Using Meditation for Stress Relief

Last updated: November 2022

Meditation is an ancient practice that began thousands of years ago. It originally was used as part of a person’s spiritual practice. But it has gained popularity in recent years and is widely used as a way to relieve stress.1,2

Researchers are beginning to understand how this simple yet powerful practice can be a tool to reduce stress and improve mindfulness. Meditation is available to anyone, anywhere, at any time. It can be a self-soothing technique to help with the stresses of having heart failure.1,2

What is meditation?

Meditation is the act of being in the present moment. It is a state of harmony between the mind and the body. There are countless ways to practice. You can practice:1,2

  • Sitting down with your eyes closed
  • Lying down
  • While walking
  • When stuck in traffic

Meditation can be done for any length of time. It is completely free. It requires no training, no special clothing or products – just you and whatever length of time you are able to devote to it. The aim is to simply be in the present moment, without expectation or judgment.1,2

Benefits of meditation

There are many benefits of meditation. These benefits can improve both emotional and physical health. Emotional benefits of meditation include:1-3

  • Reduced anxiety and stress
  • Improved well-being
  • Increased self-awareness
  • Improved focus, patience, and tolerance
  • Reduced negative thoughts and feelings
  • A healthy way to navigate negative emotions
  • A mental state of calm, relaxation, and ease

Meditation can also be helpful when navigating an illness or a difficult diagnosis. When used along with existing treatment and therapies, research shows that meditation can help manage symptoms of certain conditions,like:1

  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sleep problems, like insomnia
  • Tension headaches

Types of meditation

There is not just one type of meditation. The beauty of this practice is that you can try one or many and pick the one that suits your needs at that moment. Some of the different types of meditation are:1-3

  • Guided meditation – Also called guided imagery or visualization exercises, these may be led by a teacher or a guide.
  • Loving-kindness meditation – This type of meditation works to build love and compassion for yourself and all beings in the world.
  • Mantra meditation – During mantra meditation, you silently repeat a comforting word, phrase, or thought to prevent other thoughts from distracting you.
  • Body scan – In this type of meditation, you introduce awareness to each area of your body by scanning each body part. You may start with your feet and slowly make your way up to the top of your head, or start at your head and work down.
  • Mindfulness meditation – With mindfulness meditation, you invite awareness and acceptance into the present moment. The goal is to focus on one thing, such as your breath. It is normal to have thoughts and emotions arise. Allow these to come to the surface of your mind, and let them go without judgment or attachment.
  • Walking meditation – This combination practice brings enhanced awareness to your body and the world around you. Walk slowly and intentionally. Take in the sights and sounds that surround you. Focus on each step, bringing awareness to your body as you move through the world.

Meditation is deeply related to practices based in Eastern philosophies. These practices include yoga, qigong, and tai chi. All of these work to improve awareness and being in the present by combining:1

  • Meditation
  • Breathing
  • Flow-based movement

Meditation as a stress-reduction tool

Psychologists and researchers have found that mindfulness meditation has the ability to change the activity in regions of the brain that regulate our attention and emotions. These changes may help to improve mental and physical health.2

In a 2021 study, researchers looked at how mindfulness meditation affected nurses who were experiencing major stress and burnout in their jobs. The findings revealed that mindfulness meditation may decrease stress and burnout through decreased self-judgment and increased compassion and resiliency.2,3

How to practice meditation

You can practice meditation whenever and wherever you are. You can do it for 5 minutes or an hour. Here is a simple mindfulness meditation practice to try:

  1. Come to a comfortable seated position and close your eyes. You can lie down on your back if that is more comfortable.
  2. Take a few deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling through your nose.
  3. Notice any sensations in your body. Do you have any tenseness or discomfort? Do not judge these sensations. Simply notice them and let them go.
  4. Notice any thoughts that come up. Again, do not judge the thought. Simply allow it to be, then let it go.
  5. Each time you feel your thoughts wandering or get distracted by something, simply bring your attention back to your breath. Inhale and exhale. You can repeat a mantra if you want to.
  6. Continue to breathe deeply for as long as you wish.

Make meditation work for you. Keep it simple. Do not overcomplicate things. If you only have 5 minutes to sit and close your eyes, that is okay. Any length of time can help you:

  • Deepen or focus your breathing
  • Slow down your heart rate
  • Restore calm

Experiment with different techniques to find the meditation that is right for you.

Have you tried meditation for stress relief in your heart failure journey before? What did you think? Share your story by clicking the button below!

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