. I’d always been intrigued by meditation but was nervous to take the first step and attend class. Turns out there was not a single thing to be nervous about considering every person I have met that practices meditation is incredibly welcoming and nice.

The type of meditation that I practice isn’t just breathing meditation, it’s contemplative too. Over the past nine months I’ve thought a lot about how my state of mind at any given point impacts how I see the world. I’ve meditated on how dangerous anger can be, how the most important thing I can do is to show others kindness (even those who provoke and challenge me) and I have increased the depth of my compassion for others.

I’ve experienced a dramatic drop in my anxiety level and I feel like I’ve healed some relationships in my life that were difficult, not because the other person changed anything, but because I now fully understand that I have the ability to change situations solely based upon the way I think. Powerful stuff peeps!

Naturally, practicing meditation has impacted how I parent my 2-year-old daughter. Here are a just a few of the revelations I’ve had since beginning my practice.

I have a lot more patience than I thought.

Mom, if you’re reading this, pick your jaw up off the floor. This has been a surprising revelation. I have not been known within my family as someone who has a lot of patience but I’ve found that meditation really helps me stay in the now (as cliché as that term is). Most of the time I’m able to resist getting agitated when my toddler doesn’t do what I ask, throws a tantrum or doesn’t want to eat dinner. Taking the time to breathe and remember that my goal is to be kind in all of my interactions, including with my little girl, helps me show more patience instead of just getting immediately upset. As a wonderful consequence, I don’t yell anymore.

I’m not perfect, and that’s ok.

And that brings me to this little revelation; it’s ok to not be perfect. I sometimes refer to myself as a recovering perfectionist. Before meditation, if I felt like something wasn’t done to my very high standards I had to fix it immediately (including craft projects with my kid) or I would have a high level of anxiety. What I now understand is that my thoughts create my world and as I am moving towards a more peaceful state of mind, I don’t really care if my daughter rips a hole in the project we’re working on — I’ll just tape it up and move on (as opposed to throwing it out and starting again!). I have a more relaxed attitude about some things but admit that it’s hard to shake my perfectionist tendencies. Just part of the journey, I suppose.

I am not my body

Ah yes! You know those stretch marks on my stomach and the baby weight I haven’t lost yet? Guess what? That doesn’t define me! Because I’m not my body, I’m more than my body and you are too. How liberating is that? Thank you meditation!

Pre-baby I was more judgmental than I ever imagined.

Before I became a mom I use to judge other parents (I hate to admit that but it’s true). I didn’t realize just how judgy I was until I had my own kid who doesn’t always act like a perfect little angel. Just the act of becoming a mom helped me reduce my judginess but meditation has opened my eyes to the importance of universal compassion. The truth is we don’t really know what’s in anyone else’s mind other than our own and judging others makes it hard to feel kindness and love for them. And as I stated above, showing kindness to people is one of the most important things in life.

Just like meditation, parenting takes perseverance.

With meditation, it takes time to fully reap the benefits. You have to (gently) keep at it, doing your best to put the meditations into practice in daily life. Motherhood is just like that. We just have to keep plugging along, doing our best each day with faith that our efforts will pay off in the long run.

From my meditation cushion to you, keep calm and mother on.

via Michelle Noehren: What I Know About Motherhood Now That I Practice Meditation.

 

Mindfulness Meditation Benefits: 20 Reasons Why It’s Good For Your Mental And Physical Health

Oh mindfulness meditation, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways.

Even though the academic research on mindfulness meditation isn’t as robust as, say, nutrition or exercise, there is a reason why it’s been around for literally thousands of years. And we’re starting to get a better understanding of why it seems to be beneficial for so many aspects of life, from disease and pain management, to sleep, to control of emotions.

For starters, let’s define what mindfulness is: A Perspectives on Psychological Science study described it as “the nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment.”

With that in mind, here are 20 reasons why you might want to consider incorporating mindfulness meditation into your daily life. And for our full coverage on the topic, click over to our Mindfulness Meditation page.

1. It lowers stress — literally. Research published just last month in the journal Health Psychology shows that mindfulness is not only associated with feeling less stressed, it’s also linked with decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

2. It lets us get to know our true selves. Mindfulness can help us see beyond those rose-colored glasses when we need to really objectively analyze ourselves. A study in the journal Psychological Science shows that mindfulness can help us conquer common “blind spots,” which can amplify or diminish our own flaws beyond reality.

3. It can make your grades better. Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that college students who were trained in mindfulness performed better on the verbal reasoning section of the GRE, and also experienced improvements in their working memory. “Our results suggest that cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with widereaching consequences,” the researchers wrote in the Psychological Science study.

4. It could help our troops. The U.S. Marine Corps is in the process of seeing how mindfulness meditation training can improve troops’ performance and ability to handle — and recover from — stress.

5. It could help people with arthritis better handle stress. A 2011 study in the journal Annals of Rheumatic Disease shows that even though mindfulness training may not help to lessen pain for people with rheumatoid arthritis, it could help to lower their stress and fatigue.

6. It changes the brain in a protective way. University of Oregon researchers found that integrative body-mind training — which is a meditation technique — can actually result in brain changes that may be protective against mental illness. The meditation practice was linked with increased signaling connections in the brain, something called axonal density, as well as increased protective tissue (myelin) around the axons in the anterior cingulate brain region.

7. It works as the brain’s “volume knob.” Ever wondered why mindfulness meditation can make you feel more focused and zen? It’s because it helps the brain to have better control over processing pain and emotions, specifically through the control of cortical alpha rhythms (which play a role in what senses our minds are attentive to), according to a study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

8. It makes music sound better. Mindfulness meditation improves our focused engagement in music, helping us to truly enjoy and experience what we’re listening to, according to a study in the journal Psychology of Music.

9. It helps us even when we’re not actively practicing it. You don’t have to actually be meditating for it to still benefit your brain’s emotional processing. That’s the finding of a study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, which shows that the amygdala brain region’s response to emotional stimuli is changed by meditation, and this effect occurs even when a person isn’t actively meditating.

10. It has four elements that help us in different ways. The health benefits of mindfulness can be boiled down to four elements, according to a Perspectives on Psychological Science study: body awareness, self-awareness, regulation of emotion and regulation of attention.

11. It could help your doctor be better at his/her job. Doctors, listen up: Mindfulness meditation could help you better care for your patients. Research from the University of Rochester Medical Center shows that doctors who are trained in mindfulness meditation are less judgmental, more self-aware and better listeners when it comes to interacting with patients.

12. It makes you a better person. Sure, we love all the things meditation does for us. But it could also benefit people we interact with, by making us more compassionate, according to a study in the journal Psychological Science. Researchers from Northeastern and Harvard universities found that meditation is linked with more virtuous, “do-good” behavior.

13. It could make going through cancer just a little less stressful. Research from the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine shows that mindfulness coupled with art therapy can successfully decrease stress symptoms among women with breast cancer. And not only that, but imaging tests show that it is actually linked with brain changes related to stress, emotions and reward.

14. It could help the elderly feel less lonely. Loneliness among seniors can be dangerous, in that it’s known to raise risks for a number of health conditions. But researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that mindfulness meditation helped to decrease these feelings of loneliness among the elderly, and boost their health by reducing the expression of genes linked with inflammation.

15. It could make your health care bill a little lower. Not only will your health benefit from mindfulness meditation training, but your wallet might, too. Research in the American Journal of Health Promotion shows that practicing Transcendental Meditation is linked with lower yearly doctor costs, compared with people who don’t practice the meditation technique.

16. It comes in handy during cold season. Aside from practicing good hygiene, mindfulness meditation and exercise could lessen the nasty effects of colds. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Health found that people who engage in the practices miss fewer days of work from acute respiratory infections, and also experience a shortened duration and severity of symptoms.

17. It lowers depression risk among pregnant women. As many as one in five pregnant women will experience depression, but those who are at especially high risk for depression may benefit from some mindfulness yoga. “Research on the impact of mindfulness yoga on pregnant women is limited but encouraging,” study researcher Dr. Maria Muzik, M.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, said in a statement. “This study builds the foundation for further research on how yoga may lead to an empowered and positive feeling toward pregnancy.”

18. It also lowers depression risk among teens. Teaching teens how to practice mindfulness through school programs could help them experience less stress, anxiety and depression, according to a study from the University of Leuven.

19. It supports your weight-loss goals. Trying to shed a few pounds to get to a healthier weight? Mindfulness could be your best friend, according to a survey of psychologists conducted by Consumer Reports and the American Psychological Association. Mindfulness training was considered an “excellent” or “good” strategy for weight loss by seven out of 10 psychologists in the survey.

20. It helps you sleep better. We saved the best for last! A University of Utah study found that mindfulness training can not only help us better control our emotions and moods, but it can also help us sleep better at night. “People who reported higher levels of mindfulness described better control over their emotions and behaviors during the day. In addition, higher mindfulness was associated with lower activation at bedtime, which could have benefits for sleep quality and future ability to manage stress,” study researcher Holly Rau said in a statement.

Can’t get enough reasons to love meditation? Fine, fine — here are seven more:

See Slideshow:

Mindfulness Meditation Benefits: 20 Reasons Why It’s Good For Your Mental And Physical Health.

 

Walk Through Green Space Could Help Put Brain In State Of Meditation, Study Finds

Entering a more ‘zen’ mindset could be as easy as taking a walk in the park, according to a small new study.

New research from scientists at Heriot-Watt University in the U.K. conducted mobile brain electrical activity testing on volunteers to find that the brain enters a meditative state when going through green spaces.

The findings have “implications for promoting urban green space as a mood-enhancing environment for walking or for other forms of physical or reflective activity,” they wrote in the study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The study included 12 healthy adults who walked through three kinds of environments in Edinburgh while being hooked up to mobile electroencephalography devices (which tracked their emotions). They took a 25-minute walk through a city shopping street, through a green space, and on a street in a busy business area. The mobile electroencephalography tracked emotions including frustration, meditation, short-term and long-term excitement, and engagement.

Researchers found that feelings of meditation were the highest when the study participants were going through the green space, as well as less frustration, long-term excitement and engagement.

The New York Times reported that the findings don’t mean the green space triggered spacing out — rather, the engagement required to walk through a green space is more “effortless,” study researcher Jenny Roe told the publication.

“It’s called involuntary attention in psychology. It holds our attention while at the same time allowing scope for reflection,” Roe told the Times.

And taking a walk in the park or a hike outdoors is good for our brains in more ways than one — the University of Washington reports that spending time in nature helps to conquer mental fatigue and even boost cognitive functioning.

For more benefits of being outdoors, click through the slideshow:

via Walk Through Green Space Could Help Put Brain In State Of Meditation, Study Finds.

 

Robert Piper: Meditation: America’s New Pushup

The pushup has been a standard part of being American. If you grow up in America and go to school, one of the first things you’re taught in gym class is how to do a pushup. Millions of Americans do pushups before work, during their lunch break, and at the gym. Because of pushups, we’ve mastered getting ripped pectorals, deltoids, and triceps.

However, we’ve done horrible at managing stress.

Stress costs American businesses around $300 billion a year. Stress is one of the most common long-term absences in the workplace. NBC’s chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, recently said: “Stress is a huge factor when we look at medical problems such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cardiac disease.”

Millions of people in America are paying for an overstressed lifestyle: More than 25 million American suffer from diabetes, and some 74 million have high blood pressure. Stress shrinks our brains, may cause depression, and people who are stressed have higher risk for a stroke.

Several of my friends are driven business-savvy men and women with Type A personalities; they like to tease me about how I do meditation. Until one day, on a Friday night one of them pulled me aside and said, “Hey, I have really bad stress problems. Can you tell me about meditation?” He wasn’t the first of my friends to do this; I’ve heard the same line from a few of them. I stopped over at one of my friend’s house, who lives in an expensive high rise in Chicago and works 100 hours week. When he opened the door, he was grinding his teeth, and looked like he hadn’t slept in a week. My first words were, “Stressed out?” He responded, “Yeah, terribly stressed.”

This seems to be the culture of America; everything is go, go, go! No wonder the majority of heart attacks in America is on Monday morning. Another guy I know had band aids on his thumbs, from typing so many emails on his BlackBerry keyboard. He types more than 100 emails a day on the thing — the skin on his thumbs were actually peeling off. He was so stressed; it was difficult just to have a conversation with him.

It seems like this fable of The Lion and Gazelle is installed into the psyche of American culture, “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle — when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

We don’t have to live like this; we can still be successful and relaxed at the same time if we incorporate meditation into our culture. There’s nothing wrong with a culture full of ambitious men and women; I just want to see more people relax.

I teach meditation to a lot of very wealthy Type A personalities, and one of the things I see with Type As is a lot of them have forgotten how to breathe. The first thing I teach them is to breathe naturally.

Simple mindful breaks throughout the day will do wonders to the culture as a whole. If we all looked at our breathing and checked in with ourselves throughout the day, we would feel a lot better.

Here’s a simple meditation that anyone can do.

1. Find a comfortable place to sit in a chair, close your eyes, bring your awareness to your breathing.

2. Take a deep inhale.

3. Exhale out.

4. Again inhale, bring your attention to all the feelings in your body in a non-judgmental way.

5. Exhale out, focusing on all the feelings in your body in a non-judgmental way.

6. Repeat those steps above. As you progress, work on bringing your breathing to its natural state.

7. Then, open your eyes and carry that feeling with you for the rest of your day.

America is a culture that loves to win. If Americans want to continue to win, they better figure out a way to incorporate meditation into their schedule. Because as the statistics show, stress is cleaning house. To continue winning we have to incorporate meditation into our culture. Meditation is the new pushup.

For more by Robert Piper, click here.

For more on meditation, click here.

via Robert Piper: Meditation: America’s New Pushup.