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NATURAL HIGHS OF CHILL: MEDITATION QUIETENS THE MIND

In a sense, day today stress is 'all in the mind'. It's not what's happening in your life that winds you up, it's how you react to it. And with meditation, you can learn to react with equanimity to those slings and arrows.

Once considered the preserve of monks and 'space cadets', meditation is actually a practical tool we can use to manage the stresses of daily living and slay relaxed. It works by expanding your awareness beyond the mind and body, promoting a feeling of calm and contentment.

Why It's Good

Meditation is the ultimate antidote to the effects of stress on every level. Physically it reduces heart rate and blood pressure, slows breathing and stabilises brain-wave patterns. It also improves the body's responsiveness to stressful events, speeds up recovery time, and has been shown to prevent the depression of the body's immune responses that occurs with stress.

Clarity and peace of mind

The benefits of meditation on mental and emotional health are far-reaching. There's no doubt that meditation helps dissolve anxiety and promotes clarity and peace of mind. In fact, people who practise meditation on a regular basis have been found to be less anxious than those who don't, and research has revealed that they have lower levels of the stress hormone Cortisol.

This is no small thing. Remember, although we cannot change what happens to us from day to day, we can change the way we respond to stressful situations. Regular meditation helps us to become less reactive to the normal stresses and strains of life, so that we can sustain a happy, relaxed state of mind.

Improved mental focus

Most meditation techniques involve focusing on one object as a way to calm the mind. This object could be a mantra, the flame of a candle, or the breath. Research at the Heffter Institute in California on the effects of focusing on the breath suggests that this helps bring the brain into balance. With this balance comes a sense of connection, clarity and happiness. As the mind becomes quieter, your powers of concentration and mental agility improve. You are more able to focus your energy on the task at hand, instead of dissipating energy by trying to 'multi-task' without doing any individual task completely.

Calm and connected

Beyond beating stress and energising the mind, meditation can bring you a completely new awareness, a whole new high,

Through regular practice and good instruction, meditators find they naturally enter a state of awareness in which they feel connected with themselves and the world around them. Their mind is still, their body relaxed and their emotions settled. This correlates with a distinctive change in brain-wave patterns to a slower alpha-wave rhythm.

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