To many, “meditation” conjures up visions of shriveled gurus sitting cross-legged in a circle somewhere high up in the Alps, while “at one” with the Universe. Though some consider it a mind-body medicine that brings about a deeper understanding of life, others believe meditation can be adopted at any time to reduce stress and lead to an overall sense of calm. After all, it’s simple, can be practiced anywhere, and (despite popular opinion) requires no extra equipment, robes, uncomfortable positions, or mountains.

Photo by Jordan Shakeshaft

Just Say “OM” — The Takeaway

In recent studies, researchers found that an increasing number of healthcare providers recommend meditation to their patients as a simple way to manage stress and combat anxiety, depression, and chronic pain syndromesDemystifying mindfulness. Lawson, K. Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Center for Spirituality and Healing, University of Minnesota. Minnesota Medicine, 2011; 94(1): 37-39.. The research and growing popularity of meditation suggests providers believe that, even for beginners, it could be an effective way to manage pain and stressBrain mechanisms supporting the modulation of pain by mindfulness meditation. Zeidan, F., Martucci, K.T., Kraft, R.A., Gordon, N.S., McHaffie, J.G., Coghill, R.C. Departments of Neurobiology and Anatomy and Biomedical Engineering, Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Psychology Department, Marquette University. Journal of Neuroscience, 2011; 31(14): 5540-5548.Effect of meditation on stress-induced changes in cognitive functions. Mohan, A., Sharma, R., Bijlani, R.L., Department of Physiology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2011; 17(3): 207-212.. And meditation needn’t take up much time. One study suggests participating in meditation twice a day for ten minutes can reduce job-related stress and anxiety in full-time workersA randomized, controlled trial of meditation for work stress, anxiety and depressed mood in full-time workers. Manocha R., Black D., Sarris J., et al. Sydney Medical School, St Leonards, Australia. Evidence Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. 2011.. Meditation can be relatively simple for newbies. First, find a comfortable position in a quiet and safe place where focus won’t be interrupted. Here are some suggested techniques to try:

  • Guided Meditation: For five minutes or so, focus on taking deep breaths and picturing calming images and places. A good place to start is simply to plug in “guided meditation” into YouTube and click on something that looks familiar and relaxing. Then, look away and enjoy.
  • Mantra Meditation: This is the popular “OM” mediation, though, any word or phrase can be repeated over and over. This could be a favorite religious saying, proverb, or even tongue twister. For a more typical experience, find out more about Om-ing away.
  • Mindfulness Meditation: The goal here is simply to achieve a stable, calm, and free mind by sitting erect, breathing, and moving aside any thoughts until no more come in. No matter what comes up, think: “That may be really important, but I’ll think about it later. I’m practicing meditation right now.”

Meditation can take many other forms, including popular ones such as qi gong, tai chi, and yoga. Everyone together now: “OMMMM.”

The TAkeaway

Try meditating for just 5 minutes a day to relieve stress.

Updated August 2011.