Editor’s note: This article by Jim Absher originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.
The stresses of life getting you down? Having trouble sleeping at night? The Department of Veterans Affairs is now offering free remote meditation sessions to help you develop your own coping techniques for the daily stresses of life without relying on medication or therapy.
This is especially valuable in times when many people have limited mobility and have cut back on physical interaction with strangers.
While it's not for everybody, meditation has been used for thousands of years around the world in different forms. Now, the Western medical community is realizing its effectiveness in many situations.
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Mindfulness meditation is a mind-body technique that helps you face the challenges and stressors in your everyday life. It teaches acceptance and awareness of what's going on around you, as well as what's going on inside of you. It has been very effective in treating health conditions such as insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, chronic pain and PTSD.
Research has shown that when your mind is relaxed and focused on healing, your body can relax and focus on healing too. Mindfulness meditation can be safely used in conjunction with other medical treatments, such as prescribed medication or exercise.
No appointments or special materials are needed. Mindfulness meditation can be practiced sitting down, lying down, stretching, eating and even while walking the dog!
The VA is currently offering telephone mindfulness meditation sessions every Friday at 11 a.m. Eastern time through the end of September. You can join a session by calling 800-767-1750 and using the access code 54220#. The sessions are free to all veterans enrolled in VA health care.
Yoga nidra (yoga sleep) is a spoken-word guided meditation practice that promotes a sense of deep calm while enhancing awareness. It was first used by soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who suffered from PTSD. This meditation method is very helpful for issues such as PTSD and anxiety, sleep problems and chronic pain.
"It relaxes my whole mind and body; all stress melts away," said Air Force veteran Joe Valentino. "A lot of it is sensing your body and quieting your mind. So while I'm meditating, I'll picture my bloodstream running through a coffee filter that's filtering out all the bad stuff that I'll throw away when I'm done."
No referral, prior experience or prescription is needed. All you need is a phone, an open mind and a quiet, safe space to meditate.
Weekly sessions are being offered by the VA's War Related Illness and Injury Study Center every Thursday evening at 8 p.m. Eastern time, and all veterans are invited to join by calling 800-767-1750 and using access code 24953#.
Physical and Mental Benefits of Meditation
A recent study done by researchers and colleagues from the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center found that meditation is linked to lower cardiovascular risk, as well as other physical benefits.
Researchers examined data on more than 61,000 survey participants. Of those, almost 6,000 (nearly 10%) said they participated in some form of meditation.
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The researchers found that people who meditated had lower rates of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and coronary artery disease, compared with those who did not meditate.
Those who meditated were 51% less likely to have coronary artery disease as those who didn't. The prevalence of other cardiovascular risks in the meditation group compared with the non-meditation group was 65% less for high cholesterol, 70% less for diabetes, 76% less for stroke, and 86% less for high blood pressure.
While the study stated that researchers could not definitively show cause and effect between meditation and cardiovascular healing, the amount of evidence suggests that it certainly does more good than harm, and without lifelong medication.