Meditation and the Relaxation Response

Health Writer

When searching for answers on controlling anxiety and stress, many people turn to medication. While medication often helps, it does not cure an anxiety disorder and can bring some unwanted side-effects. Most medical professionals recommend implementing relaxation techniques in your daily life as a way to manage symptoms of anxiety.

Meditation is intentional relaxation and is listed by the University of Michigan as one of the ways to illicit the relaxation response. They define the relaxation response as, "your personal ability to make your body release chemicals and brain signals that make your muscles and organs slow down and increases blood flow to the brain" [1] and list some of the benefits as:

  • Increase motivation and productivity
  • Improve decision making abilities
  • Lowers stress hormones
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Increases energy
  • Lowers anxiety and irritability

Meditation, however, isn't an overnight fix. If you meditate for the first time today, your anxiety isn't going to suddenly disappear. Consistency and practice is important. The study at Emory University compared brain scans of those that had been practicing meditation daily for 3 years with those that did not meditate. This research showed individuals who meditated were more able to keep their minds from wandering (ruminating) and were better able to focus.

You probably don't need to wait 3 years to start feeling the benefits of meditation, but the more you practice, the more you will benefit from it. In the beginning, you might find it difficult to meditate, but each day it should become easier.

We have a few posts to help explain the meditation process and how you can get started, setting aside as little as 5 or 10 minutes per day.

See more helpful articles:

Five Minute Meditation

Relax and Make Some Space

Learning to Relax and Let Go

Yoga: A Natural Prescription

References:

[2] "This Therapy Won't Cost Lots," 2008, Oct 11, Amy Hendel, AnxietyConnection.com

[1] "You Really Need to Relax: Effective Methods," 2003, Dr. D. A. Williams, Dr. M. Carey, University of Michigan