The Secret to Zapping Stress—Fast!

Learn how meditation can restore your youthful glow

zap stress and gain youth with this anti aging habit

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You had a fight with your sister, and the contractor didn’t show - then the dog dug up your tomato plants.

Meditating not only calms you down, but can also change your perspective and how you handle stressful situations like this one; and as a bonus, every step you take toward reducing stress will also reduce your risk of heart disease, lessen the chance that you’ll turn to food for comfort (and gain extra pounds), and even keep your skin looking younger.

Meditation works much the same way breathing exercises do, but it also allows you to go deeper. If breathing exercises are like taking a walk around the block, meditation is like going to the gym for an hour— both are beneficial (and both are good habits to get into), but the latter is going to have a greater impact on your health and how young and vibrant you feel. For instance, in an Australian study, researchers found that people who practiced meditation regularly for eight weeks had greater improvements in work stress, anxiety, and depression.

Meditation may even help you cope better with menopausal symptoms. In a University of Massachusetts Medical School study, women who were experiencing hot flashes and night sweats participated in weekly two-and-a-half-hour mindfulness classes focusing on body awareness, meditation, and stretching. By the end of the eight-week study, although they didn’t have fewer hot flashes than a control group, they were less stressed and anxious, slept better, and were less bothered by their hot flashes and night sweats.

If you practice meditation regularly, you’re not likely to get as worked up by things like a sister’s stubbornness, a contractor’s negligence or a bad dog. In stressful situations, we often operate on autopilot, but handling problems in a more deliberate way can be far more effective and less likely to send your stress level soaring. “Meditation helps you do that by cultivating mindfulness,” says Steven Hickman, Psy.D., director of the University of California, San Diego, Center for Mindfulness, “so that you can be less emotionally reactive and have the presence of mind to deal with difficult things.”

Test-drive meditation

There are different ways to practice meditation - the following is one example of meditation in the mindfulness tradition. It may take several weeks for you to get into a daily habit. Start by trying to meditate for 10 minutes, working up to 20—or even longer, if possible.

  1. Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Become aware of your breathing. Breathe slowly and naturally, drawing air into your belly and exhaling.
  4. Focus on your breathing, and any time your mind wanders away from your breath, take note of what’s on your mind and bring your focus back to your breathing. Acknowledge your thoughts without judging, condemning, or rejecting them. Each time, bring your focus back to your breath and begin again.
  5. When you are finished, sit quietly for a minute, then open your eyes and rise slowly.