What was the last thing that caused you to feel stressed? A health issue? A project deadline? An unexpected expense? A family disagreement? We all feel stress, but each of us reacts to it and copes with it in our own way.
Depending on the degree of stress you’re feeling and your reaction to it, stress can lead to a variety of health problems, many of which impact the health of your heart.
Researchers continue to study how stress contributes to heart disease, but we already know that it increases risk factors such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and high cholesterol levels. Stress also increases the tendency to smoke, overeat and neglect exercise, all of which contribute to your heart disease risk.
Have you ever considered meditation as a way to cope with stress? According to the American Heart Association, practicing meditation and mindfulness may help you manage your stress and high blood pressure, sleep better, feel more balanced and connected, and even lower your risk of heart disease. These practices often use breathing, quiet contemplation or sustained focus on something, such as an image, phrase or sound, to help you let go of stress and feel calmer and more relaxed.
Related: Is stress keeping you up at night?
Some studies have linked meditation to healthier arteries and improved blood flow to the heart. Additional studies are needed to better understand the association between meditation and cardiovascular health, but experts agree that this practice can be good for your heart.
Getting started is easy. Do some research and find a class that teaches meditation. Remember, there are many kinds of meditation.
Some of the popular types are:
- Heartfulness meditation: A heart based meditation that fosters peace, balance and overall wellbeing.
- Mindfulness meditation: May use an object of focus such as a ringing bell, a chant, touching beads or gazing at an object.
- Transcendental meditation: Allows your mind to focus inward while staying alert to other thoughts and sensations.
Other styles of meditation include: compassion, insight, mantra, Zen and others. Try different types of meditation to figure out which one you enjoy most. The key is to focus on your breathing so your mind doesn’t wander. If it does wander, slowly bring it back to your breathing. Slowly lengthen the amount of time you are able to remain focused.
Meditation can help you manage stress, sleep better and feel better. It is a great addition to your overall wellness plan that includes eating healthier, managing your weight and exercising regularly. Meditation is not a substitute for medication or medical treatment, but it can be a way for you to take charge of your health.