Regular meditation is
effective in combatting
Until recently, meditation was associated mostly with new-age gurus and a monkish existence. But this 2,500-year-old practice has been springing up in some decidedly modern locales: Posh resorts and prestigious medical centers alike -- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, and University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison -- have classes devoted to the practice. "Research is showing that daily meditation over the course of several months can lower blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol," says Richard Davidson, PhD, research professor of psychology and psychiatry at University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Meditation is the act of focusing your attention on one thing -- your breath or a mental image or phrase -- and being completely anchored in the moment. It brings a sense of calm by keeping the mind from ruminating on the past (i.e., the stressful morning you had) or worrying about the future (i.e., "How will I ever complete that project on time?").
The practice arose out of the teachings of Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, but you can easily adapt meditation to fit your own beliefs. "You can meditate on a certain Bible passage, for example," says Christina Drozda, an inspirational therapist who teaches meditation at The Centre for Well-Being at the Phoenician in Scottsdale, Arizona. On a psychological level, meditation can help you become aware of your thought patterns -- the unconscious, automatic ones which can result in negative and judgmental thinking. And at the very least, regular meditation can be your best ally against stress.