Your Relaxation Rx
Which mind/body treatments have the most rock-solid science backing them up? Brent Bauer, M.D., director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, provides the big picture.
|Depression||Music therapy, qigong, yoga|
|Eating disorders||Meditation, yoga|
|Heart health||Deep breathing, qigong, yoga|
|Immunity||Breathing, chants, meditation, qigong|
|Insomnia||Acupuncture, visualization, yoga|
|Joint pain||Music therapy, qigong, yoga|
The #1 Health Habit You're Not Doing... Yet
Only 13 percent of SELF readers meditate regularly, but two thirds of you say you'd be willing to give it a try. What's holding you back? Avoid your biggest roadblocks to inner peace and find your way om.
Roadblock 1: "I don't know how."
29 percent of you merely need instruction, so here goes: Pick something simple and recurring to focus on, a mantra. "It could be your breath, a prayer or a saying, like, 'May this be a good day,'" says Hanson, who teaches meditation. Then repeat it in your head as long as you can, up to 20 minutes. "If you get distracted, that's OK," he says. Gently refocus until the mantra has recaptured your attention.
Roadblock 2: "I have no time."
Stop everything to do nothing? No can do, say 18 percent of you. Luckily, you may get benefits from meditating for as little as five minutes. If even that's a stretch, you can reduce stress simply by doing daily chores more mindfully.
"Staying steadily, attentively present with everyday tasks such as doing the dishes or brushing your teeth can be a calming, informal kind of meditation," Hanson says.
Roadblock 3: "I can't sit still."
Patience is the issue for 36 percent of you. Instead of fostering a quiet mind, meditation sets off a mental ticker tape of to-do and should-have-done lists. If you're a fidgety or anxious type, try a walking meditation, Hanson says.
As you stroll, focus on the sensation of breathing or on your footfalls. Walking not active enough? Yoga, tai chi and jogging can all elicit the relaxation response.
There may be no quicker way to trigger the magical relaxation response (and all the good genetic changes that come with it) than by controlling your breath.
Not only will deep breathing lower your blood pressure, but recent research shows sucking wind, as it were, can also increase antioxidant levels in your blood, helping protect you from oxidative stress and all the dastardly conditions associated with it, including heart disease, hypertension, Alzheimer's disease and plain ol' aging.