Feeling stressed, depressed or sleep-deprived? Help may be as near as your own mind and body. Just follow a few meditation techniques for beginners.
By using mental focus, controlled breathing and body movements, our experts say you can relieve these common problems and boost your health.
Chronic stress weakens the immune system and makes it harder for your body to stay healthy, says Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor in Palliative, Rehabilitation and Integrative Medicine and director of the Integrative Medicine Program at MD Anderson.
Stress also makes you more likely to give up healthy eating and exercise habits that help prevent cancer and other diseases.
“Research shows that mind-body practices can have a positive effect on almost every system in our body, improve quality of life, reverse harmful effects of stress and change the way our brains function,” Cohen says.
Relax your mind and body
“There are thousands of different types of mind-body practices to choose from,” says Alejandro Chaoul, Ph.D., assistant professor in Palliative, Rehabilitation and Integrative Medicine and director of education, Integrative Medicine Program, who is an expert in meditation. These practices include meditation, yoga, Qiqong and Tai chi.
Most of these activities include relaxation, and focus on breath and gentle movements. Anyone at any level can performed them. And be done alone or in a group.
One way to lower stress - and potentially improve your health - is through a simple breathing meditation.
Try this exercise:
- Sit in a comfortable position, on a chair or cushion, with your eyes open or closed.
- Focus on breathing a little more deeply than usual, not just into your upper body, but deeper into your abdomen
- Breathe in a comfortable way. Let the mind guide the breath into your body.
- Become aware of your breath, focusing as your breathe in and out.
- If you get distracted by a sound or thought, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
- Try this once a day for three to five minutes. Each day you can add a little more time until you can do the breathing exercise for 20 minutes.
“As you learn about being mindful of your breath, you can bring that into your everyday activities,” Chaoul says.
Do something daily
“We need to constantly work to try to manage the challenges that surround us,” Cohen says.
Both Cohen and Chaoul agree that one way to do that is to find a mind-body practice that works best for you and make it part of your daily routine.
“Find something that works and stick with it,” Cohen says. “The best mind-body practice is one that you dedicate time to each day.”
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