The Science of Meditation and Stress


Nat Sakunworarat

Michael de Botton, Staff Writer

The newest craze, running rampant in the Harriton hallways, is meditation. Meditation can help with stress and anxiety, as well as with negative emotions and depression. It has also been proven to increase grades.

Take it from Harriton’s own Mr. Daniel Imaizumi. Mr. I, as he is commonly called, is a major advocate for meditation and for the first five minutes of every one of his classes, his students meditate.

“For every five minutes that you meditate, it is equivalent to 30 minutes of sleep,” Mr. I told The Banner. “Everyone ought to do it, whether you’re an athlete, a person who stresses easily, or even someone who doesn’t stress easily. You know when you go to the doctor and they emphasize exercise and diet? They miss out on mental health, and meditation is that mental exercise that everyone needs.

“When we meditate in class, students are more productive and focused in class. It’s a long-term endeavor so we can train our brains to become focused. In our culture meditation is not ordinary, so we need to structure time to create the habit.”

On a more global level, many people — from congressmen to Anderson Cooper — and companies such as Google, Apple, and Target implement meditation into their every day routines. They have found major benefits after just short amounts of practice.

Furthermore, in 2013, researchers at UCLA found that people who have been meditating for an average of 20 years show major brain growth over the course of time. Additionally, researchers at John Hopkins University found that meditation had the exact same effect as antidepressants. Overall, mediation was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus of the brain and play a major role in emotion as well as memory.

But meditation is not the only way to cope with stress. Stress is directly linked to the hormone cortisol, which is produced when we are in dangerous or high-pressure situations. In these situations, cortisol is released from the adrenal glands into the bloodstream, creating the mental state of stress.

Common ways that we create stress for ourselves include the death of a loved one, moving, divorce, job loss, illness, homework, scary movies, parties, friends, talking to famous people, presentations, doing something that affects someone else, and simply life.

But do not worry — there are many ways to cope with stress. The first step to coping with stress is to find the source of stress in your life. Once you do this, you can replace your unhealthy coping strategies with healthy ones.

There are “Four A’s” that you can remember to help you manage stress: avoid, alter, adapt, and accept.

Avoiding stress is a very easy way not to be stressed and the simplest way is to say “no.” If you are asked to do something that may be stressful for you, you can say no to not get into that situation in the first place. Another way to avoid stress is to avoid the people or types of people that stress you out. Finally, a third way to avoid stress is not to let everything pile up. One of the most common causes of being stressed out is having too much to do, so if you have less to do, then you will be less stressed out, if at all.

Similarly, altering your situation can be very beneficial to not being stressed. Many people are stressed because they hold their feelings in and let them bottle up instead of letting them out. If a person is stressing you out, then you should confront them. If it is a cramped schedule that is stressing you out, you can create a balanced schedule by spacing everything out.

Adapting to the stressor can be a great way to reduce stress if you can’t change the stressor. You can look at the big picture and change yourself instead of worrying about changing the stressor.
The fourth way to manage stress is to accept the things you can’t change. Sometimes you can’t avoid the stress and you have to accept it. This can be very beneficial because it trains you to look for the positive side of every situation, and you can, in turn, have a better life.

By using a combination of meditation and these four tips, anyone can reduce their stress with immediate effects!