Scientific research from the University of Massachusetts Medical School and Oxford University strongly suggests that mindfulness meditation not only reduces stress but also gently builds an inner strength so that future stressors have less of an impact on our happiness and wellbeing.
It sounds persuasive, but how does it work in practice? One of the ways in which mindfulness meditation helps us to reduce stress levels is by allowing us to become more aware of our thoughts. In this way, we are able to step back from them and not take them so literally. Meditation switches on our "being" state of mind, which is associated with relaxation. It triggers our "rest and digest" nervous system and helps to drain away excessive levels of adrenaline and cortisol from the body. It also helps to reduce activity in the part of the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is central to switching on your stress response, so effectively, by meditating, the background level of stress can be reduced.
In order to start to experience these benefits, we need to try to develop a regular practice, even if its just for a few minutes each day. It's the regularity of practice that ultimately starts to pay dividends when it comes to reducing stress.
For more information about how meditation reduces stress, click here to access an article by Shamash Alidina from Mindful Magazine.