Exercise, and Meditation Alleviate Stress, Says Aida Gadelkarim
LOS ANGELES, CA / ACCESSWIRE / September 18, 2020 / The economy, health, and employment are a source of stress for many Americans at any time. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Americans experiencing stress has risen to 75 percent, according to the Global Organization for Stress. Coping with the effects of stress can be challenging. People can better manage the stress in their lives by practicing good self-care, says Aida Gadelkarim.
Regular exercise relaxes the body and mind and can improve moods. While experts say the goal is 2 1/2 hours of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense exercise a week, any amount of exercises better than no exercise, says Aida Gadelkarim. Low to moderate physical activities in the form of muscle relaxation techniques, such as deep stretch, are beneficial. Stopping for five to 10 minutes throughout the day to take a few deep breaths can also bring down stress levels. Walking in nature or practicing yoga, Tai chi, or prayer also can relax the body and mind, says Aida Gadelkarim. Individuals should set exercise goals and increase the amount of exercise gradually.
People have practiced meditation for thousands of years, sometimes as part of religious prayer practice, but also as a way of calming and focusing the mind. Its popularity in the United States has grown; a survey in 2017 found that 14 percent of Americans had meditated in the last month. Recently, several scientific studies have confirmed what the ancients have known all along -- that daily meditation improves health, saysAida Gadelkarim.
A 2017 UCLA study found that participants who had been meditating for more than 20 years had more gray matter volume throughout the brain. Older meditators still experienced some gray matter volume loss compared with younger meditators, but the loss was less pronounced than for non-meditators. Meditating for shorter times also positively affects the brain. One study found that meditating for only four days can increase attention span. Another eight-week study found that workers who regularly meditated stayed on task better and remember details better than their non-meditating co-workers, says Aida Gadelkarim.
Meditation also controls runaway thoughts, sometimes known as monkey brain, and improves sleep. One study randomly assigned participants to two groups, one of which practiced mindful meditation and the other that didn't. Those in the first group fell asleep quickly and slept longer than those in the second group, says Aida Gadelkarim.
Over time, meditation also lowers blood pressure, which reduces the chances of a heart attack. A group of 996 volunteers meditated by concentrating on a silent mantra (or word repeated in the mind). On average, these volunteers reduced their blood pressure by five points; the change was more pronounced among those who suffered from high blood pressure or who were older, says Aida Gadelkarim.
Meditation often treats depression and anxiety as well as prescription medicines do, says Aida Gadelkarim. A recent Johns Hopkins University study found meditation to be as effective as antidepressants because meditation retrains the brain. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that meditation can reduce levels of negative stress. Meditation does so by triggering the body's relaxation response, restoring calmness, and preventing more physical damage from stress, says Aida Gadelkarim. A study by Project-Meditation found that regular meditation over a six to nine-month period reduced anxiety levels in two-thirds of anxiety-prone individuals. Meditation as part of a daily routine also helps build resilience to stress. Meditation also can provide a quick-fix stress reliever for individuals who feel their body tensing from stress and is an effective centering technique when emotional stress occurs, says Aida Gadelkarim.
Mindfulness meditation also helps symptoms of social anxiety disorder. It also improves mood, and those individuals who tend to have positive attitudes are more resilient to stress. It changes the brain to decrease reactivity to stress, says Aida Gadelkarim. Meditation also is an essential component in fighting addictions and food cravings. It helps people redirect their attention, increase their willpower, control emotions, and understand what causes their addictive behavior, saysAida Gadelkarim.
Aida Gadelkarim is the owner of Botanic Mind, Body and Soul. She is a holistic medicine practitioner and registered massage therapist. She also has a bachelor's of science in nursing.
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SOURCE: Aida Gadelkarim