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Take a deep breath and relax! - a piece of advice given by yogis thousands of years ago.

Modern-day life is not deprived of anxiety, trauma, mental stress, and depression in spite of the success in technological advancement that has made our life so much easier. Every aspect of life can be easily done with the majority of present-day inventions, yet mental peace is almost an obsolete element. This is because of the fast-paced stressful life that we lead.

Individuals are engrossed in the race of life rather than taking out time for self-counseling, contemplation, or just plain relaxing. Cutting out all the bustle and cacophony, people need to spend some time in contemplation and such an act is considered as meditation. It can not only solve issues relating to mind, but can also be a remedy for many health ailments as well.

Understanding Meditation

Meditation is a type of mind-body medicine. Meditation can produce a deep state of relaxation in mind. The act has been practiced for thousands of years. Today, meditation is practiced for stress reduction and relaxation.

During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of perplexed thoughts that may be causing stress in your mind. This practice may result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.

Improves heart and muscle functioning: When an individual is anxious or tensed, there is a release of cortisol and lactic acid which increases the levels of stress. The metabolism of the body is affected by these secretions. Cortisol is almost like a semi hormone that is vital for controlling metabolism. Meditation decreases the release of these chemicals and hence increase the functionality of heart and muscles.

Improves healing and cognition: According to extensive studies in human development and neuroscience, meditation has been proven to have clear effects on human brain and thus improve the wholesome functionality of the body. Also, it maneuvers our logical and cognitive skills. It is beneficial both mentally and physically by stimulating the brain to generate waves that bring it to the alpha state. This condition of the mind allows cell healing.

Other health benefits: Meditation helps you to reduce high blood pressure, elevated levels of blood lactate, and lessen panic attacks. It reduces any pain related to tension like ulcers, headaches, muscle, and insomnia. It also improves the immune system increasing your energy levels as well.

Mood booster: Meditation helps combat depression or mood swings as it helps secretion of serotonin that enhances our mood and thus works as an activity that elevates our mood. It is extremely beneficial for women to tackle Pre-Menstrual Syndrome and Menopausal mood swings.

Calms your mind: Meditation helps you to concentrate your focus on a single perception or experience, a no-thought stage, which is often detoxifying for the mind to unleash into an absolute state of rest. This is essential as it enables the body and mind to synchronize together to unravel and unwind. This state calms you from within, helps you to think about whatever problem is bothering you from a deeper elemental level and to a rational out the stretch. Your analytical perspective broadens and decisions made after that can never be wrong as it is propelled by a mature heart and a settled brain. It enriches you spiritually.

Meditation has an overall psychosomatic effect. Meditation can combat numerous problems. All you have to do is maintain the consistency.

As the Thai Navy Seal unit succeeded in rescuing 12 boys and their soccer coach who were trapped inside a flooded Thai cave for more than 10 days, the world breathed a sigh of relief. The 25-year-old coach Ekapol Chanthawong stood strong and took care of the children and what kept the boys going were frequent meditation sessions inside the cave. According to AP (Associated Press), it is said that before being a football coach, Chanthawong served as a saffron-robed Buddhist monk for around a decade.

While talking to AP, Tham Chanthawong, aunt of the coach said, “He could meditate up to an hour. It has definitely helped him and probably helped the boys to stay calm.” Even the rescue experts pointed out that the Wild boar boys had the advantage of their coach’s experience with meditation.” Ekapol’s meditation – a mainstay of the Buddhist faith – likely served the group well. Meditation helps to manage the mental state and allows to reduce fearful and negative thoughts.

Just in case you aren’t aware, performing meditation releases alpha waves in the brain that is associated with relaxation. By relaxing our brain cells, it keeps us calm during difficult situations.

Here are some of the benefits of meditation:
* During anxiety and panic attacks, the heart starts beating faster, which might lead to stroke in extreme situations for people with cardiovascular issues. Meditation decreases heart rate, reduces anxiety and also reduces blood pressure.

* The purpose of meditation during panic attacks, anxiety and stress is to help you step away from these experiences and witness them as a third person. When people are tangled in anxious thoughts, struggling against them, they are too trapped to deal with them.

* It disrupts obsessive and negative thought patterns and allows us to restructure our thoughts.

* Meditation helps to create a creative space between the person and their problem.

Confirming what yogis have claimed for long, new research has found that meditation and breath-focused practices, such as pranayama, can work like fertiliser for the brain, strengthening our ability to focus on tasks.

“Our research finds that there is evidence to support the view that there is a strong connection between breath-centred practices and a steadiness of mind,” said principal investigator of the study Ian Robertson from Trinity College Dublin.

The findings, published in the journal Psychophysiology, explained the neurophysiological link between breathing and attention.

The research showed that breathing — a key element of meditation and mindfulness practices — directly affects the levels of a natural chemical messenger in the brain called noradrenaline.

This chemical messenger is released when we are challenged, curious, exercised, focused or emotionally aroused and, if produced at the right levels, helps the brain grow new connections, like a brain fertiliser.

The way we breathe, in other words, directly affects the chemistry of our brains in a way that can enhance our attention and improve our brain health.

The study found that participants who focused well while undertaking a task that demanded a lot of attention had greater synchronisation between their breathing patterns and their attention, than those who had poor focus.

The authors believe that it may be possible to use breath-control practices to stabilise attention and boost brain health.

“In our study we looked for a neurophysiological link that could help explain these claims by measuring breathing, reaction time, and brain activity in a small area in the brainstem called the locus coeruleus, where noradrenaline is made,” said lead author Michael Melnychuk from Trinity College Dublin.

“Noradrenaline is an all-purpose action system in the brain. When we are stressed we produce too much noradrenaline and we can’t focus. When we feel sluggish, we produce too little and again, we can’t focus. There is a sweet spot of noradrenaline in which our emotions, thinking and memory are much clearer,” Melnychuk added.

The researchers believe that the findings could have particular implications for research into brain ageing.

“Brains typically lose mass as they age, but less so in the brains of long term meditators. More ‘youthful’ brains have a reduced risk of dementia and mindfulness meditation techniques actually strengthen brain networks,” Robertson said.

“Our research offers one possible reason for this – using our breath to control one of the brain’s natural chemical messengers, noradrenaline, which in the right ‘dose’ helps the brain grow new connections between cells,” he added.

Just a single session of meditation can alleviate anxiety and boost heart health, a study has found.

Researchers from Michigan Technological University in the US found that that 60 minutes after meditating the 14 study participants showed lower resting heart rates and reduction in aortic pulsatile load – the amount of change in blood pressure between diastole and systole of each heartbeat multiplied by heart rate.

Additionally, shortly after meditating, and even one week later, the group reported anxiety levels were lower than pre-meditation levels.

It sounds like a late-night commercial: In just one hour you can reduce your anxiety levels and some heart health risk factors. But a recent study with 14 participants shows preliminary data that even a single session of meditation can have cardiovascular and psychological benefits for adults with mild to moderate anxiety.

“Even a single hour of meditation appears to reduce anxiety and some of the markers for cardiovascular risk,” said John Durocher, assistant professor at Michigan Technological University.

While its well-documented that meditation over the course of several weeks reduces anxiety, there have been few comprehensive research studies on the benefits of a single meditation session.

Researchers wanted to understand the effect of acute mindfulness on cognition and the cardiovascular system to improve how anti-anxiety therapies and interventions are designed.

They designed the mindfulness study to include three sessions. First, in an orientation session researchers measured anxiety and conducted cardiovascular testing by measuring heart rate variability, resting blood pressure and pulse wave analysis;

Then there was meditation session that included repetition of the cardiovascular testing plus the mindfulness meditation – 20 minutes introductory meditation, 30 minutes body scan and 10 minutes self-guided meditation – as well as repeating cardiovascular measurements immediately following meditation and 60 minutes after.

This was followed by a post-meditation anxiety test a week later.

During a body scan, the participant is asked to focus intensely on one part of the body at a time, beginning with the toes. By focusing on individual parts of the body, a person can train his or her mind to pivot from detailed attention to a wider awareness from one moment to the next.

“The point of a body scan is that if you can focus on one single part of your body, just your big toe, it can make it much easier for you to deal with something stressful in your life. You can learn to focus on one part of it rather than stressing about everything else in your life,” said Hannah Marti, a recent Michigan Tech graduate.

मेडिटेशनचं वेगवेगळे प्रकार तुम्ही ऐकले असतील किंवा काही लोकांनी वेगवेगळ्या प्रकारचे मेडिटेशन केलेही असतील. पण कधी तुम्ही चॉकलेट मेडिटेशन केलंय का? खरंतर असं मेडिटेशन आहे हे फारच कमी लोकांना माहीत असावं. पण तणावात असलेल्या लोकांसाठी चॉकलेट मेडिटेशन हे चांगलं असल्याचं सांगितलं जातं. चॉकलेट मेडिटेशनने तणाव दूर होऊन शरीराला आराम मिळतो. हे मेटिटेशन करण्याची पद्धतही वेगळी आहे. चला जाणून घेऊ चॉकलेट मेडिटेशनचे काय फायदे होतात.

काय आहे चॉकलेट मेडिटेशन?

चॉकलेट मेडिटेशनमध्ये एका चॉकलेटच्या तुकड्याचा वापर केला जातो. खासकरुन डार्क चॉकलेटचा वापर केला जातो. या मेडिटेशनदरम्यान चॉकलेट खाण्यासोबतच तुम्ही त्याचा सुगंधही फील करु शकता. या मेडिटेशनन वजन कमी करण्यासही मदत मिळते. तसेच याने शरीर आणि मेंदूला शांतता मिळते. त्यासोबतच याने शारीरिक आणि मानसिक तणावही कमी होऊन व्यक्तीमध्ये एक सकारात्मक बदल बघायला मिळतो.

कसे करतात हे मेडिटेशन?

चॉकलेट मेडिटेशन करण्यासाठी तुमच्याकडे चॉकलेटचा एक मोठा तुकडा हवा. सर्वातआधी मोठा श्वास घ्या आणि शरीराच्या मांसपेशी शांत करा. याने शरीर हलकं होईल. नंतर डोळे बंद करा. आता चॉकलेटच्या सुगंधाला फील करा. असे मानले जाते की, चॉकलेटमध्ये जवळपास ३०० फ्लेवर असतात. आता एक छोटासा तुकडा खाऊन त्यांच्या फ्लेवरच आनंद घ्या. चॉकलेट खाल्ल्याने तुमच्या तोंडात एक प्रकारचं सेन्सेशन होतं. या सेन्सेशनवर लक्ष केंद्रीत करा. हळूहळू पूर्ण चॉकलेट खा.

शेवटी काही सेकंदासाठी थांबा आणि मोठा श्वास घ्या. नंतर सामान्य स्थितित परत या. हे केल्यानंतर तुम्हाला तणाव कमी झाल्यासारखे वाटेल, मानसिक शांती आणि आनंद मिळेल. कारण चॉकलेटमध्ये असलेले तत्व मूड फ्रेश करण्यासोबतच आनंद सुद्धा देतात.

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Dr. Ashwin Prasad
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Dr. Pradip Pandhare
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Dr. Manish Rawool
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Dr. Anand Karale
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Dr. Devyani S. Ahire
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