I’m sure you don’t need convincing that chronic stress is bad for your brain, and that if you are stressed out you need to relax. But that’s easier said than done!
One of the most widely heralded stress reduction techniques is mindfulness meditation. But many people find it difficult, if not impossible, to quiet their mind.
It’s not unusual for people to feel frustrated and disillusioned with their meditation practice. Then meditation becomes an additional source of stress!
There are some excellent reasons to pursue meditation, even when it seems to be the problem and not the answer. And there are other ways to achieve the same benefits if you can’t get the hang of traditional meditation.
Stress Destroys Brain Cells
When a situation you perceive as stressful occurs, it initiates a launch of biochemicals such as adrenalin and cortisol.
Too much stress over prolonged periods actually changes the structure and function of the brain. Cortisol kills brain cells in the hippocampus, the seat of the memory. It literally excites your brain cells to death.
Stress conversely causes the amygdala, your fear center, to grow, causing you to become more fearful and anxious.
Research suggests that chronic stress stimulates the growth of certain proteins that might even be the cause of Alzheimer’s.
Benefits of Meditation for Stress Reduction
There are many lifestyle changes you can make to reduce stress, but meditation keeps popping up as one of the best. Over 1,000 studies have been published showing the health benefits of this relaxation technique.
Meditation has become a mainstream relaxation technique which has been reported on favorably by prestigious medical institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, National Institutes of Health, and Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch.
It helps your brain by reducing stress, but meditation does a lot more too.
Meditation has been shown to improve learning and memory by increasing the communication between the right side and left side of the brain. It also puts your brain in a desirable brainwave state. Meditation enhances the brain’s ability to regenerate new brain cells and new neural connections. One of the most exciting findings is that mindfulness can even slow down the rate of cellular aging!
Problems with Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness is one of the most common types of meditation.
It involves sitting quietly while trying to keep your mind focused on the present. This can be done by concentrating on your breath or by repeating a mantra.
Some of the most common complaints about traditional meditation include feelings of impatience, frustration, boredom, and not getting the desired results. It understandably leaves many people questioning whether they are wasting their time. Imagine how hard meditation can be when trying to fit it into a sensory-bombarding, multitasking Western life!
Sound Meditation Can Help
The sound of waves at the beach, the crackle of an open fire, or listening to relaxing music causes your brainwaves to synchronize with that sound’s frequency and puts you in a relaxed state.
I’ve used sound technology in addition to traditional meditation for years. I find meditation to be hit or miss. Some days I feel like I’ve nailed it but many days I feel like my thoughts were a runaway train and I don’t know what, if anything, I got out of it.
The sounds soothe my mind and dissipate the constant urge to think. I find I don’t even “think about thinking.” I come out of each experience feeling like I’ve been on a mini-vacation. I never feel the frustration, impatience, or boredom I experience with meditation the old-fashioned way.
Everyone is different, so the only way you’ll know what either traditional meditation or sound meditation can do for you is to give them a try.
Author: Deane Alban / Wake up World