Meditation as a Method of Releasing Stress

Stress- and anxiety-related disorders continue to rise in the modern-day despite remarkable advancements in healthcare services. Such diseases are caused by changing lifestyles and the lack of appropriate means to release accumulated stress and anxiety (Dahlinghaus 1054). Changes in lifestyles reflect an individual’s situation and the person’s ability to adjust to the changes. The rising number of external factors affecting humans implies that they have to adopt new habits every so often. Unfortunately, the human body is limited to the level of outside factors it can handle at a time. Consequently, the clash between everyday stresses and the body’s capacity to handle the pressure leaves the body tired and stressed (“Meditation: In-Depth.” n.p). As such, there arises the need to find practical techniques of relieving the body of the stresses to keep it in an optimal condition. This paper analyzes the significance of meditation as a method of releasing stress and anxiety from the body. In particular, it focuses on various techniques that have been developed over the years and their effectiveness in improving human wellness.

External Research

The research was conducted to establish the impacts of meditation on physical, mental, and emotional well-being (Shonin et al. 86).

Quantitative Research

Participants were interviewed for attributes such as overall wellness, responsiveness, stress levels, anxiety, and irritability.

Methodology

16 participants were selected randomly and asked to rate their personal evaluation of the above-mentioned attributes on a scale of 1-10, where one was the lowest score, while 10 was the highest score. They were then introduced to various meditation techniques, including the Loving-Kindness, Phyllis Krystal, Mindfulness of Breath, and Light techniques (Shonin et al. 87).

Results

At the beginning of the experiment, 7 of the participants recorded an average score of 5, while 9 participants recorded a score of 6-7. The meditation duration was fixed at two months with regular evaluation of changes in the scores. After one month, 9 participants recorded an average score of 6.3, while 7 participants recorded a score of 7.6. By the end of the second month, all participants recorded at least 2 points of average improvement with overall enhancement in physical and mental wellness (Shonin et al. 90).

Qualitative Research

One in ten Americans practices some form of meditation while over forty percent of those who do not practice indicating the desire to try it (“Now and Zen: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Brain and Improve Your Health.” 5). The report also cites fifteen minutes of daily practice as sufficient to yield positive effects on general wellness levels (6). In particular, the mindfulness approach is deemed effective as it focuses on drawing attention to the self, making it an effective approach when seeking to relieve everyday stress and anxiety. However, individuals can combine various techniques based on the knowledge of each and the environment (West et al. 175). For example, some approaches may require physical exercise, thereby making them unsuitable for a quick session while in the office where transcendental approaches may yield better results.

Lacaille et al. (114) describe the Phyllis Krystal technique, in particular, as a versatile approach due to its combination of concentration, mindfulness, and transcendental practices. Its focus on the mind, the body, and the heart makes it possible for individuals to analyze stressors and apply a particular approach to relieve the situation. For instance, concentration and mindful practices enable people to pay attention to the mind thus eliminating any negative thoughts which could be responsible for stress and anxiety.

The ability to apply a variety of meditation approaches also demonstrates a significant reduction in lifestyle diseases. Stress and anxiety are deemed as predisposing factors to conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure (“Meditation: In-Depth.” n.p). Nonetheless, practicing meditation regularly with a focus on the mind, the heart, and the body plays a critical role in reducing accumulated pressure and anxiety. Besides, meditating also helps in flushing toxins that accumulate in the body when particular bodily functions are affected by stress (Dahlinghaus 1052). For example, the digestive system is cited as highly sensitive to triggers such as mood and tends to slow whenever an individual is irritated or stressed. Consequently, byproducts of the digestion process accumulate in the body and may lead to ill health besides emotional distress (1054).

Personal Research

Quantitative Research

The study was carried out to establish the impacts of meditation on various qualities.

Methodology

In the experiment, participants recorded their level of various attributes, including capability, adaptability, flexibility, and motivation, among others, where 1 was the lowest score, while 10 represented the highest score.

Results

Participants recorded a significant improvement in overall wellness and could manage their stress and anxiety levels. The table below shows the level of each attribute before and after the meditation experiment.

Attributes (Out of 10)

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Qualitative Research 

The qualitative research involved practicing three meditation techniques to establish their impacts on stress and anxiety.

The Phyllis Krystal Meditation Technique

The method emphasizes the importance of cutting ties with people, things, and events that bind an individual. Practicing can assume several methods, including Figure 8, the Cylinder, the Maypole, and the Tree.

Figure 8

The approach involves sitting in free space and visualizing encirclement by a golden light. Another golden circle is imagined adjacent to a person’s circle, and all the undesired external influences are placed in the second ring. An individual then envisions a neon blue light moving in a clockwise motion across the two circles. The movement is a representation of the ties shared by the person and the external factor, which could be another person, an event, or an object. To detach from the external influences, an individual visualizes the drifting of the two circles away from each other while the blue neon light continues to surround the circle as if to protect it from reentry by any of the already excluded influences. As noted earlier, opinions and ideas about the external forces lead to stress and anxiety, leading to physical, mental, and emotional distress. A continued focus on one’s newly created territory helps to reduce dependence on people and situations, thereby giving someone a sense of relaxation and freedom (Shonin et al. 78).

The Cylinder

Just like Figure 8, the Cylinder focuses on creating a unique space for the individual to keep off undesired influences. The process involves sitting in a free area and visualizing a golden light in which one can pull up to the desired level to create a sense of enclosure within a safe cylinder, which is protected by a golden light. One can also visualize placing a cover on the open-top to ensure maximum protection. The safe space offers an individual the opportunity to feel secluded and to focus the mind on cutting ties with the outside. In contrast to Figure 8, where the undesired influence is placed in another circle and pushed away, the cylinder is used as a hiding place where one can develop a sense of independence without getting in contact with the external influence (West et al. 179).

When sitting in the cylinder, one concentrates on engaging the influence and reaffirming the desire to be free. If one desires to detach from an event, for example, the Mindful of Breath technique is applied to create an awareness of the present situation and the desire to separate from the experience. Individuals can visualize their seclusion and calm in the cylinder until they are independent of the external influences. The approach also emphasizes the avoidance of any attempts to influence the undesired factors to facilitate complete detachment from them.

The Maypole Approach

The Maypole is an advanced approach that focuses on controlling the breath to focus on the present situation. However, as opposed to seeking protection from lights, the individual uses visualized connections to request the desired attributes from a higher power attached to the top of the maypole. It is also possible to release unwanted traits through the same link. For example, one can request relaxing, healing, cleansing, and re-energizing energies and receive them through the perceived ribbon connection. In turn, one can release, stress, anxiety, anger, and negative thoughts. The maypole also helps to detach from other people by visualizing the presence of many people around the pole, each holding a connecting ribbon. However, it can also be used to share love and other positive attributes with others (Shonin et al. 81). For example, one can send love through the ribbon to the higher power on the pole from where it is channeled to the other person’s ribbon. Individuals can also receive the attributes from the greater power where the sense of accepting is visualized by hugging oneself and reaffirming the positive quality by saying it aloud. The meditation session should ideally end by returning to the ordinary state. To achieve this, one uncurls from the seated and legs-crossed position and moving the entire body to help connect with the surrounding.

The Tree

The tree approach resembles the Maypole in that there is a sense of connection to a higher power, which can give positive attributes and take away the negative. However, the tree creates the aspect of leaning on it to find strength whenever one feels weak or in need of a supportive figure. When practicing the approach, the main idea is to visualize oneself standing at the base of the tree. The earth is perceived as the cosmic mother, while the sun is perceived as the cosmic father. From the trunk, an individual can receive from the earth through the feet or from the sun by stretching out the arms to imitate the branches of the tree. The hands and legs are also used to send out any negative attributes that an individual may want to release. For example, one can request the Cosmic Mother or Cosmic Father for things they did not receive from their human parents. Such could include acceptance, validity, love, and affection. In turn, they can release feelings of rejection, disappointment, blame, and lack of love. Essentially, the Tree approach encourages individuals to release guilt and judgment as it is possible to expect something from someone who never received the same (West et al. 184). For instance, a human mother may have lacked a lover from her mother, therefore the inability to pass it down to her children. Therefore, by applying the Tree approach, one focuses on forgiving others for their wrongs and seeking forgiveness from others. The attributes are sent and received through the legs that are in contact with the earth or through the hands that are lifted towards the sun.

The technique also allows individuals to seek the love and protection of cosmic parents. The left-hand holds the Cosmic Mother’s right hand while the right-hand holds the Cosmic Father’s left hand. It is also possible to visualize oneself receiving a hug from both parents, which creates a sense of enclosure within their arms. The session should end by getting out of the meditation position and focusing on the present to symbolize recognition of the surrounding.

The Mindfulness of Breath Technique

Mindfulness refers to one’s ability to perceive the present self and surroundings. Shonin et al. (27) hold that although mindfulness is a natural aspect, it is possible to get more from it when practiced regularly. Primarily, being mindful helps to structure responses to situations after allowing the mind ample time to analyze a situation. Therefore, applying the Mindful technique facilitates the creation of an environment in which one can focus on the present moment without significant distraction from external sources (67). For more relaxed concentration, the methods pay attention to the breath. Monitoring one’s breath usually requires a substantial level of consistency to note the inhalation and exhalation patterns. Thus, focusing the mind on a specific issue amidst the high-level concentration constitutes the Mindful of Breath Meditation.

When practicing the technique, an individual finds ample space and time to allow the mind to focus on the present and eliminate perceptions about the surrounding. Excluding judgments helps to reduce stress and anxiety considering they are products of psychological processes in which individuals create ideas and opinions regarding their surroundings based on prevailing factors (Lacaille et al. 126). Nonetheless, it is possible to note such judgments within the mind for later consideration when evaluating the meditation process and its outcomes. It is crucial to refocus on the present whenever the mind tends to wander as the essence of the technique is to gently but firmly create a moment of concentration. The ability to control breath enables the individual to develop a pattern that reduces the mind’s likelihood of wandering or wandering for too long. For instance, the technique may emphasize the elimination of specific thoughts when inhaling or exhaling. Thus, the chances of refocusing are raised as individual practices due to the need to breathe.

A simple meditation process begins by crossing the legs if seated on the floor or cushion, or by resting the feet on the ground if sitting on a high surface such as a chair. The upper body is then straightened out gently while allowing the spine to assume its natural curve. The arms are then placed in line with the uppermost body from the shoulders to the waist. The palms can rest in a comfortable position on the laps. A slight tilt of the face towards the ground is necessary to position it in a manner that reduces the number of objects visible to the eyes. If necessary, it is possible to close the eyes to achieve maximum concentration. However, it is possible to perceive the objects or sounds without giving much attention to their existence. Utmost consideration is then focused on the breathing process where air enters and leaves the nose and mouth and how the chest moves inward and outward. At such moments, it becomes easy to refocus the mind when it wanders as there is an established pattern where one is conscious of the inhalations and chest movements. The instances of maximum concentration on the present reduce the blood’s pressure as muscles and nerves tend to relax when the body is calm (Redstone 193).

When practicing mindfulness of breath meditation, the primary focus is to achieve maximum calmness as opposed to instantly realizing the many benefits of the process. Mostly, such advantages are mere manifestations of an individual’s efforts to relieve stress and anxiety (Dahlinghaus 1055). Therefore, the meditation only serves to create conducive surroundings for the body to lockout distractions and allow it ample time to function optimally.

The Light Meditation Technique

Also known as the White Light technique, the approach focuses on perceiving oneself as a bright light. The process involves reading or reciting a memorized mantra, which emphasizes the receiving of light that enters the body through the head. From the head, also known as the Crown Chakra, one directs the light to move to the Third Eye, also referred to as the Brow Chakra. The light is then guided into the Throat Chakra, Heart Chakra, Solar Plexus, Sacral Chakra, and eventually to the Root Chakra (“Meditations | Light Movement”). While breathing, one perceives the growth of the light such that it extends beyond the head and the end of the spine to connect the individual to the earth, the ultimate source of life.

Like in other forms of meditation, an individual has to perceive positive attributes such as the desire to receive healing and release negative influences. Thus, the individual requests a healing light which flows through an Emotional body, a Causal body, a Mental body, an Etheric body, and the Spiritual body. As the light permeates each level, the healing intensifies, and one can perceive a transformation in which it becomes possible to influence divine powers over self. It also raises one’s awareness of their role in continuing the healing thread, which originates from a higher source (“Meditations | Light Movement”). Thus, one visualizes him or herself as part of a system whose well-being depends not only on how much is received but on how much is shared as well. Overall, the technique emphasizes self-realization as the ultimate source of peace and freedom and emotional stability to allow stress and anxiety flow out of the body on their own (Lacaille et al. 127).

Discussion/ Implications of Meditation on Overall Well-being

The human body comprises a complex system that is designed to handle various internal and external functions. When working at an optimum rate, it can create a balance that facilitates physical, emotional, and mental wellness. However, in an increasingly busy and demanding world, it is almost impossible for the body to achieve that perfect balance (Lacaille et al. 114). The acknowledgment of meditation as a form of relieving the body and mind of stress has so far yielded positive results for many people. From the research and personal experience, I am confident that meditation can alleviate various stress-related situations; thus, I would be willing to meditate often. More importantly, I have gained a better understanding of the relationship that exists between stress and lifestyle diseases and how meditation can rescue the situation. The findings have also compelled me to begin an awareness campaign through which I can help other people realize the benefits of meditation for overall wellness and as a means of alleviating lifestyle diseases such as high blood pressure. Also, I feel the need to try other meditation techniques and combine them with the already discussed methods as a way of raising the efficiency of each meditation session. For example, Yoga is gaining popularity as a preferred approach, thereby prompting the need for further research to find out its impacts and how they compare to those discussed in this research (“Now And Zen: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Brain And Improve Your Health.” 5; West et al. 180). I will also extend my research to establish the impacts of varied meditation durations and how such outcomes may form a stronger case for the need to adopt meditation as a primary intervention for lifestyle conditions. For external researchers, I would like to see the creation of policies that facilitate the provision of medical covers which recognize meditation as one among the many interventions individuals may seek to reduce the reliance on costly drugs.

Conclusion

Meditation serves a critical role in aiding to balance the body’s functions and eliminate negative influences that affect an individual’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Stress and anxiety are mainly responsible for increased lifestyle diseases and other personality disorders such as paranoia and suicidal thoughts. However, research reveals that regular meditation can alleviate the effects of stress in several ways. For example, it helps to maintain optimal blood pressure and improves general blood circulation within the body. Meditation regulates perspiration, helping to remove toxins from the body while repairing the body’s exhausted tissues. It also reduces anxiety, thereby enabling individuals to achieve a higher level of relaxation. Overall, people can eliminate stress and anxiety and their related impacts on human health. However, there is a need to raise awareness on the benefits of meditation besides teaching more people the various meditation techniques to reduce the escalating incidences of life-threatening lifestyle conditions such as high blood pressure.

 

Works Cited

“Meditation: In Depth.” NCCIH, 2017. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm. Accessed 28 October 2020.

“Meditations | Light Movement.” Lightmovement.Org, 2017. http://lightmovement.org/meditations. Accessed 28 October 2020.

“Now And Zen: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Brain And Improve Your Health.” Hms.Harvard.Edu, 2016. https://hms.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/assets/Harvard%20Now%20and%20Zen%20Reading%20Materials.pdf. Accessed 28 October 2020.

Dahlinghaus, Michael. “Comparing Acute Mindful To Non-Mindful Exercise in Reducing Anxiety and Improving Mood.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, vol. 48, 2016, pp. 1050-1055. Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer Health), doi:10.1249/01.mss.0000488174.82640.7a.

Lacaille, Julien et al. “Daily Mindful Responding Mediates the Effect of Meditation Practice on Stress and Mood: The Role of Practice Duration and Adherence.” Journal of Clinical Psychology, 2017, Wiley-Blackwell. doi:10.1002/jclp.22489.

Redstone, Lee. “Mindfulness Meditation and Aromatherapy to Reduce Stress and Anxiety.” Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, vol. 29, no. 3, 2015, pp. 178-193. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/j.apnu.2015.03.001.

Shonin, Edo et al. Mindfulness and Buddhist-Derived Approaches in Mental Health and Addiction. Cham: Springer, 2015.

West, Jennifer et al. “Trauma Sensitive Yoga as a Complementary Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Qualitative Descriptive Analysis.” International Journal of Stress Management, vol. 24, no. 2, 2017, pp. 173-195. doi: 10.1037/str0000040.