Meditation and relaxation are self-directed practices of calming and relaxing the body and mind. There are many types and methods of meditation including mindfulness, guided imagery and visualization, and yoga.
These methods elicit the Relaxation Response, which is a state of relaxed, passive attention to a repetitive or absorbing stimulus that turns off the "inner dialogue" thereby decreasing arousal of the sympathetic nervous system.
Basic elements for eliciting the Relaxation Response:
- Non-judging awareness
- Mental focus
- Comfortable position
- Quiet Environment
A practice Buddhists call vipassana (pronounced Vi·pas·sa·na), or insight meditation, mindfulness is the practice of fostering awareness of what is here right now. The focus is on what's happening in and around you at that very moment, and you become aware of all the thoughts and feelings that are taking your energy from moment to moment. You can start by watching your breath and then move your attention to the thoughts going through your mind, the feelings in your body, and even the sounds and sights around you. The key is to watch without judging or analyzing.
Guided Imagery and Visualization
Guided imagery and visualization techniques use the power of your mind and imagination to create a relaxing, calm state in the mind and body. The power of imagining in this way has been shown to reduce pain, reduce the symptoms of an illness or its treatment, and reduce the effects of stress while promoting and enhancing general well-being.
Other ways guided imagery can be useful for you:
- learning to relax
- changing or controlling negative emotions in response to a particular situation, event (loss of a job), or belief
- preparing yourself for changes they are likely to have to deal with in the future, e.g., surgery or a medical procedure